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Volume 4, Issue 1                                    University of Houston

Santa Claus isn't the true meaning of Christmas

Randy Woock

The myths and illusions we allow to fill our eyes and cloud our brains transform and mutate as we grow older.

The basic human need to have myths and illusions to believe in doesn't change. It simply adapts to our more cynical, more bitter, more "adult" world we inhabit as we age.

The most prevalent cultural myth from childhood that almost all of us can identify with was that of an obese philanthropist who always wore red: Santa Claus. For some reason the idea that some omniscient fat-guy who lived in the Arctic wastelands would want to give free toys to children he had never met before, asking in return only that we be nice to each other and "good," made perfect sense to us as children. Why wouldn't somebody want to give me free toys? Don't I deserve them? Doesn't everybody?

Now that we're all older and "wiser," the Santa mythos falls apart like a panthophobic in a cancer ward. If not through the ridiculous physics involved in visiting every child of the world on a single night, then the keen sense of cynicism that we've all developed as a defense mechanism would demand to know why anyone would undergo such an enormous public relations stunt every year.

We'd want to know what else the guy could be up to that would be so horrible that he'd try to blatantly buy off all of us when we're at such a young and vulnerable age. His child fixation is kinda creepy; what's with all the little kids at the mall sitting on his lap, telling him what they really want? And why does he seem to like the rich kids more than the poor ones. Does this mean Santa votes Republican?

And finally, why does the guy have such a pathetic need for our love and acceptance that he tries to bribe affection with gifts? He's like a dead-beat dad you only see on holidays.

Incidentally, I blame Claus for the toppling of the other great mythology that most of us were taught as kids, more politely called religion. We were all so epistemologically devastated to learn that Santa wasn't real. After all, we had empirical proof that the guy existed: the gifts, the crap in our stockings, the bites somebody had taken out of the devotional milk and cookies we left for him. All this "proof," and the chap wasn't even real.

I figure it got some kids wondering about all the other invisible people they were supposed to believe in but had never seen. I remember the Joycean epiphany experienced when the realization struck me I had never seen a "To: Randy, From: God" present gift-wrapped under my tree. Not even a lousy card on my birthday.

Now that we're all older and so much more educated and clever than back in the precocious days of our youth, the cultural myths that we swallow without chewing have changed.

Long gone is the chubby philanthropist who knew if we were naughty or nice. In his place we have such cherished myths as the idea that the butchers who run our country are better than the butchers who run other countries. In its place is the belief someone will love us for who we are. (Nothing in this world is unconditional, especially love; so don't push your luck, OK?). It's also replaced by the myth that, despite the Fifth Ward I drive through daily on my way to UH, America is a classless society.

Perhaps one day we'll all learn how to get through the day without something invisible to believe in. Maybe we'll realize that the world is so full of wonders that there's no need to lie to ourselves about it; just pay more attention to what's actually there. Maybe we'll see our existence as the miraculous thing it is. Maybe.

But don't hold your breath waiting.

Woock, a senior psychology major can be reached at

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