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Volume 69, Issue 67, Monday, December 1, 2003


Happy birthday, Mr. Santa Claus

Zach Lee
Opinion Columnist

About this time every year, people start reminding us of the "real" reason for the season. They warn against being swept up in the corporate-sponsored world of consumerism. What's so wrong with consumerism? The story of a baby in a manger is just a convenient, perverted version of pagan winter solstice celebrations. The real reason for the season is the need for excitement during the depressing winter months.

What better way is there to fight gray skies and low temperatures than to hang colorful lights and line the trenches with a staunch defense of carefree songs? There's nothing inherently wrong with deluding the populace into thinking that a jolly old man in red and white gives presents to everyone he knows and that everyone else should spend their money doing the same.

Let's be practical here -- Santa Claus is propaganda. It doesn't take a physics major to realize that a man fattened by eating billions of cookies with millions of glasses of milk can't fit down space-saving urban chimneys. But he can reach countless children across the globe and convince them their parents don't love them unless they spend several paychecks on gifts that will likely be relegated to the toy chest long before the next season for giving rolls around. That's the way it is, and that's the way it's going to stay.

We may have lost sight of Christmas' religious origins, but that doesn't mean December has become a cold, heartless reminder that the world is still miles from perfection. 

Look at the children. It's a cliché, but as college students most of us haven't come all that far from our own childhood. Even those of us who had our Santa-loving hearts broken early by that older kid who lived down the street hold the season with some sort of reverence. Almost everybody does.

Even if there is absolutely no real substance behind the sparkling evergreens or dazzling yard decorations, there is still something awe-inspiring about them. Something about that ideal Christmas dinner, full of homemade food and heartfelt laughs -- an idea that has been shoved down our throats -- gets to even the most cynical souls.

Something has to explain the success of the cheesy holiday-inspired movies that come out every year. Maybe there's some truth to that old adage that goes something like, "If enough people believe in something, it becomes true."

The secularization of Christmas probably has some good to it. It shows us that we don't need religion to give gifts to the people we care about. We don't need a parable about a baby surrounded by barnyard animals to hang out with family and friends. All we need is a shape-shifting man with some aerodynamic reindeer.

So, in the spirit of putting meaning (which is not necessarily chronologically true) behind a happy season, I hope you will join me in wishing Santa Claus a happy birthday.

Lee, a sophomore English major,
can be reached at


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