All I Want for Christmas
I believe in Santa Claus, but the mall Santa is an utter fraud. He recently broke my heart. OK, so I have reservations about gifting in general. With the advent of Advent, I ask these questions in an attempt to quell my anxiety about the exercise of gift giving as celebration.
What does it mean to give and receive gifts, and why do we do it? How does the giving of a gift redefine the relationship between giver and receiver, and why is this all necessary? It seems a very unsophisticated and prescriptive way to carry on being civil, considerate, or even loving.
Hollywood has long perpetuated the idea of Christmas as the one day that dreams can come true. Maybe someone knows what you have wished and hoped for all year, and has decided to put a few hundred dollars toward making that wish come true. Or maybe someone gives you something that you never would’ve expected in a million years, but the gift shows thoughtfulness and that the giver really “gets” you.
But, alas, not everyone is gifted at gifting; not everyone is a gracious receiver. When we ascribe magical significance to “the perfect gift” where does that leave us in our relationships?
You see, there’s peril in the practice of preordained gift giving. Why are presents the hallmark (no pun intended) of our participation in the celebration of winter, the birth of a Savior, the new year? Why is it that power is horded and doled out, that threat and disappointment and envy and expectation grow palpable at this time when there is so much to enjoy? Remember the wonderful food and smells, and the crackling fire, and the snow, and the children, and the music. There are parties and church bells, lights and photo holiday cards of friends’ children.
I believe Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas. Whatever good, warmth, and love we associate with the season is personified in Santa. There really is a spirit of Christmas, so there really is a Santa Claus. Period. What’s not to believe? Santa needs to be known and loved and wondered about, and – if the line isn’t too long- visited. But I count among the darkest of days the day when my three year old daughter was asked by the mall Santa, “What do you want for Christmas?” I don’t know why I was surprised; certainly the guy wasn’t entirely out of line for just asking. But we had not come with a list of demands; we were there to get up close to him and bask in the magic. In that moment a beautiful awe overcame me as I realized that in her innocence she didn’t know she was meant to want anything, and a heaviness filled my heart as the power was introduced and the game set into motion.
And that is how I knew he wasn’t the real Santa. The real Santa would never have asked that.