Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Santa verses Genie

I'm re-reading The Trouble With Christmas by Tom Flynn, the Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism and so-called Anti-Claus. I certainly don't agree with everything Flynn advocates (especially the parts where he keeps telling freethinkers such as myself what our values are or should be.) But I still think it's a fun, must-read for any freethinkers (or "infidels" as he calls us) who grow up in America, so immersed in holiday hubbub for 1-2 months out of every year.

Today's post addresses the passage on page 143, from the chapter Ho Ho Ho? No No No!:

Beyond the usual complaints about holiday materialism, the Santa Claus myth prepares children to become docile members of consumer culture. In a study of children's letters to Santa Claus, kids always asked Santa for material items, not new skills, intangible benefits for other family members, or good health. By contrast, when the same children listed their desires in contexts not associated with Santa Claus, fewer than half of their requests concerned material objects. 

The footnote after the passage refers the reader to Richardson and Simpson, "Children, Gender, and Social Structure: An Analysis of the Contents of Letters to Santa Claus," Child Development 53 (1982.)

Curious, today I asked my 5-year-old daughter, "If you could have three wishes from a genie, what would they be?"

Without much hesitation, she answered that her three wishes would be that her two sets of grandparents and two beloved cousins who live in another state would move close by so she could see them every day. My heart was quite touched by this answer.

Then, of course, I asked, "If Santa really existed, and you could ask for three things, what would you ask for from Santa?"

She pondered this a bit longer, then said she'd ask for a Barbie fashion doll, an Ariel fashion doll, and a bucket of pink paint to paint a wall in her bedroom.

She already has two princess fashion dolls, and she plays with them less than her stuffed animals, 18" dolls, LEGO, and paints, so I'm skeptical that those are really the toys she most desires. I suspect fashion dolls popped into her mind first because they are pretty and glitzy, and very well marketed to her age group.

Finally I asked, "If you had to choose only one to really exist, would you want the genie or Santa?"

Her answer echoed the shocking discovery the Grinch makes about the Whos at the conclusion of Dr. Seuss's famous Christmas tale. She said, "I would want the genie to be real because Christmas is not about presents and lights. It's about the people you love and the love that you show."

Seriously, she said that verbatim. I know because I immediately grabbed a pen to write it down and asked her to repeat herself. Despite all the commercial crap swirling around her, she still managed to pick up that sentiment and push it to the top of her priority list. As a mother, I beamed.

Hey, Virginia, that editor was blowing smoke. We don't need no Jesus OR Santa because we got love, baby, and as the song goes, Love is all you need.