Sunday, December 24, 2017

Santa's big night

And yeah, as an adult (and even as an older kid), the real Christmas is what happens in church, not under the Christmas tree, but this is a big big memory of mine, so one more song:

Oh, that takes me back. One of the Christmas records we had when I was a kid had this on it (I think it also had Autry's version of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer on it). My mom, when she was a girl, was a big Gene Autry fan - where she lived, and when she was a child, the "westerns" were still a thing at the movie theater, and the "singing cowboy" was her favorite actor. So of course we had Gene Autry Christmas songs sometimes, and really, that was all I - as a kid of the 1970s - knew him for.

I always liked this song better than "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," with its suggestion that you're being surveilled by Santa*

(*The "Elf on the Shelf" thing seems an extreme of this. My grandma had one of the proto-elves like the one used for that, but for her it was just a funny decoration. And in fact, I bought one at an antique shop about a dozen years or so ago in memory of that, but I don't generally put it out now because of the silly trend)

Instead, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" contains the statement that Santa knows we're all God's children (inclusivity!) and does comment "it doesn't matter if you're rich or poor, he loves you just the same," which yes, I can see people thinking of as "problematic" today, and perhaps it was part of the good fortune that I had the childhood I did because I did not know ANYONE who was "too poor" to get at least one gift from Santa when I was a schoolgirl. (And the Jewish kids in my school had Chanukah, so they got presents too. And chocolate gelt.)

And yes, I realize, there are kids who for whatever reason, even though their family celebrates Christmas on some level, they don't get gifts. (And that's part of why I do the Toys for Tots donation). I didn't know anyone when I was a kid who did. We lived in a fairly well-off town (I often felt we were one of the poorer families. We probably weren't - it was probably merely that my parents were frugal and didn't believe in conspicuous consumption the way some families did. I had friends whose families had less than mine did, and they still got "Santa presents." As did my brother and I. And I do suspect doing the big Christmas thing when your kids are small is one of the great joys of being a parent. And I do happily remember MANY years, coming down on Christmas morning and seeing that thing, that one toy I REALLY wanted, under the tree (Santa didn't wrap the presents he brought to our family....)

And yeah, I don't know. I get that materialism isn't that good of a thing....but one way in which kids are fairly powerless (or at least, my brother and I were when we were kids) is that they are dependent on their parents for stuff....we received truly tiny allowances (ten cents per year of age, until I hit high school, when mine was raised to $2 a week.) So toys of any size, we had to wait for Christmas or our birthdays. And when I was really small and Santa was still a literal thing in my mind, I always figured Santa would bring the stuff too large for my parents to get me (and sometimes he delivered).

So yeah, I had the image of Santa as a loving and generous giver. Oh, not over-generous - there was always stuff we wanted but did not get, but of course, such a thing is not good for a person. But my concept of Santa was a lot more "he loves you and that's why he wants you to be happy" and less "you'll get good stuff if you're good, and if you're bad, you'll get coal or a switch" (Oh, that was joked about, but really - my brother and I were pretty good kids, and I don't remember EVER being worried - despite being a rather anxious child about many things - that I'd get coal.

And really, isn't the "He loves you and wants you to be happy" vs. "You better watch out or he'll catch you being bad, and then you'll get it" sort of the dichotomy in how different people have been taught about God, as well?

No comments: