The Scary Shit we do in Real Life, Part 2: Santa Claus
Santa Claus. Kris Kringle. Jolly Old Saint Nick. Father Christmas. St. Nicholas, the real-life 4th century bishop who gave gifts to the needy. You’ve likely referred to the gift-giving rosy-cheeked man in red by one of those names in your lifetime. You probably also know the 1823 poem titled “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore – if you’re of a certain age, you likely know parts of it by heart. But have you ever stopped to think about what you’ve (ok, we’ve) recited year after year as you sit and contemplate your Christmas tree? Have you ever thought about the actual words? Let’s. Just for a little while, let’s.
Moore talks about a lovely night; the kids are asleep and a simple man and his wife have just laid down to close their own eyes when a sound jolts him from his sleep, causing him to investigate. You know the rest – flying reindeer, one of which has a glowing nose, a bottomless sleigh of gifts, and a portly old gent who breaks into the house to see what’s what… Twilight Zone-level stuff. Spooked yet? No?
Wait… there’s more.
If the idea of someone puttering around your house while you sleep isn’t enough to scare you silly, think about what song writers have added to the lore over the years. The holiday ditty “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” admonishes children to keep a stiff upper lip and be good because Santa is coming to town. It goes on to remind them that he sees kids when they are asleep and that they’d better be good… for goodness sakes. “Here Comes Santa Claus” cautions kids to get into bed and cover their heads because Santa is on his way.
On its face, the lyrics are disconcerting; it’s easy to catch stalker vibes a la the Police’s “Every Breath You Take” but think about it for a second. Let those lyrics resonate…
What kind of otherworldly, omniscient, shapeshifting (because how does he get into houses without a chimney, I ask you? How’d he get past the home security system? How’d he…) weirdo is looking inside your house, your very room – everyone’s room – to know when you are sleeping? Following you, peeking into your mind to find out what you’ve done and to whom, waiting to mete out punishment for the “bad” deeds?
Keep it going – what kind of magic does Santa possess to make it to the house of every kid in the world and leave them a gift before Christmas morning… in every time zone?
How’d he find you if you weren’t at your own house for Christmas?
And we’re ok letting kids believe in this home-invading conjurer – so much so that we feed him too?
Maybe he only practices the good kind of magic…
M-maybe the stories about getting a lump of coal in your stocking for doing bad things is the worst of it…
L. Marie Wood