Neither Santa Nor The Christmas Birthday Baby Is White
Dangerous mythology teaches something to our kids and it’s not as generous or harmless as you might think
When I was a child, I never got the “magic” of Christmas because my sister, three years older than I was, smashed it. She, a snotty, bossy, six-year old, Karen, know -it- all, explained that “Santa Claus is not real.
“ It’s all mom and dad.”
As a toddler, I scanned the skies for reindeer. I was waiting sleeplessly in our shared room at the tender age of three and a half. Still, at this disturbing revelation, I remember being more intrigued than disappointed.
If fact, if I was disappointed, I didn’t show it or let on. Looking back, especially as a clinical psychologist, it is clear that I was in classical denial.
I didn’t want the two awful truths to be revealed: Number one: There is no Santa Claus. Number two: All adults are liars.
For years, I acted around my parents as though what they said was gospel. Like a disgruntled Trumpeteer, my actions screamed: “Of course we have a hero and he will shower us all with everything we need to fix the world.”
It’s what we all want. We want to perpetuate misbeliefs because they can in fact, be quite comforting.
Come to think of it, my parents never did tell me that Santa was fake, or that Jesus was Jewish, for that matter.
The war on Christmas arises
By my teens I was a flaming christian evangelist (the good kind not the creepy, intolerant kind) and yes, I perfectly understand that this too can be explained, by confirmation bias.
Flash forward to my honeymoon in my early thirties. S is the second atheist I have fallen in love with, and I momentarily wonder if my lack of faith in Santa influenced my lack of faith in Jesus. I had abandoned the church once past my teen years, and honestly, I did feel like a war casualty.
I entered graduate school, in part to study human belief systems, psychology, and entrenched identity politics and Ecopsychology.
By this time, the world starts fighting a war on Christmas, that isn’t real and never happened, but nevertheless, the most vocal Christians in my family of origin are quite bent out of shape because they feel their religion and beliefs are mocked. But that is not all, they feel that there are too many portrayals of Santa, and/or Baby Jesus as persons of color.
Also, why so many Black people in advertising now? I hear laments.
Dreaming of a white Christmas?
At first, this amused me. It is beyond absurd to claim that a fictional person, is white. I would assert that the European mythology of St. Nicolas is primarily white, but also that there is no “Pure white race.” Even at the North pole. About Baby Jesus it is even more absurd to see him as white, and his mother Mary, as a pale ginger redhead. These primarily white originated depictions mostly come from the Renaissance.
Being very white was a condition that conveys Mary’s purity, also stupid, because it is slut shaming (Jesus don’t do that!!) to suggest that Mary remained forever a virgin. That assertion is not only racist, but sexist. How many married women do you know who are virgins?
Setting aside the fact that some Christian evangelicals are completely insane, what are some of the reasons that we should be teaching our children that Jesus (and probably St. Nicolas!) were people of color? Since St. Nicolas lived in what is now south Turkey, it is highly unlikely that he had pale, white skin.
Jesus was a Hebrew, and therefore, likely more brown than white.
Peace on Earth Goodwill to Men, and Women?
First of all, if we are to ever become a richly diverse society that celebrates and welcomes all difference, we need to quit saying all sorts of race, color, gender, religion dividing stuff. Maybe since there is no white race or black race we should stick with “human race,” and note the very lie that racism, (which is real) tries to slap onto the very concept of race, (which is not).
After that, why are we still tolerating things like blood libel mythology — in such ridicules forms as that in which reoccurring movements like Q-anon offers it up to us? Blood libel is the assertion that Jewish people crucified Jesus and drink the blood of Christian babies. No one in my family is Q-anon driven, but obviously, Q believers do exist in greater numbers than either Christs or Santas do.
This worries me.
It has always bothered me, also, that when the authoritarians’ armies swoop in with their Roman legions, and/or swastika embellished thugs they quickly point at the Jews, or some other oppressed minority and start shouting — sometimes with bible references — about “the real killers.”
Finally, I am not convinced that we improve our children by lying to them. I do understand that Jesus is truly considered a savior to some. What I can’t respect is people saying that he reflects purely, white christian values, or that he objects to social justice warriors. Of what good then are Christian soldiers, I ask.
For my needs, Jesus is a brown, historical, feminist, radical. He is as Jewish and smart as Einstein. And Santa Claus is a mythological creature based on a generous Mediterranean guy who eschewed material things to help the poor. I also imagine, mythologically, that he spins in his grave every Black Friday, generating whirlwind, shopping cyclones of greed and rapacious capitalism.
The Christmas Magic Misplaced
At my last dentist appointment, the hygienist was going on and on about all the extreme lengths she must go to in hiding presents and wrapping at neighbors to keep the Santa magic alive. So much work, so much stuff! Her eight and six-year-olds are getting suspicious, you see.
I couldn’t tell her, (because my mouth was full of her labor, tools, and her hands), but I am pretty sure her older son already knows that Santa Claus is a lie. He is just protecting her, and maybe the younger one, from her delusions, which is a heavy job for a small child.
It is just plain confusing and educational, not always in a good way, when children find out the lengths that adults will go to in order to “protect” them from the truth.
In almost every case, it’s important to teach children when age appropriate, that some things are pretend. Like race. Some things are real. Like racism.
Some things are insane, and clearly anti-Christian. Like the prosperity gospel. And some things are privilege exposing, like insisting that the white one is the “right” one.
And some things require in-depth discussion, like picking apart topics and arguments about how and why Santa and Jesus are depicted as white people, even today.
Maybe I should lighten up and just enjoy the magic of the season. Or maybe I am just an angry non-believer because my faith was shattered at a young age.
In either case, I would still urge people not to spread false narratives. Make every effort to learn the difference between fact and fiction, real compassion rather than pious inflammation, and the real differences between loving others and judging them. You also may wish to tell your children the truth about why we pretend in the first place.