International Man of Mystery No More

I feel sorry for young kids these days. When I was growing up, Santa was all mystery. You could never quite grasp him, but you knew he was there. When the shopping malls put out their first round of wreaths and baubles, when shop windows got the fake snow treatment and the Christmas carols started crackling over the supermarket airwaves….Santa lived in the space between. He was airborne and nebulous, he was a sixth sense…the smell you couldn’t quite catch, a flash in the corner of your eye…a feeling not a reality.

Oh sure there were the fake Santa’s that you had your photo taken with, or the one’s who handed out presents at group picnics ….or the exuberant ones who seemed to hang out together, slightly under-dressed around pubs and such. But children were able to hold both Santa’s in their mind, subconsciously colluding with the adults so as to keep the mystery sacred. The real Santa was never so brash as to show his face. He left traces and clues. Biscuit crumbs and snowy footsteps. Maybe a letter. Maybe. But that was the most tangible evidence you would ever get.

Now we are in the “iGeneration”. Santa has been kidnapped by the marketing equivalent of Al-Qaeda or Isis and forced to make videos peddling Christmas spirit to children for profit. I know that my outrage is false nostalgia. The Santa that we all know and love was born in a marketing campaign manger for Coca-Cola. He’s always been about selling. But not so long ago, the innocence and joy of childhood transcended the marketing. Families breathed life and magic and mystery into Santa with their own traditions. Now parents are being seduced by shortcuts. They are told that they can buy the mystery from “Portable North Pole”. The fourth-wall has been smashed and Santa can talk straight to you through your “device”.

Children today are being robbed of spontaneity and authenticity. Everything is market-researched and focus-group tested and airbrushed and copy written. Bring back the egg-cartons and pipe cleaners and cotton balls of yesteryear and keep your $9 in your pocket.


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