Santa Claus: An Introspective Look at the Ambassador of Cheer

I recently saw the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, a showcase of visual performances dripping with glee as sweet (and sappy) as candy canes.  Dedicated to promoting the traditions (and economic impact) of Christmas, this show has become a bastion of holiday cheer in New York City.  The Rockettes were outstanding and seamlessly executed their signature dancing line.  The traditional scenes remained intact, though with subtle nuances and alterations in order to make them more appealing to the younger demographics.

The inhuman amount of exuberant cheer that radiated from the stage and into the crowd was immediately palpable, and somewhat jarring.  The crowd was not as energized as I would have imagined, perhaps a testament to how diluted the holidays have become over time.  Still, not even a lackluster crowd could silence Santa Claus as he made his radiant entrance into the crowd.  As I watched him, I pondered what his impact really was to all of us.  His garrulous personality swept the entire crowd, tantamount to a rock star or politician.  How many people on the planet possess that kind of clout?

It is remarkable to think that Santa Claus, a fictional character and a derivative of St. Nicholas, could be the only internationally recognized figurehead that draws no displeasure from anyone.  His magnanimity is contagious; his smile infectious; and his obesity nauseating (just kidding).  Shifting to a more serious note, the archetype for Santa Claus is one that has been foisted upon saints, politicians and other leaders.  Yet, many people can only agree upon one person that is holistically and consistently generous, kind-hearted, and inspirational. 

I believe it is indicative of the society that we live in that such a character could thrive.  The cult of Santa Claus is embedded within the fabric of our lives; a gentle and subtle reminder to respect the tenets of Christianity (which are shared by other religions, too) to be forgiving, kind and thoughtful to others.  It's always a sad reminder that, even less than a month after Christmas, the anticipation for presents that spurred our kindness dissolves with the winter wind.  This is the frustration many hold with the holidays; that for a brief time humans act "human" and act more amicably towards each other.  Unfortunately, with the advent of the computer, internet and rebirth of working-at-home, human contact has declined over the past twenty years, but that is for another hub.  

The parallels between Santa and the God(s) of any religion are astounding.  In the song Santa Claus is coming to town, part of the lyrics attest to his ubiquitous presence, "He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows if you've been bad or good."  It satisfies our needs as humans to strive towards something greater than ourselves, just as religion motivates us to become better humans.  Although Santa is human (like Jesus when he was on Earth) he is omnipresent and possesses miraculous powers.  Both focus their goals on instilling beliefs of good and teasing out charitable behavior in even the most detestable people.  Santa's stalwart elfs who help him and sing his prayers could be compared to the disciples of Jesus, who, even after his death continued to spread his message.  Santa Claus, a symbol of Western tradition and an offshoot of Christianity's monopolization of course has its detractors, namely in the Middle East and in other isolated regions.  Yet, by and large, the manifestation of an over-sized man in a red suit stimulates applause and warm appreciation for mankind.

Santa's persona and nuances have evolved over time in order to be equipped to deal with an increasingly diverse nation.  Especially during a time in which we are slowly pulling ourselves out of a brief recession, Santa's charm and passion for life incite hope in many people.  Although the holidays can be a cruel reminder of undesirable circumstances, they also serve to remind us of what is important.  Speaking of economics, his red suit alone is an indication that his presence during this time of year helps prevent stores from being "in the red", or losing profits.  This year it may be a grim indication of where the retail business and the greater economy stand.  Many businesses rely on the time of year as a financial "pick-me-up" to sell merchandise that was not sold during the year or to sell it in bulk.

Although Santa Claus continues to become more and more commercialized every year, people perceive him as pure and untarnished; a familiar face that can always be trusted.  I think that the world needs Santa Claus as an international ambassador.  He is someone who neither discriminates nor holds grudges.  He is the farthest thing from a misanthrope; as his love for people seems to swell greater and greater every year (as does his stomach).  More importantly, he is a force that can reconcile differences between groups of people, just as rap, rock'n'roll, movies and other mediums have in the past.  All of these entities wield the ability to carve out the truth and clearly define it for the rest of us to see.  The appeal of Santa Claus is that anyone and everyone can believe in what he says, as he always knows.  There is a panoply of reasons why he continues to exist, as the human race thrives off of the caricature of someone who is perpetually humble and joyful.

Could you imagine Santa Claus on CNN or Fox News?  Maybe C-SPAN?  What his political stripes and placement along the spectrum would be no one could possibly know. His primary function as a diplomat would be to reconstruct relationships throughout the world, a job at which he would be the best for.  Yet since we try to emulate what he preaches during hte last few months of the year, why not extrapolate that into year-round behavior?  Why must it take spending thousands of dollars on gifts and food for us to come to this simple realization every year and then, just as the new year begins, start on a clean slate that does not retain this message?  We choose to manipulate and exploit what ever feelings or methods benefit us in the present; as soon as their use becomes void so does our interest in them.  However, if we just focused on retrieving the lost art of community and began to reinvest our time in each other rather than ourselves, Santa's influence once a year wouldn't be needed.  Instead, we'd be engaged in it every day. We would not need a jolly man in a red suit yearly to remind us to just be human towards each other.

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