“It is a dangerous thing to accept gifts; for two days after come requests.” – Henry Cardinal Manning
Ho, Ho, and Ho… it’s that time of year again.
We are in the holiday season…and maybe even in the spirit. For children, it is magical and fun.
For those not children it can be a variety of feelings; happy, or sad, remembering other happier times.
The history of Santa is a real story. In the fourth century in Myra, now Turkey, there lived a Bishop who came from a wealthy family. He was kind and gave secret gifts to needy people. Legend has it he started the ‘hanging of stockings’ tradition.
He was named ‘Saint’ Nicholas and died around 345. In 1087 his bones were stolen from Turkey by Italian merchant sailors and they are buried in the Italian port of Bari. He was said to have aided sailors.
In the 16th century, the stories became unpopular and in England ‘Father Christmas’ was the one to deliver presents to children. Dutch settlers in the early U.S. had Kris Kringle and St. Nicholas became ‘Sinterklaas’ who then became Santa Claus.
In 1823, ‘T’was the Night Before Christmas’ was published by Clement Moore. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” was written in 1949. Actually, Rudolph may be female as they keep the antlers in the winter!
In 1863, he is seen in different outfits until 1881 when Harper’s Weekly published Thomas Nast’s image that we still have. He was used in Coca-Cola ads since the 1920’s.
Now, that we have him the question is what do we do with him? How nice to have someone to tell what we wish for. How great would that really be? Kids sit on his lap or write letters and parents try to fill the requests.
It’s really fun to hear what they ask for. TV ads help give them ideas. You can learn about family values by what children want. Looking back, my older daughter, when held up to Santa at the Thanksgiving parade, said she wanted a “fur coat!” She got it; a red one that rotted trying to be saved for her daughter one day, in my own parents’ attic.
If we adults could ask for stuff what would that sound like? Two older gentlemen did just that. They visited Santa, and they were told they could have any wish. The first one asked for peace in the Middle East. The second asked for all sorts of sex with his wife of forty years.
Santa contemplated a few minutes and announced, “It’s only the first wish I will be able to deliver!” Would we want instant gratification, even if only once a year? I think so.
The use of ‘Santa’ as a means to control children or their behavior often works. To believe someone is all knowing and all seeing is a bit scary. Think of some religions.
People ask for things from that source too but often not material things. How about psychics who can answer prayers of other sorts?
Wishful thinking and ‘magic’ can be comforting and certainly hopeful. Put it in someone else’s hands. If we have to do the ‘work’ that’s too hard, risky, and frustrating.
My idea would be to make this a better world and teach children from a young age about compassion and what joy comes from ‘giving.’ We might do this by asking Santa for things in another way.
I would teach children that they first have to ask for something for someone else BEFORE they can ask Santa for anything for themselves. Dickens, ‘Christmas Carol’ would be played out a lot earlier in life than it was in the story. Wouldn’t that be a nice start to changing this world?