Welcome to Is There a Santa.com

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If you typed in this URL or clicked on this site, and you don't already know the answer, you presumably want to know. In that case, scroll down. Otherwise, I offer the following to anyone who's interested...

The answer is no. He's a big fat lie. Not wanting to lie outright, some people waffle by saying Santa exists for those who believe. They may claim he personifies the spirit of Christmas, in other words, the spirit of consumerism, which actually is true. But the person of Santa Claus does not exist.

The Santa Claus legend shows a total lack of respect for children. It's degrading to treat them like fools by carrying on such a fraud, with some parents trying to insist it's true even as their sons or daughters naturally grow out of their belief. When children start to ask about all the problems with the story, instead of encouraging that skepticism, parents often make up more lies to try to keep the story together, creating even more confusion and possibly distress. Teachers go along with it as well, despite how they're supposed to be presenting truth and advancing knowledge. Even clergy go along with it; for them it's apparently just one more fairy tale. So why should children believe anything any of these authority figures say? Why should boys and girls listen to the rules and heed the guidance of such shameless liars? Why should they tell the truth themselves when everyone effectively tells them lying is good?

The Santa Claus legend is used to abuse children. Not only is the blatant lying abusive, but there is also a blackmail aspect to the story: "Do what I say or Santa won't come," "Do what I say or he'll put coal in your stocking." Santa is always watching you; you have no secrets, you have no privacy. You are constantly being judged, noted in his lists, and you will be punished if he does not approve of you. Somehow, most people don't seem to realize that whole idea is creepy and disturbing, especially when presented to boys and girls as reality, to say nothing of someone sneaking into the house in the middle of the night. All this is done to manipulate children into behaving a certain way, particularly as Christmas approaches. They're not even safe in their own thoughts because if they don't believe in Santa, he'll punish them for that too. Maybe to get children to be good, parents should rely on truth and reason, rather than lies and threats. Maybe parents should encourage boys and girls to think about moral questions for themselves instead of appealing to the greed and materialism around Christmas presents.

Santa Claus truly represents the poverty of our values, the idea that the greatest joy in life, what gives life meaning, is acquiring more and better possessions. Santa Claus is just a part of the consumer culture. Christmas has nothing to do with the birth of Christ, it has nothing to do with bringing a day of light and warmth to the depth of winter, it has nothing to do with family or community, but rather it all just comes down to buying stuff. Santa, for his part, has nothing to do with Christ but, on the contrary, is an idol worshiped in the cult of consumerism. The only reason children care about Santa is that he gives them things, so maybe that's also appropriate for this culture—get them started early learning how to use people.

It's also appropriate that Santa is a fat glutton because people make themselves gluttons for the holiday season as they compulsively shop. They must be compelled to do their civic duty, their service to the economy: handing money over to the corporations, money shoppers often don't even have, to buy things the recipients might not even want. Do most people really even enjoy the holidays, do they get anything at all out of them, or on balance are the holidays just a stressful burden? Christmas is one of two days per year, along with Thanksgiving, when everyone pretends to care about the homeless, and it's one of two days per year, along with Easter, when everyone pretends to be religious, and the true purpose is to construct a facade that obscures the naked consumerism of the holidays.

Social pressures try to compel people to go along with the lie of Christmas to keep the money flowing into corporate coffers, quashing resistance to mandatory consumption and enforcing conformity to "the Christmas spirit." The backlash to any criticism of the whole ritual can be pretty ferocious, totally out of proportion, which suggests that people understand on some level they're doing wrong, creating such excessive defensiveness. Anyone who criticizes the Santa tradition can expect to be called a scrooge, a grinch, or a lot worse, to be told to "stop ruining it," that it's "for the kids." In fact, it's for the corporations. Almost no one seems to talk about the negative side of pathological consumption, and criticism is in fact treated as a massive threat. In reality, any ill effects for boys and girls apparently resulting from criticism is really the parents' fault for spending years telling lies.

Children should just be told the truth about Santa, especially if they ask outright. If they're already full enough of doubt to pose the question, the whole story probably isn't doing much for them anyway. Why should telling the obvious truth be controversial? Simply retorting that something is a tradition, for instance, doesn't mean anything; Jim Crow was part of the culture of the South for a hundred years, so maybe we should have kept that around too. Rather than being a long-standing tradition, Santa Claus really isn't even as old as that, constructed in his modern form over the 19th and 20th centuries, basically as an advertising ploy. He has good PR propaganda value in general. For instance, taking a break from watching for incoming missiles, NORAD tracks Santa's sleigh on Christmas Eve. As the organization stands girded to wage nuclear war, people can call in to find out where Santa Claus is. There must be someone other than me who thinks this is grotesque.

Some would think all this is an attempt to deny children a harmless, fun ritual, to deny them even the joy of Christmas morning, as if the abuse wasn't to saddle them with that myth, only for them to find out in the end that it was a big conspiracy by all the adults. Regardless, I don't think dropping Santa would upset most boys and girls much at all, as long as they still get the presents, because in the end, that's what it's all about.

Reflecting on my own experience of the Santa legend, to think that such a being existed did add some magic to life. I also admit some aspects were fun, like the practice of sending a letter to Santa or leaving cookies for him and carrots for his reindeer. The instant excitement upon waking up on Christmas was hard to match as well. Yet another example was going to the mall to see Santa in the flesh—even if it was just a transparent ploy to get more people into the stores—though the fun is mostly for older children. For many of the younger ones, the experience is terrifying, and yet parents still force them screaming and crying on some guy's lap in order to get a disturbing picture of a red face and tears. Of course, there's the anticipation of Christmas morning as well, the frustration of the insomnia that precedes it lifted upon finding the presents under the tree, which all amounts to nothing five minutes after they're opened.

On the other hand, Christmas also caused me a lot of anxiety. When I was really small, I was afraid even to look out the window on Christmas Eve because I had been told that if I saw Santa on that day, he would leave with the presents, and I understood the admonition also to extend to seeing his sleigh fly by. Later, as my doubts about Santa grew, I was afraid not to believe, that if I failed to believe and was wrong, I would get coal. In effect, I had taken Pascal's Wager with respect to Santa Claus. Even aside from the question of belief, I was worried I would get coal or that Santa would just skip over me. However, it wasn't the prospect of missing out on the presents that scared me, it was the humiliation. If I got coal, everyone would find out I was judged to be "bad." So early Christmas morning, I would creep down the stairs and peer around the corner, afraid of what I would see, and I would be mostly relieved to see the presents. However, there would still be a tinge of fear until I actually started opening them, in case Santa had decided to be really nasty and gift-wrap the coal. But it never actually happened, and I would be happy for a few minutes opening presents. Afterwards, all that was left was to dread a miserable, boring family dinner at the home of my deranged narcissist uncle.

Even back then, I also noticed the classism of Santa Claus. For one thing, he is said to run effectively a sweatshop. There's nothing in any aspect of the legend I've ever heard where the elves get any kind of compensation or have any say in running the place, and it would probably be impossible for them to escape from an area as isolated as the North Pole. Moreover, Santa always loved the upper classes more. I came to notice that it wasn't really about "naughty or nice" because I could see that my classmates from families with money would somehow always make out the best on Christmas, no matter how rotten they were. Really, Santa Claus reinforces class distinctions: they're the privileged ones, they're your betters, you're beneath them, so don't question and just fall into line; even Santa agrees.

Besides increasing my social conscience, Santa Claus may have also helped to sow doubts about religion. The similarities between Santa and God are pretty obvious: You have to believe by faith, you can never actually see him (notwithstanding the mall, at least as far as Santa goes). He wants you to obey authority figures, who represent his will. He sits in judgment of you and will mete out punishment if you're bad. If you do good, he will reward you. He has otherworldly power. He is immortal. So the fact that Santa is a lie also makes God looks suspect. What's also strange is that I lost my belief in God really similarly to how I lost my belief in Santa; it just happened a little later. As I got older, it became obvious pretty fast that my mom and dad were the ones providing the presents as the inconsistencies and implausible excuses piled up, while the same happened with respect to religious doctrine. One time, I happened to walk down the stairs late on Christmas Eve, and Mom was there with all the presents at her feet. "Oh, Santa was just here but heard you coming and ran away," she said. Yeah, okay, next thing you're going to tell me is that Jesus died for my sins. But I was still afraid I might be wrong and wind up getting coal, or going to Hell, so I didn't say anything, again, in line with Blaise Pascal's advice. Then one day Mom, looking all worried, finally told me there was no Santa, and, to her surprise, I just told her impassively "I know."

At the end of the day, it probably doesn't matter what arguments anyone makes against continuing the Santa tradition; people will keep doing it just because it's the done thing. It will probably have to die naturally, as all traditions eventually do, but hopefully it won't be replaced with something even stupider. Perhaps the last-ditch argument someone might make against all the above is that it makes Santa into something much more serious than he is. But as I have laid out, some of the effects really can be serious. Maybe not everyone does it the same way, some people may leave out the punitive parts of the story, for instance, but in the end, it's still a nasty lie. We all grow out of it though, primed, perhaps, to move on to follow bigger lies.

In light of all this, have a merry Christmas!

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Version 1.1
Site First Created: 12/8/23
Site Last Updated: 1/3/24

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