It’s that time of year again.
When I was a child, my brother and I were indoctrinated in the ways of Santa Claus. Like all individuals living under a dictatorship, we questioned the propaganda, but sang the party line, loud and clear.
We didn’t believe some 300lb white guy was coming down our chimney on Christmas Eve laden with just the gifts we wanted, but we were survivors. Friends who questioned the belief in the happy elf often received clothes. We got Atari 2600s, musical instruments and gift certificates to McDonalds. Damn easy choice.
Embrace the doctrine and get the goodies. Inform on those who do not and watch them suffer. My brother and I would have fared well in the USSR.
It’s different with my own children. My oldest ceased to believe when he was four, quite by accident. Often, with me, what comes up comes out. So when my son asked innocently, “Daddy is Santa having the elves make our gifts at the North Pole?” my response was typical of a new millennium father.
“Well, son, Santa is having union problems with the elves. Apparently those jokers want a better benefits package, and he couldn’t find enough contractors to break the strike.”
His face fell.
“Don’t worry, Big Man. I’ll stand in for Santa this year.”
He got the holiday equivalent of Fort Knox the next morning. He hasn’t believed since.
The following day, while on the expressway, we spotted many deer along the road.
“Are those Santa’s deer?”
I saw my back window slide down and a little head pop out the window. “Stand in solidarity! Stay on strike! Thanks!”
My youngest was in the annual Christmas musical.
“We’re singing ‘Feliz Navidad!”
“Do you know what that means? Feliz Navidad?”
Eager nodding. “Merry Christmas.”
“Well, that’s what they WANT you to believe…” I generally do not do conspiracies, and as a lesson to my children, concoct some way out ones just to show them the sheer silliness of some of what people believe.
"Yeah. It's really bad. It's code...for something else..." I told her.
“It really means that?”
“Yup. Whenever you hear that, it’s an insult.”
Slow 8 year old burn. "But aren't WE Black?"
“Yep. Do you want to hear the REAL song?”
Well, anger turns to laughter as I teach her the words. By the time we get home, the chorus is embedded.
I dropped her at home, headed to the store for eggnog.
“OK, I sat back and let you lampoon Disney for them, making Gepetto the animated version of Jerry Sandusky. I let you portray Gumby and Pokey as gang bangers. I even turned a blind eye when you completely reconstructed ‘Davey and Goliath’ into something…awful…those poor clay characters.”
Oh, I’m in trouble. Again.
“But when you tell these children ‘Feliz Navidad’ really means ‘Black People S**k… and it’s a secret Spanish code song to eliminate them…”
It was a joke. I mean, who would really believe it? Oh, the 8 year old who thinks I’m the smartest think since SpongeBob? My bad.
Well, eliminate one more supportive vote for Saint Nick. And possibly the entire holiday season. I have created the world’s youngest cynic now who eyes her Latin brethren the way Seoul eyes Pyongyang. Great.
I couldn’t help it, though. Let’s be honest: there are people who say, “Let children be children”, and I concur.
I’m not sure this holiday is about children however.
Materialism? Maybe. Religion? Well, in a pinch, I’ll buy it. Family? Sure, but we all know how much family related anxiety pops up around the holidays.
Face facts: if this was really about maintaining childhood, our society would applaud parents who explain to their children the amount of love and sacrifice that goes into buying and doing things that just makes them smile. As a whole, we would spend less money at Wal Mart and more time out ice skating, or snuggling together by the fireplace, telling each other stories, drinking cocoa and laughing.
That’s not how it works. Parents are ridiculed for not allowing their children to believe some mythical third party cares so much about them he brings them gifts, as opposed to the folk who raise them. The people who make this splurge happen in spite of mounting bills, risk of unemployment and the other realities we all deal with while trying to raise our kids.
There's something culturally exclusive about this myth,a s well. Say what you want: there is no way mainstream America would allow their children to think happy thoughts about a Black dude (think Chef on South Park) invading their homes once a year and bringing their children gifts the parents worked to acquire.
It wouldn't happen.
If this was really about religion, we would discuss that although there is no shred of evidence that Jesus being born this late in the year. A time that corresponds with the pagan holiday practiced by the Romans who co-opted Christianity. Heck, we’d at least mention that Jesus never asked for an iPhone and there is no Biblical record of his parents celebrating his birthday once he arrived here on earth. There also would be more acceptance of the fact this person, the one whose momma took him to Black Egypt to hide when he was a baby, the one who a Black man helped carry his tool of execution(he was in the crowd, maybe he had something in common with the condemned?) and the one with hair like wool...if this was about the children, we'd at least acknowledge this time of the year that he did not resemble one of the Bee Gees.
Family? Wonderful. This is a time of year when we all gather. If this was really about childhood, however, we wouldn’t dread going to relatives’ houses, hoping no one says anything out of line. If this was really about childhood, that aunt who always gets lit and starts talking about how they weren’t favored as a child would remember there are kids present and stick to chamomile tea.
If this was about the children we'd really work harder on teaching our offspring the real value of this day is about giving, not receiving.
I am all in favor of my kids remaining kids. When my 11 year old had to buy pants in the men’s section this year, as opposed to the little boys’ section where the sizes are 12, 14 and 16, I made a conscious effort to not let his experiences catch up with his growing body until the time was right for him to handle both.
Spare me, however, “The holidays are for children. Kids should be allowed to believe in the fantasies and remain kids.”
As retailers sell more liquor than any other time of year besides Super Bowl Sunday.
As parents get children gifts that are more and more “grown” and less and less age appropriate every year.
As kids who were suspended for telling teachers “That’s why you had a baby wit’ yo’ daddy!” brag about the X Box systems they are guaranteed to receive for the holiday.
As ministers glide by members standing on bus stops Christmas morning, never slowing their speed in their holiday gift Bimmer 740s.
The holidays are what they are. Those who long for the good old days should have heard my grandfather share tales of getting an orange for Christmas in Depression era Eufala, Alabama, and being happy they would be able to eat all they wanted that night. If the harvest was good.
This Christmas, let’s forget the politics of the holiday and really try our best to make it about those basics, many of which are free.
Happiness, Family Cheer and Goodwill towards all.