Therapy’s on my Christmas list

Santa Claus makes me uncomfortable.

It’s not the idea that makes me uncomfortable, not the symbol of childlike faith in love and dreams and true meaning of Christmas. It’s the corpulent, fleshy reality. It’s the fur-polyester stretched on the burgeoning belly, the glaring white beard and synthetic white hair and the laugh — above all the forced, hollow jollity of the “HO! HO! HO!”

I realized this afresh when I strayed into Macy’s Winter Wonderland yesterday, where Macy elves, encased in monstrous green armor, screeched “Merry Christmas” and lured kids to a darkened tunnel. A teenage mother thrust her child into the arms of a Goliath-sized teddy bear, and I found my heels clicking just a bit faster towards houseware.

I could blame my parents, who instilled a hardened skepticism of fairy-alchemists who turn teeth into quarters and mammals that lay chocolate eggs. I could blame Hillsdale’s Santa, who supposedly groped the cute co-eds who sat on his lap. But you are reading the words of a woman whose childhood phobias included ice cream and clowns, band-aids and telephones, Halloween and humans in general. My fear of Santa Claus may predate my consciousness.

I’d like to raise my kids to like Santa! I’d like little Polar Express kids who trust me and the magic of Disney. But when I saw Santa stepping my way today and breathed a sigh of relief when he crossed to the other side of Fifth Avenue, I faced the thought of putting my babies in Santa’s big arms, and I decided instilling a healthy skepticism for big elves who fly reindeer might not be too scarring.

My cold horror of Santa may be something I never quite squelch. (You are reading the words, after all, of a woman who still can’t make eye contact with clowns.) But with luck, I’ll have kids as neurotic as I am. When Santa Claus roars that forced, hollow “HO! HO! HO!” we’ll all run the other direction.

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~ by stultiloquence on December 12, 2007.

5 Responses to “Therapy’s on my Christmas list”

  1. Would it help if Santa were young, hott, clean-cut and shirtless?

  2. Yes.

  3. My parents crushed the Santa image for my brother and I when he was five, and I was three. At they time, they believed that any sort of deception or falsity would eventually destroy our faith in Jesus, so when my all-too-practical brother Will began probing the logical contradictions and impossible logistics of the idea, my parents told him the truth. And my mom has worried ever since then that this one incident scarred our childhoods.

    I think it was great, though the two of us got in trouble every year about this time as we made our best efforts — Will through frank analysis of the impossibilities and I through sophistry — to convince the neighborhood kids that their parents were lying to them.

    PS: I convinced Paul Ray to give Sufjan another shot. I’m throwing him Casimir Pulaski Day and That Was the Worst Christmas Ever. Eh, we’ll see.

  4. I would assume your discomfort around Santa is also related to the whole “ho ho ho” thing.

    My parents never taught us about Santa and I thought that was fine. I think I would teach my children what we know about the real St. Nicholas and probably leave it at that… I guess I wonder if my kids learned that Santa wasn’t real, would they start to think the stories about Jesus weren’t real, either?

    I liked how the Catholic family I babysat dealt with it – they had someone dressed like the actual St. Nick, bishops hat and all, come on the feast day of St. Nicholas with small gifts and spiritual encouragement. It gave them a little taste of Santa, with the trip to their home and the goodies and the gifts, without the overcommercialization of the holiday.

  5. the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

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