Santa & the Perpetuation of Privilege

****Disclaimer: If you celebrate Santa this is NOT a personal attack on you but it is a request to spend some time in prayer and consider a different viewpoint. I don’t want you to think about YOUR family and how Santa works with YOU I want you to think about society as a whole and the big picture narrative he perpetuates. You are likely able to defend how YOUR family does Santa but can you defend the big idea? When you really read what i’m saying, you truly think honestly and objectively, (checking the white hot rage you feel because I dare question such a fun tradition), can you say this is a good, healthy thing we should keep doing? Let’s find out?****

How do you explain to a child the need for Toys for Tots, Angel Trees, Operation Christmas Child, etc ad nauseam in a world where you also perpetuate the notion of Santa? Why should they want to give gifts to bad kids? Because if those kids were good Santa would bring them gifts. In fact Santa gives many middle and upper class children extremely extravagant gifts like trips to Disney or trampolines or video game systems so the poor kids that get socks or a drug store toy were probably also kind of bad. OBVIOUSLY they deserve less or Santa would have given them big ticket gifts like all the well to do children (who also tend to be white so not only is this classist, it’s a bit racist).

Without meaning to middle and upper class Americans have spent decades unintentionally telling their children that poor people are bad. Poor people need charity because they don’t deserve nice things (or Santa would give them nice things!) but we will pity them and give them things anyway since they can’t help being bad, it’s out of their control. There is simply no way to sugar coat the fact that Santa actually encourages children to see economic disparity as a deserved label and equate comfortable/rich with good and struggling/poor with bad.

I know, I know Santa has become his own religion and some of you are clutching your elf on the shelf, ready to stab my eyes out with peppermint sticks but before you do…ask yourself why you have so much devotion and passion toward a fictional character? I am NOT attacking you or how you celebrate specifically, I promise you are not personally victimizing the poor. But I am challenging you to evaluate the bigger picture and what your role in it should be. Is it time to say goodbye to the big lie?

[Yes, many poor people use Santa too and yes they are part of the issue too but they are not sending the same message to their children. Many are forced to be honest with their children because they can not explain away the hurt their child feels when their gifts don’t quite match up. Others go into debt trying to keep the “magic” alive for their child. None of this is good.] 

Advertisements

My Own Advent Conspiracy

*This blog is not for everyone, if this just sounds awful to you, read the disclaimer at the bottom. I am positive this is not right for every family, but it is for mine. I am simply presenting an alternative to the common celebration for those who feel they want something different.*

I tend toward minimalism, not as some deep philosophy or set of rules to live my life but just because I find that in almost every case having less is actually easier. Less to clean, less to put away, less to spend, less to waste…just less.

So last year as we sat in our church listening to them explain their Advent Conspiracy my heart was pricked. We didn’t buy gifts for the kids when they were babies just an ornament and a stocking then as they got toddler age a stocking and a $20 or so gift. It still felt like I was buying them stuff just to buy them stuff because…I was supposed to buy them stuff.

The “Advent Conspiracy” our church does is to push against the buy, buy, buy of the season and encourage families to maybe cut back on what they give their kids or family and donate a portion of that money to the Advent Conspiracy fund. Instead of giving in to the societal pressure to buy more they suggested we spend more time together, pray more, focus on Christ more and give that extra cash to a worthy cause.

Last year’s substantial fund was enough to help support some humanitarian efforts in central Asia and a good start toward renovating a building in Turkey so that Syrian refugees will have a community center/school. It will help students, who are not being welcomed into the public schools easily in the area, to continue learning, have a safe, clean place together and regain a sense of community.

Our extra $10 here, $20 there helped do that. This year the funds raised will finish the support needed for the community center and send workers and funds to Corpus Christi which still has hundreds of displaced families who simply can not rebuild alone. (Getting insurance in a known hurricane zone can be more expensive than their mortgage so sadly many did not have any at all).

I decided just doing this little bit was not enough this year. This year I wanted to take on our own advent conspiracy project. What if instead if buying any gifts for my own family we chose to give Christmas to a family in need? Well, I can tell you it’s been fun. Each family member will still get their small red stocking stuffed with trinkets, socks, underwear and snacks but that’s it. My kids are excited to see what we buy the other family, help wrap it and put it under the tree until I meet the social worker next week to pass off the now giant pile.

I don’t share this to pat myself on the back, on the contrary I am now convinced we can do even MORE. We can adopt a family and give to Advent Conspiracy and do Operation Christmas Child and something else I don’t know yet because we still manage to get fast food a few times a month and we still don’t go without one single thing we need so there are still places to tighten our belt and help our fellow man.

I DO tell you this because I want to encourage those of you who felt like me but haven’t taken the leap yet. You worry what people will think and say but you are convinced this season is so much more than presents. You are right. You worry your kids will be resentful. You worry you will look cheap giving smaller gifts to your family members. I can’t promise none of those things will happen. But I can promise you will find joy in the giving, joy in the absence of commercial trappings, joy in the spirit. My kids are more excited than ever… and they still have multiple grandparents to spoil them so even without me they will get plenty. I don’t think our family has cared at all what we buy them, they seem to like that we put a lot of thought and creativity into our low budget gifts. I can’t promise you it will be the same for you but I want to encourage you to try it.

My kids don’t believe in Santa but they do believe in God and it has given them a heart for their fellow man. If I can encourage that compassion and sacrifice, teach them to live below their means and share their excess then this little experiment in going against the Advent Conspiracy is beyond worth it.

*****If you are not interested in this that’s ok too, this blog isn’t so much for you. To some people the idea of presents or santa or X tradition is so tied to Christmas that what I’m saying feels wrong to them. If that’s you that’s ok, you do you, no judgment. But for those who feel like me there shouldn’t be any judgment either.******

23826356_809507419810_4134500292634550851_o