Contributing writer for Wake Up World
“We are going to have a white Christmas this year, with three inches expected by morning! The storm however won’t be slowing down Santa Claus, kids. In fact the snow just makes it easier for his flying reindeer to land and take off, from what I understand. I just got off the phone with NORAD and we’re tracking Santa right now. Their up to the minute tracking information concludes he’s making good time despite the headwinds and should be in our region by two or three o’clock this morning. We’ll keep you posted on his whereabouts on the evening news… and now back to you, Chuck.”
The first four or five years of our lives are the most formative years of our lives. Our minds are like dry sponges, absorbing everything around us. In our most impressionable state, we learn from our parents, friends, family, teachers, neighbors, and everyone we interact with, as well as media, conventions, traditions and institutions of all sorts. We learn what we’re taught, but we also pick up on queues and absorb lessons from our experiences and observations, both subtle and obvious, direct and indirect, as we learn to navigate and interpret the world around us.
Incidentally, these are the very same years most children in Christian-based societies are influenced by, even infatuated with, the Santa Clause myth – a common sociological influence we share.
As children the Santa story seems magical, replete with elves, flying reindeer, a benevolent (yet judgmental) patriarch and shiny new gifts. Then, as we grow older, comes the letdown. The truth is revealed as our common initiation – our first taste of ‘adult’ society.
When the truth is revealed it can all seem like a cruel celebration to a sensitive young mind. With the magic of our early childhood taken from our Christmas, we learn in that moment that everyone, from parents and teachers to news presenters and institutions of all kinds are capable of lying to our faces, straight up, with a smile, in perfect unspoken coordination. We learn that there is not enough magic in the real world, and that our sense of wonder can only be satisfied by artificially constructed mythology, and remains the domain of early childhood unknowing. Not only that, we learn that once such a societal lie is realized, our role as “grownups” is to maintain the lie as truth, in this case, because everyone else of a vaguely Christian heritage does it. (Never mind the children of other faiths.)
For children who have just learned or realized the truth, the lie is everywhere we look at Christmas time. It’s at home, in schools, on the news; even the local weather forecasters cooperate with powerful military institutions like NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) lie to us! And we play along without a moment to process our loss, lest we poop the party for younger, still-ignorant children. (Never mind that ours is the only culture on Earth to base its major holy-day on a foundation of pure fictional fabrication, forgoing reality to celebrate the bounty of a deliberately false patriarch.)
NORAD, Santa and the ‘Fake News’ Initiation
The tradition of the North American Aerospace Defense Command actively partaking in the lie of the Santa Claus story and claiming to track Santa Claus on their radar — helping to initiate children into a world of socially-sanctioned lies — began at Christmas time in 1955. This newspaper clipping (pictured) initiated NORAD’s involvement in the Santa Claus story with the most celebrated wrong number in history. Although, ironically enough, the small note to the right of it explicitly states, ‘Kiddies be sure and dial the correct number.’ The advertisement for a shopping mall appeared to include a Colorado telephone number for “Santa Claus” himself, but the advertisement ran with the wrong phone number; the number printed was for the Continental Air Defense Command located in Colorado Springs, which eventually became NORAD.
Even the least conspiratorially minded among us has to wonder about such a coincidence. The publication’s insistence that “kiddies” dial the correct number, which was itself wrong, combined with the fact that NORAD, a government agency that literally takes part in watching the world, now also pretends to watch over Santa Claus as Christmas tradition, is not only laughable, but questionable too. Inviting children to ‘call me on my private phone and I will talk to you personally any time day or night’, decades before 24 hour call centers? One has to wonder if the folks at NORAD knew the 24/7 surveillance crew would be there ‘any time’, or if they planned on employing some poor old HoHoHo to man a telephone somewhere in the mall. But I digress…
Colorado children called the line and the officer in charge dutifully decided to go along with the misprinted advertisement, and tell the kiddies that Santa Claus was about two ticks off the Eastern Seaboard, or was being delayed by commies in Germany, or whatever lie would fulfill their innocent curiosity — but he would be here soon, though probably too late for children to wait up for. Today, as a result of that fateful error, kiddies from all over the world can call and contact NORAD – a government agency – to find out exactly the whereabouts of Santa Claus – a Christian construct – and, with the help of a team of non-military volunteers, NORAD gladly lies. (Never mind the separation of Church and State.)
Let’s assume NORAD was not intended as the original target for these phone calls, and that this “error” was not intended to normalize the concept of government surveillance and tracking in the minds of young children — a phenomenon that today, just a few decades later, is accepted as a ‘normal part’ of our Big Brother culture. At best, the officer in charge played along with the lie because those who don’t go along with the lie, those who reveal the truth to young children, or who just refuse to lie, are considered by our society as an affront to a childhood innocence.
Indeed, as we observe from childhood, everyone we know and love, acquaintances, strangers and the watchers of the mighty military industry, all participate in the lie for a variety of reasons, comfortable in the misconception that the truth of the lie has a more devastating effect on the innocence of young children than the act of the lie itself, substituting fiction in place of nature, mythology in place of reality — mythology which, incidentally, also teaches children that the reward for “nice” behavior is magically-derived material possessions. (Never mind the poor kids.)
As children we learn how the world is, and we learn to conform to it, modeling ourselves, our morality and our behavior on those around us. Biological impulses make us want to be a part of the group, and we don’t want to be ostracized and excluded (like the kids of other faiths are) among tribal and societal units. So, at a tender single-digit age, we confront the possibility that those not-so-magically-derived material possessions we receive each year may now cease by our knowing, and are charged with preserving the “magic” for others. So we adhere to the lie. The magic may be gone, but we’re sure not going to be excluded, or miss out on the kind of rewards we’ve received each year since birth!
What’s in a little lie, eh? Besides, it must be important, since even the media and mighty military yields to the Santa Claus storyline…
At that moment, we make the choice for the first time in our young lives to knowingly partake in a collective deception, because it is both socially acceptable and materially beneficial to do so. On its own, this might not be so bad, and may even be considered a rite of passage. But that program stays with us through adulthood. Incrementally, decision by decision, we come to view accepting lies as a normal part of adult society. Government, advertising, news, corporate shenanigans — It’s all “just politics”, right? (Never mind the weapons of mass destruction.)
Saturnalia, Scapegoats, and Santa Claus
“Placing your child on the lap of a fictional supernatural being and teaching them to ask for material prosperity is idolatry.”
Christmas itself is the celebration of the birth of Christ story, not the Santa Claus story. The reason for the December date is not because Jesus Christ was indeed born on this day; the reason we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ on the winter solstice is because of the pagan influences in Roman culture centuries ago. The Roman rulers wanted the pagan peoples to adopt Christianity and join their societal unit so they could be unified under singular martial rule. The annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ was made to correlate with the pagan celebration of Saturnalia, so as to bring the people together, not necessarily in the spirit of unity so much as martial conformity. If holy days are aligned, holidays are aligned, and a society comprising many different belief systems is far easier to regulate. (Never mind the facts.)
But this is no diabolical accusation, rather, it is a recognition that such compilations of belief happen frequently. Most deities across a spectrum of religions share a common “birth date” of December 25 — from Horus to Krishna, from Buddha to Osiris. (If you would like to explore this further, and much more, please read my article, The Common Origin of Religions and Theology.)
What the #$*! are we celebrating?
Jesus Christ was not born on December 25 — the sun is reborn then.
Saturnalia was an ancient Roman festival in honor of the deity Saturn. It was celebrated between December 17th–25th from as early as the 2nd century B.C., and likely well before then. Its exact origins are murky, but it is commonly accepted that Saturnalia was celebrated, in one form or another, centuries before Christmas and the birth of Christ, and honors the Sun winning the battle with the winter darkness and the days beginning to lengthen again. The celebration changed over the centuries, but a main characteristic was the killing of a sacrificial scapegoat, who was intoxicated with food and drink only to meet its demise when the solstice arrived. Such practices continued and developed throughout Europe over the centuries, and over time, Gypsy and Jewish people were frequently made the scapegoats, an early example of killing in the name of beliefs and deities, which continues to this day.
The tradition of decorating a tree was also appropriated from the traditions of Saturnalia (although the modern interpretation of decapitating one and bringing it indoors to wither is a little different from the celebration of life and nature this ritual once represented.)
Of course, all this does not mean Saturnalia, Christmas, Christianity or Paganism are inherently bad, it just means that any social construct can serve people who want to do bad things. It’s no judgment, just fact: “naughty” people, usually through “naughty” institutions, have for centuries used all sorts of holy days (the etymological root of the term holiday) so as to capture the minds of some really “nice” people. They know how people think and thus, steer how people think, and institutionalize our collective thinking into a culture that does and accepts what they want as the norm, forgoing truth to a new, cultivated narrative — without ever really questioning its purpose.
The Ultimate in ‘Fake News’
Since the fusion of Saturnalia practices into the tradition, the Christmas ‘fake news’ expanded with the creation and ultimately, the mass adoption of the Santa Claus story. Today, Jesus Christ arguably plays less of a role in the most people’s Christmas celebrations than the Santa Clause story. Many people who celebrate Christmas are more acquainted with Santa Claus and his elves than Jesus and his Apostles. The majority who celebrate Christmas do not attend church or celebrate (their interpretation of) Jesus Christ any other time of the year, and only celebrate his ‘birth’ as an image, an archetype, without looking into the details of his life, death, and teachings.
In a sense the Santa Claus story is the biggest series of lies on the planet — the mother of all ‘fake news’ — because most of the white western world eats up and regurgitates it all cyclically. We all know it’s a lie, but most of us don’t question its effect on our children’s psychological and spiritual development. The Santa Claus story is not the worst of the big lies, not by far; especially when compared to the lies that underpin the financial, political and education systems, energy and resources, nuclear experimentation, and countless other industries that destroy our Earth Mother; or to the lies that inspire people to kill on behalf of religious, or national institutions. But it is one of the big lies in our lives, and it does have an effect– and arguably, a purpose.
It is a lie that has traveled farther than many others, and whether we care to accept it or not, has an adverse effects on the impressionable minds of many young people, preparing them for a life of ever-diminishing resistance to increasingly bigger lies of far greater significance as time goes on.
Many children are left confused, many are even crushed to tears with the truth that Santa Claus does not exist. But the part of the process most difficult to defend is that our children learn, either in a moment of revelation or a period of increasing suspicion, that everyone has lied to them. And, just as their sense of magic and reality is put to the test, we ask children to help preserve the lie for others — until, by ritual, the time of magic and wonder then expires for them, too.
Why do we persist with the Santa Claus mythology? Do we really need all the lies, the age limit, and the ‘naughty or nice’ behavioral rewarding to have a meaningful annual midwinter celebration? Instead, let’s celebrate the true magic and wonder around us – just as we did before Santa and Jesus began vying for our attention each December – and make this time of year a time to honor the wondrous cycle of life, the turning of the seasons, and the abundance they bring. That’s the kind of magic we can all rejoice in, together, for a lifetime.
A Holiday Hazing: The Santa Clause Syndrome
By Ethan Indigo Smith
Have you ever really considered the psychological effects of the Santa Claus story and Holidays in general? In his book “A Holiday Hazing: The Santa Clause Syndrome“, Ethan Indigo Smith dissects the psychological results of the Santa Claus story in a way that will make you question traditions, beliefs, and your own individuation. (Leave it to an indigo child…!)
This book is not anti-Christian, nor antisemitic — it’s not even anti-Santa, really. First and foremost, it’s pro-consciousness, and sure to make you think.
“A Holiday Hazing: The Santa Clause Syndrome” is available here on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle editions.
About the author:
Activist, author and Tai Chi teacher Ethan Indigo Smith was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Guided by a keen sense of integrity and humanity, Ethan’s work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality, meditation and a unique sense of humour.
Ethan’s publications include:
- 108 Steps to Be in The Zone, a set of 108 meditative practices for self discovery and individual betterment, including techniques to develop balance, transmute sexual energy.
- The Matrix of Four, The Philosophy of the Duality of Polarity on the subject of developing individual consciousness.
- The Little Green Book of Revolution an inspirational book based on ideas of peaceful revolution, historical activism and caring for the Earth like Native Americans.
- The Geometry of Energy: How to Meditate: Simple and profound, this book offers an empowering four-step meditation, focused through the sacred dimensions of geometry.
- The Complete Patriot’s Guide to Oligarchical Collectivism, an insightful exploration of history, philosophy and contemporary politics.
- The controversial book, Terra-ist Letters, a work that humorously contrasts two very serious issues: the prohibition of marijuana and the promotion of nuclear experimentation.