We all know the “true” meaning of Christmas. The one instilled in us as children growing up in this predominately Christian nation. The birth of the “son of God” from a self-proclaimed virgin. I’m sure at some point while growing up in the midst of all the rabid consumerism/consumption which muscles its way to the forefront of the holiday season, somebody in our life has taken a moment to pull us aside to explain that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, rather than Santa Claus and presents. Although this assumption may ring true for many Americans, I feel that the Santa Claus story more accurately portrays the values we collectively embrace, encourage, and perpetuate within this capitalistic society.
When applied as a metaphor, Santa Claus embodies all the qualities capitalists openly praise and aspire towards. First, Santa is a private business owner, the head (CEO) of a manufacturing outfit that builds and assembles toys for children. Santa is also a white male. Theses two qualities are highly valued within our American culture. Second, the location of Santa’s operation is in the North Pole. One can only assume the motivation for locating one’s business to such a location would be to avoid paying taxes and adhering to wage and labor laws. Third, Santa’s “elves” (who account for 100% of his workforce) conduct their work from Santa’s “workshop”. What other group of laborers are four-feet tall, confined in “workshops”, and make goods for the populations of industrialized nations? The comparisons between Santa’s “elves” and child sweatshop laborers are uncomfortably similar. Lastly, children are made to believe that Santa only rewards the “good” boys and girls. Santa can see everything that a child does and knows when they’ve been “naughty” or “nice”, similar to the internal panopticon created by many religions to encourage self-regulated behavior. This contributes to the social belief that those who follow rules, obey laws, pay taxes, and do what they are told will be rewarded or taken care of and those who fail to do so will not.
When compared to capitalism, the story of Santa Claus appears to embody many of those same characteristics and values we as a nation claim to be so fond of. Also, for those of you who like to get technical, I’m aware that Santa Clause does not make a profit, is not a U.S. citizen, and above all else, isn’t real… just like virgin births. I am merely using Santa as a metaphor for comparing both stories associated with the “Christmas season” to determine which story best aligns with our modern American values and culture. My perspective is obviously biased and non-representative of what many Americans think they believe. That being said let’s look at the other story celebrated during Christmas, the virgin birth of Jesus.
For most people Christmas is about the birth of Christ. As a predominately Christian nation, we derive much meaning and value out of the story of Jesus and all of his hilarious escapades, but does the story of the virgin birth still remain culturally relevant in this modern era? In today’s society, would the proclamation of being impregnated by God be accepted as a sufficient explanation by a spouse’s significant other? First off, I do not know of any celibate married couples (not that they don’t exist) but arguments sake lets say that in 2015 a woman in a celibate marriage were to became pregnant. Could we as a society honestly believe that God was responsible for the pregnancy or would we collectively turn to Maury Povich to provide the answers pending the results of a DNA test? This is representative of what I call the “Moses conundrum”. If we believe that God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, why do we label those who claim God speaks to them today as “crazy”? Why are they not taken as serious today as Moses had been then? The virgin birth can be viewed in the same manner. If somebody claimed they miraculously became pregnant in spite the fact that they were a virgin, most people (I assume) would not be willing to embrace and believe in such a claim if it was made in the 21st century (or whatever century this is). Second, if the virgin birth is accepted as truth, wouldn’t God be in violation of his own commandments? Thou shalt not commit adultery? Thou shalt not covet they neighbors wife? It seems like the mere premise of this story immediately makes God a hypocrite of his own commandments. Would we be supportive of a policeman who breaks the very law which he enforces in modern times? Finally, given the current political climate within our plutocracy which worships capitalism as a religion in its own right, I find it ironic that a person such as Jesus is celebrated to the extent that he is. A barefoot, long-haired pacifist who hung out with prostitutes, fed the hungry, cared for the sick while spreading messages of love, unity, and peace. Jesus doesn’t seem to embody much of the “rugged” individualism, dog eat dog capitalistic attributes which America is so representative and proud of. Jesus is more like socialism in a robe (which isn’t a bad thing).
I conclude by putting forth the proposition that as a country and culture, the values aligned with our capitalistic ideologies and the ritual of consumerism we collectively engage in as a society (especially during the holidays) appear to be more accurately depicted through the story of Santa Claus rather than the virgin birth of Darth Vader’s only son, Jesus. The parallels between the values derived from our capitalistic system and those found within the Santa metaphor can be seen as our current social consensus, where beliefs regarding virgin births are increasingly rejected by western societies today (due to things like science and common sense). Basically, we seem to put into practice values derived from the “Santa” story more than we do values derived from a plausibly impossible story that we would most likely reject if it were presented to us today. That being said, let’s move forward to the issue of main importance here… bunnies give live birth. Whose eggs has the Easter bunny been stealing?