聖誕節現時無疑是其中一個大型國際節日，但我們普天同慶之陣，忘記了聖誕節一開始並不如此受歡迎。曾經，不是每個歐美國家都喜愛聖誕節，許多教會都譴責這慶祝活動十分奢侈。於基督徒而言，當時值得慶祝的是復活節──紀念耶穌重生，而不是聖誕節。但通過英國殖民，聖誕節傳統不止存活下來，更被帶到新世界，蓬勃發展。英國傳統與盎格魯-克遜 (Anglo-Saxon，英格蘭前身) 文化交融，形成了今天的聖誕節。
聖誕老人的發展更是如此，他源於真實的希臘主教聖尼古拉 (Saint Nicholas)。他是一個富有同情心又慷慨的人，常為窮人送暖。英國的Father Christmas 、俄羅斯的Father Frost和德國的Kris Kringle，世上眾多的慷慨老人形象，集結成今天的Santa Claus──穿著紅衣派禮物的聖誕老人。而小朋友的興趣更是構成聖誕節的重要一環。
Decision Making is Educational
“Meeting THE Santa Claus”
With Christmas being one of the biggest international celebrations today, we forget that it did not start out as a popular festival. Not all European and US nations took a liking to Christmas at first because some churches denounced its extravagance. Easter, as the Christian observance to commemorate the Lord’s Resurrection, was the festival of choice, not Christmas. However, Christmas not only survived the church but flourished, by way of English settlers bringing the tradition to the New World. The English tradition mixed with the Anglo-Saxon tradition form what we know to be Christmas today.
The heart of the matter is, Christmas survived and flourished because people needed Christmas. At a time when the world was stricken with disease and hunger and devoid of electricity, winter was cold, dark and depressing. Christmas, with all the joyful aspects of this mid-winter festival — Christmas decorations, carols, partying, old English Father Christmas and later Santa Claus, developed at a time when people needed the festival to invigorate their lives and to brighten their future.
The development of Santa Claus was no exception. It grew from a real-life Greek Christian bishop, Saint Nicholas, who was compassionate and generous, and gave gifts to the poor. Aspects of other figures from around the word such as Father Christmas, Father Frost, and Kris Kringle blended together to form the modern-day gift-bearing Santa Claus. And the interests of children became one of the major aspects of Christmas.
It’s no wonder that parents take great pains to make sure that throughout their child’s life-time, that their children get to meet Santa Claus once a year. The motivation behind meeting Santa Claus is – hope.
Meeting Santa Claus — to-be
When children get so excited that they lay awake in bed on Christmas Eve awaiting the meeting of Santa Claus, when underprivileged children cry happy tears of disbelief and joy when they meet a real-life super hero in the form of a professional athlete, celebrity, or regular folk who bring them a precious Christmas gift, it is the meeting that makes the difference between hope and no-hope. Some children need to believe that something different can happen to them.
At a young age, adults expose toddlers and primary school children to the belief that there exists a grandiose figure who bear that one special gift that they have been waiting for all year long. A 5-year old can barely sit still at the sight of meeting Santa Claus for the first time, because it is that pivotal moment of receiving a gift from him that validates that he/she has been good, that he/she is worthy of the gift he/she is receiving.
It is a meeting between expectation and reality. It is that meeting that gives young children nourishment so that they can be reinvigorated to keep doing good.
Meeting Santa Claus — wish-for
Most children by the time they are 8 years old, suspect that Santa Claus is more of a myth than a reality. By 11 they know for sure. However, most tweens choose to keep Santa Claus close to their heart. They relish the thought that “someone out there listens, cares, and will deliver me happiness no matter what.”
They will also initiate the chance to meet Santa as they have attached the value of family, love, and hope to their Christmas idol. Meeting Santa adds rhythm to their life; it’s a spark, a rainbow, which helps them cross the threshold of limit vs. enable, probable vs. possible, end vs. beyond.
At the same time, parents do not rush to reveal the reality of Santa. Unlike telling their children truths about lessons associated with the harsh realities of growing up such as bullying and failed grades, parents continue to encourage their children to live in the fantasy of innocence and hope that is part of Santa Claus.
It is the experience of meeting Santa that adds to the quality of life for the whole family.
Meeting Santa Claus — self-created
For those of us who try to keep the spirit of Santa alive for our children, there are good reasons to pass on the tradition. We need to show our children that their choice to believe is a good choice, and they have to believe that enough to pass on the same belief to their own children.
Why do dads make great effort to ensure that they are home to dress up as Santa on Christmas day, or volunteer at their children’s school so children can stroke his beard and have a private chat? Santa is a safe beginning for our children to understand the value of hope.
Even if Santa lives far, far away and is unreachable most of the year, as long as children work hard, are patient, do all the things that are necessary to keep Santa coming back, these are the values that will translate into other areas of their life. The power of believing in Santa is generated in the committed wish that something good will happen for them out of doing what is appropriate.
Believing in Santa is not based out of logic or reason. It is embedded in optimism and in a sense that it’s okay to be deliberately delusional. Rather than being paralyzed by not knowing exactly how to get there, with the uncertainty about whether something actually exists, the moment we meet Santa we know that it is a reality that we self-created by our own choice.
Meeting Santa is a validation that the long process of to-be and hope-for can become a self-created destiny, over and over again.
So when my daughter asked me this Christmas whether Santa exists, I told her the real-life versions throughout history of those generous Santas from all over the world, who had committed themselves to bringing children, and families, hope.
The hope that is reflected in believing in Santa Claus transcends all seasons and holidays. May the light of hope that inspires you this Christmas continue to propel you with great possibilities in the New Year!