There is a killing that I won’t need to bring to my parish priests’ attention the next time I enter the confessional. I killed Santa Claus a little over a year ago in my own household, and I have absolutely no regrets about doing so either.
Because it had to be done, see? Like when Old Yeller saved the day and protected the family from a rabid wolf.
While protecting his master’s family, Yeller contracted rabies and had to be put down. Travis, left as the man of the house when his father was out on a cattle drive, did what had to be done. And if he wouldn’t have, his mother would have taken care of the matter.
So with tears in his eyes, he put a bullet into Old Yeller and matured in the process. And so did I. I put a stake through the heart of Madison Avenue’s version of Santa Claus and I haven’t regretted it one bit. Because like Old Yeller, the manifestation of modern day Christmas feelings, Santa Claus, is a rabid, crazed, distortion for the real reason of the season: Christ the Lord.
Over the years, I told my children the tale about Santa Claus, just like you have. But last year I wrote of the fact that the true story of St. Nicholas is amazing enough, and that I had clued in all of my children to the truth that the jolly old elf is a fiction.
That was a bittersweet moment for all in my household, and through the extended family, too. The ripples of that telling of the truth affected my children’s behaviors in ways that were a bit painful, and even unexpected last year. But again, that short-term pain was necessary to get to the true reason that we engage in this season of giving.
I did this before all of the current hullabaloo over culture wars and that sort of silliness that has some defending Santa on one side of the aisle, to those that don’t on the other. I love Santa Claus, just like Travis loved Old Yeller. But eventually, I had to do exactly what Travis had to do. And so will you. You will have to put the Jolly Old Elf out of his misery, no matter which way the wind blows over the land.
But when the time comes, you will have to do what I did. Be strong, say a prayer, and then pull the trigger. Like how Van Velsing did what had to be done here when he puts a stake through the heart of Lucy, the vampire lover of Count Dracula. I did the same thing with Madison Avenue’s, and hopeful Virginia’s, version of Santa Claus.
And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Call it mean. Call it brutal. Call it cold-hearted. But I just call it what it is: the triumph of the real over the simulacra. The triumph of the Truth over the Tall Tale. Net result? This year, it has been smooth sailing in my household.
During Mass last night, when the passage from the prophet Isaiah was read to all in attendance, I knew that doing this deed had been worth the short-term pain. Because this is the Truth that my children can bear to hear now,
For a child is born to us, a son is given us;
upon his shoulder dominion rests.
They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero,
Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.
His dominion is vast
and forever peaceful,
from David’s throne, and over his kingdom,
which he confirms and sustains
by judgment and justice,
both now and forever.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Update: Taylor Marshall on the other side of this coin.