Ah, it’s that time of year again, when I change one of my car’s radio presets to some random station so as to avoid all the music that’s so nostalgic for many but mostly obnoxious and meaningless to me.
My history with Christmas isn’t a pleasant one, for various reasons. The aspect of it that makes the least sense to me is the obsession with creating and maintaining a belief in Santa Claus in children. As an outsider, it has always and will always strike me as absurd.
In my Muslim family, Christmas was not A Thing. Eid ul-Fitr was our holiday for tasty food, family gatherings, fancy clothes and — most importantly to my child-self — presents. The presents were purchased by my parents during Ramadan, the month that precedes Eid ul-Fitr, and did we kids know it or what? We’d curry favor with our parents and, when they were pleased with us, drop hints about what we wanted that year.
Though children below the age of puberty are not obligated to fast in Ramadan, I took it upon myself to do so, and would get an extra present for fasting. The year my parents started that tradition, they didn’t tell me that they would ahead of time. I wasn’t fasting for an extra gift, but it was nice to know that my efforts were appreciated.
There was no Santa to get in the way of my siblings and me directly kissing the asses of people who’d actually be paying for our presents. I didn’t feel deprived because my parents didn’t deceive me about some imaginary character. In fact, it caused me emotional distress to think that my classmates were walking around in a state of deliberate delusion encouraged and considered “cute” by their parents. It seemed cruel and pointless.
When I was in kindergarten, I was outright scolded by the older sibling of one of my classmates for telling the others that Santa wasn’t real. I had been doing it because I was genuinely upset by the idea of people lying to their children about something they knew to be false. She didn’t see it that way and thought I was being a mean-spirited joy-killer. I wondered why certain kinds of lying was okay but other types were considered dead wrong. Why did all religious, moral, and ethical traditions teach us to tell the truth and to not lie, but Christians (and even some non-Christians taken by the Christmas tradition) considered it not only good to lie to their children, but also considered me bad for calling out their lies?
To this day, I don’t quite get why Santa, of all imaginary things, is the belief that is considered precious and sacred and mandatory to trick your children into having. Why can’t Santa be like any other imaginary creature and enjoyed imaginatively and creatively, rather than the story told by parents as if it were factually and literally true to their trusting children? Stripped of my history with and the cultural fetish around it, I could see enjoying Santa lore in the same way I enjoy, say, the Arthurian mythos.