War on Christmas: Black Santa?

This was a thing again this year. FOX News declaring that Santa is white. Why is it important what color Santa is? Why does anyone care? The fact that this is still a thing makes it even weirder than it was way back in 2013 when Jon Stewart riffed on the subject in these segments from his show,

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 12/13/2013, WAR ON CHRISTMAS – S#@T’S GETTING WEIRD EDITION

Gretchen Carlson issues a manger danger warning, and Megyn Kelly defends Santa Claus’s historically-based Caucasian bona fides.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 12/13/2013, WAR ON CHRISTMAS – S#@T’S GETTING WEIRD EDITION – BLACK SANTA

Fox News debates Santa Claus’s ethnic background, and Jessica Williams concludes that Santa Claus could not possibly be black.

I really do miss Jon Stewart. News was a lot more fun with him around.


Listening to NPR’s Code Switch for December 19th, 2017 turned me on to the inspiration for Megyn Kelly’s rant,

So let’s ditch Santa the old white man altogether, and embrace Penguin Claus—who will join the Easter Bunny in the pantheon of friendly, secular visitors from the animal kingdom who come to us as the representatives of ostensibly religious holidays. It’s time to hand over the reins to those deer and let the universally beloved waddling bird warm the hearts of children everywhere, regardless of the color of their skin.

Aisha Harris writing for Slate, Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore (just FYI, this was a satirical article)

Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving, 2016

There is a Santa Claus but it’s an idea, it’s not a person. Santa Claus is doing good things for people, just because; and so long as you keep doing that throughout the rest of your life, there will always be a Santa Claus.

Rebecca Watson relating her father’s words in SGU#74

I find that atheists and skeptics generally step on the sense of wonder in their haste to squash pseudo-science, religiosity, false-piety and fear-mongering.  I understand their goals and for the most part agree with their principles if not their ham-handed practices.

One of the subjects that gets trodden most savagely in the dust of shattered illusions is the story of Santa Claus.  I’ve lost count of the number of people (Penn Jillette in particular) who have specifically targeted Santa Claus in their personal lives, trumpeting raising children without fostering a belief in imaginary beings. I couldn’t disagree more.

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as Christmas, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the dull central Texas winter days. I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant.

My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of their heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

You can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

It is a game, the same game it has always been. A game shared by adults and children down through the years whether they knew it or not.  It can be a fun game or a hurtful one, but it is a game; as an inveterate gamer myself, it’s one I’ve come to enjoy now that I understand it.  It can be a valuable teaching tool when used correctly, and a crushing burden when used incorrectly. So play it wisely, always with the knowledge that a game should be fun. If it isn’t fun and you have a choice, why play?

(compiled from two previous posts. 2006 & 2012)

Pirate Christmas?

Facebook

I found this image on the Facebook group for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. My Google-fu failed to find an author for it, although there are dozens of websites that are offering it as a wallpaper. None of them have an author attribution, either.

Since Pastafarians believe that heaven is filled with pirates, beer and robot hookers, this image probably goes right along with belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Vimeo – Matt Tillman – Spaghetti, Wenches & Metaphysics: Episode 1

Have a Merry Pirate Christmas!

The Qualia of Santa

You pulled a fast one this week, Steve (Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe #543) I’ve written posts for my blog on the subject of Santa Claus, and I even reference the same source material that Snopes.com references for their article. While it may be strictly true that Coca-Cola did not ‘create’ the modern image of Santa Claus with a specific campaign, they have shaped the image of Santa Claus with their promotions over the years. So much so that the image most people have for Saint Nick is the Coca-Cola image specifically.

I dispute both Snopes’ ruling of false and your using this as the fiction for this weeks SGU podcast on that basis alone. The article on Snopes’ site might be more persuasive if the example images for their arguments actually loaded. But I doubt it.

Anthony,

I agree there is ambiguity in saying that Coca-Cola created the modern image. They contributed to an iterative process, perhaps substantially.

That is exactly why I included the additional line that prior to Coke the image of Santa was tall and thin. That part made it unequivocally fiction. The elements of the modern Santa predate Coke. Coke just put together one artist’s conception of Santa.

Cheers,

Steve


…as I said previously, the notation that he was ‘tall and thin’ previous to the Coca-Cola campaign being the fiction would carry more weight if the Snopes article actually loaded the photos of what Santa looked like before the campaign.  As it is I have to go find images myself, and having dived into this subject a few times now I have to say that research on this subject is made more difficult by the number of people who seem to think they know something about the subject writing contradictory articles about it.

Like the subject of Christmas (or Yule) itself, separating fact from fiction is a laborious process.

(feedback exchange with the SGU)


Editor’s note. In this exchange of messages with Dr. Steven Novella I failed to mention that both my grandmother and her sister had wood carvings of Santa Claus that they displayed during the Christmas season. In both cases the carvings looked very old and they were both of a tall and thin bearded man. These two anecdotal experiences do not equate to a general pattern of perception, but it does lend weight to the belief that one might have about Santa Claus as being a tall, thin man if you had seen nothing but these kinds of icons representing Santa in your family.

I still dispute the finding. I’ve never gotten the page at Snopes.com to load properly until today. The variance in the red costume, wide belt, whiskers and ruddy complexion are negligible. So Coca-Cola did not create the image. Fine. Some of the images are not of a grossly fat man, though. This confuses the question as presented by Steve in that Science or Fiction. My verdict stands.

Christmas Card Humor

This is the year for updates. This one was first published by me in 2005.  Back in those bad-old days, people would want to share things and have no place to do it. Frequently these items were placed on their company servers unbeknownst to the all-powerful system administrators (praise them!) and then emailed widely, opening the systems up to inexplicable external traffic and potential hacks.  This activity frequently got the individual in trouble with their company as well as getting them in trouble with the author of the work.

For many years the card that inspired me to write this post was incommunicado, taken down when posted on Youtube, because Youtube was where pirates went (and still go) to publish works that aren’t theirs.  What authors have discovered recently though, is that it’s also a good place to attract attention to their own work.

Consequently the card that was originally housed on a Reuters server is now on Youtube for everyone to see;


(Courtesy Joshua Held)

The version of White Christmas being used to back up the animation is one that I have liked since I heard it featured on The Santa Clause more than a decade ago. Me being the curious foot chewer that I am, I wrote a reply e-mail;

So who is singing that version of the song? I don’t recognize the singer.

Should have known what response I would get;

not sure who that is????….sounded/looked like santa to me, with a reindeer accompaniment???????? 🙂 but i realize there are a lot of santa impostors out there….nothing is sacred anymore it seems….everyone trying to cash in on holy-days seasons…..aloha

Yeah, really set myself up for that one, didn’t I?

So who is the voice behind the big red guy? Well, I tracked down the singers on my own. It would be The Drifters. Have a Funky Christmas.

Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving

Continuing the trend of all that is old is new again, this one was first written in 2006. As I mentioned in a post a few years back, I find that atheists and skeptics generally step on the sense of wonder in their haste to squash pseudo-science, religiosity, false-piety and fear-mongering.  I understand their goals, and for the most part agree with them in principle, if not agreeing with their often ham-handed tactics.

One of the subjects that they tend to stomp on mercilessly is Christmas as a christian holiday, and the figure of Santa Claus in particular.  I’ve lost count of the number of people (Penn Jillette in particular) who have specifically targeted Santa Claus in their personal lives, trumpeting raising children without fostering a belief in imaginary beings. I couldn’t disagree more.

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as Christmas, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the winter (Winter in central Texas is a frame of mind more than anything else; it certainly doesn’t have much to do with the weather) I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant.

My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of their heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

Oh, you can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus, and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, and how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

Willful ignorance? If you like, call it that. It is a game, the same game it has always been. A game shared by adults and children down through the years whether they knew it or not.  It can be a fun game or a hurtful one, but it is a game; as an inveterate gamer myself, it’s one I’ve come to enjoy now that I understand it.  It can be a valuable teaching tool when used correctly, and a crushing burden when used incorrectly. So play it wisely, always with the knowledge that a game should be fun. Otherwise, why play?

(compiled from two previous posts. 2006 & 2012 and republished in 2016)

On the Third Day of Christmas

There is a Santa Claus but it’s an idea, it’s not a person. Santa Claus is doing good things for people, just because; and so long as you keep doing that throughout the rest of your life, there will always be a Santa Claus.

Rebecca Watson (the Skepchick) relating her father’s discussion SGU#74

Despite creating a draft more than 6 months ago in order to update and combine my previous rantings on the subject of Christmas lists, Day Two and Santa Claus, the new version never materialized (I blame an obsession with World of Warcraft. It’s a handy excuse) and now it’s once again after Christmas and no Christmas post this year.  My apologies to anyone expecting one.

I have been listening to back issues of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe lately (much like I went through all the Freethought Radio after I discovered it) and I made it a point to get to a Christmas release before Christmas Day. It was a nice treat, discovering the above quote in episode #74.   I have long thought that skeptics and atheists take too narrow a view of the world, and the need for fantasy material that drives the mind of the average child. 

…I would balk at feeding my children stories like Rebecca’s family does (the entire exchange in that section of the podcast is hilarious) but then we keep a very large library of YA literature in the house for a reason. Both The Wife and I are voracious readers and have been all our lives. The escape provided by Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and old standbys like The Lord of the Rings are a necessary part of a developing imagination.

Christmas: Santa Claus, the Spirit of Giving

Re-publishing this one from 2006. Brought a tear to me eye…

I celebrate the secularized solstice holiday referred to in the US as ‘Christmas‘, which involves a jolly fat guy who delivers presents dressed in a red suit. We spend the holiday with family and friends, giving gifts and trying to brighten the ‘Winter’ (Winter in central Texas is a frame of mind more than anything else; it certainly doesn’t have much to do with the weather) I also spend time reflecting on what the passing of this year means to me, and preparing to celebrate the New Year.

The Wife and I discussed whether or not to share the myth of Santa Claus with our children before they were born. I was all for bursting that bubble; better yet, just not even going there. My memories of Santa Claus are anything but pleasant. My mother and father did Christmas to the hilt. Large tree, Santa decorations, pictures with Santa, the works. Once, when we were staying at our grandfather’s house in Sacramento, my sister and I heard a noise in the living room. We nearly made it to the door before our fear of being discovered, and not getting any presents, sent us scurrying back under our covers where we finally fell back to sleep. When we awoke the next morning, there were snow footprints on the fireplace hearth. That was the best year. The next to worst was the year when we were particularly nasty to mom and dad, and got switches (sticks to get spankings with, for the uninitiated) in our stockings instead of candy.

Why is that the next to worst? Because the worst year was when we found out that there was no Santa, and suddenly the magic was gone from the Holiday. Santa never came to our house again. Not too long after that, there was divorce and hardship of an all too real nature as the family was torn apart, and there was no more talk of silly little things like Santa Claus. So you can imagine the mindset that I carried with me to the discussion.

For her part, The Wife never experienced an end to the myth. Even after she knew there was no physical person named Santa Claus that visited her house on Christmas eve, the presents from Santa still showed up. The stockings still were filled, even for mom and dad. It wasn’t until I met and married her that there was any magic during the Holidays for me, and then only because of her.

She presented an argument that I couldn’t defeat. That there was something good in nurturing a sense of wonder in the children. That perhaps Santa isn’t a person, but is instead the charitable spirit that lives inside all of us. That the giving (and receiving) doesn’t have to end at all.

So, I tell my children that Santa comes to our house, and there is no lie involved in that statement. Santa Claus is the Spirit of Giving, the anonymous benefactor who gives out of the kindness of his heart and doesn’t seek to be recognized for his charity. He leaves presents that are from no one, and fills stockings for the people sleeping under our roof, no matter the age. His is a kindly old soul that doesn’t get recognized enough these days.

The Daughter figured out that spirit meant just that, a feeling that comes from within, a few years ago. I know that she has figured it out, because gifts appear under the tree, or in the stockings, that The Wife and I have never seen before. Santa Claus lives on in my house.

Oh, you can point to the Wiki entry on Santa Claus, and tell me how he’s actually St. Nicholas, and how his gifts were given personally. That he was a real person and he is really, very dead now. Or you can say that he’s the mythological figure, Father Christmas, and that as a mythological figure he never existed at all. It’s all fine by me, I love a good story. The Red Ranger came calling is an excellent story about Santa Claus, and it’s just about as true as any of the rest of them.

You just go right on believing whatever suits you. I know Santa will visit this house on Christmas Eve, no matter what anybody else believes.

…And that’s real magic.

Merry Christmas!

The Santa Clause Movies

I started watching this film series at the very beginning; Tim Allen was just coming off his Home Improvement high, and clearly wanted to get into movies.

The Santa Clause was one of his first films, and in my opinion it remains one of his best. This film came out about the time that I was stuck in a quandary about whether to subject my child to the mythology around Santa Claus, and just what I would want to say on the subject (previous Christmas rants are here) the story of Scott Calvin struck a chord with me. Many of the problems that I had with Christmas were summed up quite nicely in the beginning of the film, and the fantasy that followed the film’s very ordinary beginning made me a believer in the Santa Claus myth again. I could see how this would work in my own life and family.

This, in a nutshell, is what distinguishes a good film from a bad one. Do you identify with the characters? Do you sympathize with them? Does the situation of their imaginary lives address some issue that you are struggling with? Outside of proper story construction (Theme, plot and pacing) these elements are crucial. These are the elements that make you want to like a film.

To that point, I think every father wants to be Santa Claus; and through movie magic, they can be. I won’t go so far as to say this is a great film; it’s a good film that I happen to like a lot.

The Santa Clause 2 was a film that I actually dreaded. Having invested myself in the first film (this is a consistent problem with me and sequels) I really didn’t want to have my cherished memories tampered with. Thankfully SC2 was light on the tampering aspect. Other than the introduction of the Council of Legendary Figures which I found more intriguing than I did offensive (and that because of the linked literary reference below) there was very little meddling in the story that evolved in the first film.

The need to establish the mythological Mrs. Claus alongside Santa, as well as the chance to make Scott Calvin a little less reprehensible in the relationship department, was the major subject of this film. I have to admit that I haven’t re-watched this film recently, but it hasn’t been because I didn’t like it.

Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause is a predictable, but entertaining, comedy. Unlike the second film, I found myself more interested in the scenes involving the Council of Legendary Figures than I was in the story of Jack Frost and why he hated Santa and Christmas. Maybe that was because the marionettes did it better.

I don’t know why Piers Anthony left these particular immortals off his incarnations of immortality list (other than Time and Mother Nature, that is) but I don’t think he needs to add them. Don’t need a book (or a movie) about the legendary figure of the Easter Bunny. Perhaps it’s time for a series of films about the Incarnations of Immortality series itself.

The less said about Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, the better. It is watchable but unremarkable in it’s execution. I’ll probably add it to the library anyway to be watched when the children want to get into the Christmas spirit. This, as opposed to when the Wife wants to watch a Christmas movie. Then it’s Die Hard. No other film comes close to scoring that high on her favorites list; Not Charlie Brown, not the tried and true stop motion films of the 60’s & 70’s. Not even It’s a Wonderful Life or The Bishop’s Wife; not even A Christmas Story.

Nope, it’s the Nakatomi building and Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker every holiday season. Yes, it is interesting around here at Christmas time.

Merry Christmas.