Santa is more about promoting virtue rather than buying things

Posted 26 April 2016 at 12:00 am


Over the past fifty years, or so, commercial interests have, to a considerable extent, hijacked Santa Claus in the interest of selling “things.” Prior to the ’40’s and ’50’s Santa Claus, a.k.a. “St. Nicholas,” remained more spiritually significant.

One of the more memorable and instructive images of legendary Albion native Charles W. Howard (June 15, 1896 – May 1, 1966) shows himas Santakneeling beside a cross. Though Mr. Howard tried his hand at toy-making, the image suggests that Charles Howard may have viewed Santa Claus much differently than he is often thought of now. Before he was used to promote Coca Cola and Mercedes Benz, Santa Claus was more often viewed as representative of a much more altruistic message and a force for good.

It was clear during last year’s Santa Convention in Albion that it was not primarily an interest in selling tin soldiers, Lincoln Logs, and video games that captured the imagination of Mr. Howard and the hundreds of Santas who revere him.

Rather, it is that Santa Claus embodies, in terms understandable to a three year-old, principles with religious significance. Santa Claus and Christmas are inseparable.

In one of the best known Christmas songs, “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” the assertion is that, “He sees you when you’re sleeping; He knows when you’re awake; He knows if you’ve been bad, or good, so be good for goodness’ sake!” The “He” seems to refer to Santa Claus.

But isn’t the concept of Santa Claus as ever-present, all-knowing and just, curiously familiar to those for whom God represents the same qualities? St. Nicholas was a Christian Saint. For those being introduced to Christianity as children, hasn’t it always been useful to introduce the idea that virtuous conduct is rewarded? As children, one of the first messages we received was that an omniscient One knows what we are doing whether any mortal sees us or not.

One of the things that are likely developed through our early experiences with Christmasand Santais a conscience. As children, we learn that it may be useful to behave in order to avoid displeasing Santa. Hopefully, the concept evolves as we mature. Note that the lyrics from “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” cited above, end with “. . . for goodness’ sake,” rather than, “. . . so you get some toys.”

The song title is, of course, misleading in one important way. It states, “Santa Claus is coming to town,” when in truth it implies he is always “in town” making note of how deserving we are.

On May 1st, the fiftieth anniversary of his passing, it might be well to reflect that Charles Howardand Santa Clauswere traditionally less about selling “things” and more about selling virtue.

Sincerely yours,

Gary Kent
Albion Betterment Committee