This letter appeared in the “Dear Abby” advice column that was in the newspaper on December 8, 2012:
DEAR ABBY: Last night I received a call from my almost-5-year-old granddaughter asking me for Santa Claus’ phone number. It seems she is very angry at her daddy for calling her a brat because she wouldn’t give him a hug. She wants to tattle on her daddy to Santa.
Her parents are not together. Her daddy’s involvement has been only within the last year. She seemed very upset about the incident, and I want to make sure “Santa” gives her a good answer. I asked her to write a letter instead of phoning Santa to give me time for an answer. Did I do the right thing?
OK, readers, do you see the problem here? Think about this five-year-old: instead of being taught about a Holy and Loving God who cares fully for her and also calls her into Christ-likeness, she’s been taught that Santa has the power to punish and reward and whose job is to make sure she gets what she wants.
No where in the response does the advice columnist suggest that perhaps perpetuating the idea that Santa is God may not be in the best interest of the child. Nope. Let’s just placate the child’s anger and get on the dad’s case for expressing some frustration with this damaged child.
Sometimes I wonder what future cultural anthropologists, exploring the religious beliefs of 21st century Americans, will make of the Santa myths. Their report will read something like this:
A book, written for children in the late 1880’s, became the guiding center for nearly all US families for about three to six months of each year. The deity described in that book, an overweight man with a prodigious appetite for overly sweetened carbs and cow milk, appeared to have supernatural powers and supernatural knowledge. What we are having trouble understanding is why he was worshipped only during certain months of the year. It could be that he changed shaped into an overly large bunny in the spring and perhaps hibernated in the summer. It will take much further investigation to understand this religious belief.
So, I just keep asking: why do we do this?