We have a dancing Santa, whose belly lights up as he inexplicably twirls two gold rings, shouldn’t there be at least five? The base loudly plays “You better watch out. . . “ in a “Southern” accent so offensively camp that it should be reported to some campus human resource manger.
This object is bad enough that a brilliant friend did a series of pictures putting this “Santa” next to objects all over a university. The results were funny, because the Santa is bad enough that he makes anything he is near seem more amusing.
This is one ugly Santa.
The myth of Santa Claus, a blend of Saint Nicholas (a real person!), American marketing, and years of creative license, is good clean mythological fun. That great humbug Frank Baum gave us a delightful history of Santa, Coke gifted him a “look,” and Hallmark has been making money on him for decades.
All fine one supposes, so long as nobody is forced to watch The Santa Clause III.*
There is with anything good mold that can grow at the edges over time. People are not good at taking care of good things and a few go out of their way to try to profit, posture, or pontificate. They drop the spores of shoddy goods, cheesy slogans, and puerile sermons roundabout the good.
This gives us things like dancing Santa.
One supposes that with sufficient motivation one could associate the fun, jolly stuff with the decay. There is after all only a step or two from something lovely to something decayed. The cheesy cruise ship painting after all uses oil paints, hangs in frames, and is sold to patrons just like Rembrandt. Especially if given to monomaniacal thinking (“It’s all the fault of representational art!”) one can whip up a movement to oppose oil paintings. Special points and cultural significance are gained if one can connect this “evil” to another cause, good or bad, favored by the chattering class of the particular era. (“Oil paintings led directly to global warming!”)
This puritanical vigor, so destructive to the jollity of Christmas or any other day, is deep in the English speaking world. Soon it too became a new grift, more product to flack, even while “opposing” consumerism. (“Buy my anti-consumerist tome for Christmas to oppose the consumerism of Christmas!”) There is no rest for the monomaniac, since someone might be hanging and enjoying a Thomas Kinkade painting somewhere.
Against this stands Dickens, Lewis, and all the tens of millions of working class folk, often oppressed, but never depressed, who found joy in the old stories. They even found some good clean fun in schlock like dancing Santa. God bless us, every one.
We must, of course, speak prophetically against genuine evil. Justice is a message of Christmas: the poor, humble and pious will be exalted by the good God. Still, there is a day, a holiday, that is an icon of time to come when all our swords are beaten into plowshares, even if we must resume mental fight since the City of God is, but not fully instantiated yet.
The jolly house, the happy home with extended family, the truly pious church, and the righteous that exalt a nation are the best rebuke to the mold, the grift, and the puritanical. If none of us are up to this iconography most of the time, perhaps in this happy holiday time we can aspire to it. We can, best we can, take the pain of the year, the disappointments of the day, and acknowledge them, but also listen to the “cricket on the hearth,” the household gods, and find merriment.
Love and jollity will triumph in the End. These Twelve Days, just as Pascha, let us recollect this happy fact and find the good we can in everything, even in dancing Santa.
*However, there too, in a certain mood, there is jollity to be found if someone likes it, then so much the better. One can point out other, even better options, without taking away some other pleasure.