Do you believe in Santa Claus? I have a hunch that your answer to that question is likely to be a fairly confident “no”. But let me ask you another question: Why DON’T you believe in Santa Claus? I ask this question occasionally around the holidays, and typically get responses based on the idea that the person has never SEEN Santa Claus, or otherwise has no strong evidence that he actually exists. If that’s the gist of your reason for saying no, let me ask you this: Have you ever actually been to the North Pole? Do you know anyone who has? Chances are pretty slim that the answer to either question is “yes”. So in point of fact, your belief that there’s no Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole is based on second-hand data or purely anecdotal information. So why do you so confidently believe in things like electrons, quarks and black holes? You’ve never seen them either. Sure, a bunch of scientists have massive piles of data to allegedly verify their existence, but you probably haven’t seen THAT either.
At this point – if you’re even still reading – you may be thinking that I’m operating out of a pretty childish line of reasoning here. But in my case in particular, nothing could be farther from the truth. I honestly don’t recall ever believing in Santa as a child. I was a fairly bright kid, and sussed that one out by the age of about three, I’m told. Thereby, it turns out, probably cheating myself out of a small piece of childhood magic. Oh well. I never looked back, and never really regretted it. As I grew older, I liked keeping the myth alive for kids, and in the process, maybe recaptured a bit of the spirit that way. But then something changed. I don’t know who whipped up the first batch of Santa Haterade, but man, people sure liked the taste of it! Pretty soon, Santa was banished from street corners, malls, and holiday parties, along with that whole holiday of his, the dreaded “Christmas”. Finally, we had the freedom to use the less-offensive phrase “Happy Holidays” instead of the cruel and culturally insensitive “Merry Christmas”. That sure has made the world a better place, hasn’t it?
For a long time, I think I was a pretty eager Santa Basher myself. I resented the commercialism of Christmas, and I resented how the dynamics of the holiday season in general seemed to make so many people unhappy. But a few years ago, I had a little – and I don’t mean this in the literal Christian sense – epihany. It struck me suddenly that something kind of horrible had happened in the process of murdering Santa. The death of such a fundamentally positive modern myth actually made the holidays even MORE unbearable and shallow than ever. I decided (and succeeded) in reclaiming the holiday season as a happy time, by creating my own little mythology that drew from all the good things from the world’s various solstice-time holidays as I saw fit. And I recall very clearly the thing that helped trigger this slow change in my outlook over the last several years. Ready to have a laugh at my expense? It was watching Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for the first time in ages. Aside from how entertaining it is because of how the classic claymation style lends an almost macabre vibe to an equally almost macabre story, I suddenly realized that there was a much cooler message in there.
In the end, the story has far less to do with believing in Christmas than it has to do with believing in yourself. And it conveys the idea of how blazing your own trail and being kind at the same time will probably reap greater rewards than following the pack and believing in nothing at all EVER could. Hermie the Dentist is in fact quite a badass, striking out on his own, and the Abominable Snowman – much like many cranky people we deal with every day – is just living with a personal pain that he doesn’t know how to express.
Much like this TV classic, the message I’d like to put across here is a little different from how I’ve framed it. If you’re nerdy enough to have seen the sci-fi film Serenity, which was basically made possible by rabid believers (there’s that word again!) in the abruptly cancelled TV show Firefly, you may recall a scene in which the character Mal is talking to the preacher character, Shepherd Book. It went like this:
SHEPHERD BOOK: Only one thing is gonna walk you through this, Mal. Belief.
MAL: Sermons make me sleepy, Shepherd. I ain’t looking for help from on high. That’s a long wait for a train don’t come.
SHEPHERD BOOK: When I talk about belief, why do you always assume I’m talking about God?
My real point here is that I don’t really care if you believe in Santa Claus, Christmas, God, or Tinkerbell, for that matter. But believing in SOMETHING is a great start toward realizing that you’re part of something bigger.
And if nothing else, I hope you believe in YOU.
Happy Holiday of Your Choice.
I’m gonna go watch Rudolph again.