During the Christmas season, children across the world gravitate towards the magical tale of a thick-bearded man with a round belly beneath his comfy looking red coat; one who travels the world bearing gifts for the well-behaved. Some stay on their best behavior in fear of getting coal in their stocking while others bombard their parents with questions about Santa. This behavior makes me wonder if the legend is too romanticized in our society as a face for consumerism, and if the original message of Santa Claus has become distorted.
As legend goes, Santa is known to reward the well behaved, and put coal in the stockings of the “naughty” children. Rather than encouraging positive behavior, some parents use the idea of Santa to trick their children into being obedient. This is like waving a gift in the face of a child and saying “be good or else.” In this case, the only reason they’re going to behave is for the promise of receiving gifts.
In an already materialistic society, this can imprint kids with the idea that they are to expect something in return when they act right or do a good deed. It’s an unrealistic thought and contradicting to the core of the Christmas holiday, which is supposed to represent generosity and selflessness.
Although, this doesn’t mean it’s wrong to tell children about Santa. I think the problem lies when parents go too far romanticize the figure. These are the parents who remain adamant Santa is real when their children question it, label presents as being from Santa, and hold coal from Santa over their children’s head- essentially blackmailing their kids into behaving.
It would be better if more people were honest with children about who Santa is and what he means. Telling at least a little bit of the truth doesn’t need to make Christmas any less magical or exciting. I think parents should tell their children the story of Saint Nicholas and the classic Christmas values he portrays. If some fun traditions such as Santa’s cookies, reindeer, or even gifts remain, that’s great; but the holiday season is no time for the stress that Santa can bring when done poorly by parents. We should utilize the story and tradition of Santa Claus to invoke faith in the power of kindness, and in the the loving heart of humanity. Above all, it’s about believing in something bigger than any gift we may receive.