Santa Claus

Dear Santa Claus,

I never really believed in you. As far as I can recall, I always knew that the presents under the tree and even the Christmas stockings came from my parents, just like Thanksgiving dinner and Easter baskets. But I used to believe in all the things you stand for; and I don’t mean that stuff about joy and peace. I mean the idea that happiness comes from the acquisition of material objects, and that Christmas is about getting whatever toys one wants that particular year. Your name gets associated with joy and peace, but that isn’t really the point of you; it isn’t what your image really means in this society.

Christmas TreeIt’s a bit cliché to complain about the commercialization of Christmas, but the point is valid. Stores start stocking Christmas merchandise and advertising their Christmas sales long before Christmas. People feel a need to start thinking about Christmas shopping long before they’re in the mood for Christmas joy and peace. They are preparing for the coming of Santa Claus rather than the coming of Jesus, not only in Advent, but for several of the preceding weeks as well. Any corny Christmas movie will claim that Santa is separate from this commercialism, that he laments it himself, but that’s an utterly pointless discernment. When these movies make that point, they are merely replacing superficial consumerist values with abstract “Christmas Spirit” values. Santa Claus, I hold you partially responsible for both the commercialization of Christmas and the corniness of Christmas. Your message is not one of joy, unless joy is getting a desired toy. Your message is not one of peace, unless peace is getting a Christmas vacation. And you can’t give me what I really want, for Christmas or otherwise, unless what I really want is some trivial material object.

JesusSanta Claus, you brought me some degree of joy when I was little and you filled my family’s living room with toys, and if I have outgrown that childhood Christmas joy, it’s not because of cynicism or a lack of Christmas spirit. It’s because I no longer think that happiness comes from having new dolls or the latest book in a series I like.  I still appreciate and enjoy the aesthetic awesomeness of a lighted Christmas tree with wrapped presents under it, and I still think there’s something exciting about the very nature of gift-giving. And, of course, I like getting new stuff. Getting new stuff is cool. But that’s not the real point of Christmas. In fact, fruitcake and Christmas cookies aren’t the real point, either. As hard as it is for me to admit, even Christmas music and Doctor Who Christmas specials aren’t the real point. Almost any Christmas movie will tell you that the true meaning of Christmas has to do with love and joy and peace and goodwill towards your fellow human beings, but those are all abstract ideas, even if you add a few sentimental things about family. Those are the traits of a happy Santa-Claus-Christmas. Santa Claus offers a trite and superficial kind of Christmas joy. The meaningful and significant kind of Christmas joy doesn’t come from a white-haired man in a red suit with fluffy white trim; it comes from a man who was born in Bethlehem about two thousand years ago. He didn’t come bringing candy that was quickly eaten or toys that were quickly broken; he came bringing forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life. No offense, Santa Claus, but you just can’t compete with that.


P.S. With all that being said, I have been very good this year, and I wouldn’t actually mind if you brought me a whole lot of awesome stuff and if you made my car work again. Thanks, Santa.

Christmas letter