I’ve been critical of this whole Santa business for a long time. In fact, I’ve been critical of gift giving in general for a long time. A few years ago I went to Africa and saw how happy people can be without any of the trappings we’ve been told are required for contentment. I came back and vowed to give up my life as a stuffologist and learn how to live with less. As far as becoming a minimalist is concerned, I am a work in progress. As far as the stuffology is concerned, I really think carefully before acquiring anything new.
When I got back from Africa I did talk to my friends and family and declare a cease-fire on gift exchanges. I explained that if I really want something I’ll buy it for myself, that anything we might buy each other might just end up being more stuff. Stuff one of us would have to be responsible for, stuff that may or may not satisfy either of us, and stuff that would, certainly, one day end up in a landfill. I didn’t make any new friends with this new no-gift philosophy but most of the people in my life have begrudgingly abided by my request.
I was told, however, that children have to be exempt from my no-gift rule. My sisters want their children to grow up learning how to give and receive gifts. So I have dutifully purchased gifts for them every birthday and every Christmas. This year I was able to spend a few days before Christmas with my nieces and nephew and saw first hand the excitement and anticipation of not only the gifts under the tree with their names on them, but also the yearning and uncertainty of the impossible gifts they had asked Santa for.
My youngest niece had asked for “A pink princess castle with no doors for little people.” Evidently she’d seen this in a catalog somewhere and set her heart on having Santa bring it to her from the North Pole. The way she talked about this castle was so cute that everyone kept asking her what she wanted from Santa so that she would repeat the same description of this pink princess castle over and over. She never wavered. Every single time it was the same.
So, on Christmas morning she was overjoyed to find a pink princess castle with no doors for little people in front of the fireplace. Then it struck me.
She wanted a pink princess castle. She asked for a pink princess castle. She received a pink princess castle.
She received exactly what she asked for.
So, do we as a society promote the idea of Santa Claus to help children use their imagination? Is it so that they learn how to believe in magic? Or is it to show them the only way to get what they want is to ask for it?
This Christmas my lesson from Santa is this- You get what you ask for. Ask for what you want.