Sunday, November 25, 2007

st. nick, take two

I readily acknowledge that tradition ties us to the past, and that connection helps us make sense of the present and gives us some consistency as we plod toward the future. It's beneficial to find some common strands from one stage of our life to the next, from one whole generation to another. I get that and I respect it. But traditions, like people, like technology, like fashion, can change a little bit and still look familiar. In the context of a post-war mid-century America, I can just about see the application of an omnipotent elderly elf with a bag of toys in a magic sleigh. It fits with the starry-eyed idealism of that time, but I am confused about the myth in the context of today. Doesn't it seem like our children are savvier than we were, about other cultures and religions and the sad reality of poverty and pain? Does Santa hang around, virtually unchanged since the initial Coco-Cola marketing inundation from the 1930s and onward, as contrast to our increasingly weary world? Just to offer some tether back a time without so much doom? And does that work? Do children buy it? I don't expect or desire to drop the cultural mythos altogether, I still enjoy reading traditional Santa stories aloud to my children at this time of the year, for example, and I see that he has a very valuable place as a marker in our american society's history. But as a relevant, integrated part, I think it would be a little like still living in a world without seatbelts and car seats and where so many meals revolved around a can of cream of mushroom soup. I guess I'm just surprised he hasn't gone the way of a cozy reminder of times past, something to still talk about and share stories about and remember, but not something to laud and believe and perpetuate. These are just the thoughts bouncing around in my head and I wanted to give them a place to live, but this isn't a call to anyone to defend personal traditions or decisions. What works for one family just might not work for another. I wouldn't expect anyone to defend a personal choice to have several children or no children at all, to eat meat or not, to collect headbands from the signature Richard Simmons line. We all do things that are beyond the understanding of others and I appreciate having a place to respectfully ask these questions.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Because I love the Santa myth so much, I haven't ever really wondered why we still perpetuate it. It is a good question though especially when you wonder why kids still buy it or whether they do. We do Santa around here, Maddy is privy to the truth now and Lawrence hasn't ever really seen the point of it. He generously lets me live in fantasy land from Thanksgiving to New Years despite the fact that he thinks it mostly a hyped-up, commercialized crock.