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Why Santa is the Best Lie My Parents Ever Told Me
Bells ring out across the food court as Santa struts to his seat for his next shift. His red velveteen suit glares out amongst the moody shoppers as he negotiates the obstacle course of tables and eager children. Kids scream out “Hi Santa” in unbridled enthusiasm as he passes. He waves back merrily as any right jolly good elf should do, even one on the clock. It was then, thinking back to the lines, the shoving, the general rudeness of the public at Christmas time that I decided that Santa was the best lie my parents ever told me.
Of course my parents never meant to lie, as did their parents before them, and like every other parent that perpetrated the myth of St Nick. I mean, it is quite ridiculous after all. An omniscient being that violates the rules of physics on a yearly basis to squeeze down a chimney and place presents under a tree and oranges in our socks is just crazy, perhaps even a little creepy. Despite the ludicrousness, my parents asked me to suspend the disbelief that governs me in my adult life and stay a child for a little longer.
Of course my parents did more to perpetuate the myth of Santa than quietly agreeing with our cultural delusion. Each year I had presents from “Santa” under the tree and it was generally accepted that he filled my long knit stockings with candy, fruit, and oddly - office supplies. Yes, Santa always cared enough about my academic pursuits to supply me with pens and pencils. Growing up, I figured he was afraid I wouldn’t have a writing instrument. Given the oranges he must have been concerned about scurvy too.
And occasionally in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, I’d hear a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho” ring out through the house, accompanied by the labor of moving presents. Oh yes, I was tempted to arise from my bed to check out the clatter, but I knew how the laws of Santa worked. If I saw him placing those oranges in my socks that night, it would mean I didn’t get any presents at all. You see, to investigate or question Santa is to void out that year’s well-earned presents. I wasn’t going to risk that entire year of good behavior for a mere glimpse of someone I could see at the mall.
Surely there are those parents who protest feeding their child the lies of the fat man in the red suit. They rightly reason that they are sparing their child from the eventual embarrassment of believing in fairy tales. Their child will never have to wait in line to sit on the petri dish that is Mall Santa’s lap, nor worry about what to do with all that coal this year. No, for the non-believing child there are no letters, no dreams of the North Pole, and no rush of excitement to hear those jingle bells ringing on a cold winter night. Rationality and reason is sadly this child’s guide.
You see, the world is a little smaller when we have it all figured out. When the wonder has been weeded out and magic is no longer a possibility.
Of course, what parent would ever knowingly lie to their child? Unless there are some lies, the white lies if you will, that lack maliciousness and are told for the betterment of the individual. It’s a skill we all master, from “no, sweety, you’ve only grown more beautiful over the years” to “that’s a great idea boss, wish I thought of it.” You see, Santa is one of those good lies, the best lies perhaps. Though it may do something to curb undesirable behavior, I believe that this lie is actually a benefit to a child.
So why am I thankful for the lie my parents perpetrated? In short, because my parents let me believe, no they encouraged me to believe in a world in which magic existed. Not the magic of a flame-casting warlock, but in the magic of a man that loves the children of the world. It imbued me with a belief that there was someone watching, even judging my actions, and maybe this guy wasn’t as scary or as final as God. But maybe, Santa was the kind of guy that could put a good word in for you, even if you accidentally hit a classmate over the head with a toy truck.
The fact that my parents didn’t take credit for the presents from Santa is an act of extreme generosity worthy of St. Nick himself. To not seek recognition for the gift is to move the transaction out of the realm of reciprocity into a spirit of altrusim. When gifted under another’s name whether Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy is to ignore the power dynamics of the exchange. It was an important lesson, that the encouragement of wonder requires sacrifice. As I grew older and slowly understood what my parents did, it persuaded me to give freely of myself.
Maybe after all Santa isn’t a lie. That is what I like to think. Perhaps there is some truth to a being of extreme generosity that rewards us yearly for our good behavior. Part of me, the part that believe in magic, wants to believe that Santa did visit my house as he did all the other children of the world. It was only as I grew into the hyper-rational person that I am today that Santa stopped visiting. Maybe someday, in Narnia-like fashion, if I believe strong enough again I will find his presents under the tree.
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© 2011 Dan Human