On Santa, or Satan… I Guess…

I was told that Santa was Satan.

This was in second grade and the information disseminated from a boy no older that I was. His reasoning, as I hadn’t guessed, was because his religion said as much. He continued to verify this by telling me that Santa, when rearranged, spelled Satan. Not trusting my desk-neighbor, I spelled it out on a piece of paper. Sure enough, he was right. Santa was Satan if you wanted it bad enough to be true.

The thing is I grew up in a household that didn’t allow the children to believe in Santa. We were never allowed to believe in any of those imaginary things. No Santa. No Easter Bunny. Nothing.

However, even though I knew Santa to be false in existence, I never needed to bring doubt to children whom had a strong belief in him. I believed that it was okay for these kids to think Santa existed, and in some way, I lived through them. Then they would tell me stories about how Santa came during Christmas Eve and showered them with gifts, and I would love hearing about it.

The reason children in my family weren’t allowed to believe in these imaginary things was because of our religion. My parents figured that when we believed in Santa, we were idolizing a false God. I didn’t really know what he was the God of. The God of gift giving? …of presents? It never made sense to me.

Probably it was because in the Christian faith, Christmas isn’t about the presents. It’s about the faith. It’s about what happened on that day (which actually didn’t take place on the 25th of December, but that’s another story).

To me, it doesn’t matter. You can have your cake and eat it, too, in this world. You can have your faith, believe in God, and believe that Jesus is your savior. You can celebrate that on Christmas, before Christmas, and any time after.

Does any of that mean we have to do away with Christmas traditions?

Not at all. Christmas traditions are just that. Tradition. Christians may celebrate Christmas as everyone else does, by waking up in the morning and giving gifts to their loved ones. They can even say they are celebrating the giving of gifts as a way to celebrate God’s gift to man, the gift of Jesus Christ to this world.

What about Santa?

Well, what about it? We don’t pray to Santa. Yeah, children send him letters and ask for toys, but what’s so wrong with that? We don’t get on our knees and ask for forgiveness from Santa (although we might only if we don’t want a lump of coal in our stockings). We don’t pray to him all year ’round, and, most importantly, people of faith never forgot their faith at Christmas time. People still pray at the table. They still pray at church. They still worship, and life continues just the same whether or not Santa exists.

So what’s the point of denying the existence of Santa to children? Are we so damaged as adults that we can’t let children have a little fun and imagination in their lives? Do we really feel like Santa degrades faith THAT much that we must tell children that he doesn’t exist and that he is Satan in disguise?

No. We don’t. There’s no reason. As long as you teach your faith the right way, there is no reason children cannot also believe in the existence of a supernatural being who gives gifts out on Christmas. Like all other things, they will grow up and grow out of it. So, for the time being, why can’t we just let them live a little as children? We don’t need them to grow up faster than they already do. They have plenty of time for that later in life.

#Starbucks Christmas Satan Cup! Run!

Okay, so… really?

Yes. Really.

Thinking back (when I was still Christian/religious) I recall a lengthy sermon by the pastor  (my grandfather) about how we need to avoid materialism. We are not the products we buy, and for this reason, people do not need objects to represent who they are or as an expression of their faith.

Now, I’ve been out of the game for some time. For years, I’ve been Agnostic. I’m spiritual in belief, but do not hold to a God or a religion. This is who I am. Do I need a shirt to tell everyone that I am what I am? Do I need to rely on a company to represent my beliefs? No. Not even a little bit. Not even at all.

So do you, dear Christians, really rely on a cup to shower you with your faith? Do you need a Christmas cup to affirm your love for God, Jesus, and your faith?

Philippians 4:11-13

“(11) I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (12) I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (13) I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Are you telling me, someone you’d call a heretic, that I know your religion better than you?

Come on people. We all know God doesn’t give a damn what you buy or what represents your faith. According to your religion, he gives you strength to believe and to pass the message on and to love and accept the world. Have you forgotten this? Have you forgotten that there’s only one person that can pass judgment on the world? Have truly forgotten that the meaning of Christmas has NOTHING to with a fucking cup?

An Unexpected Christmas

The fire crackles and the light pulses in the dimly lit room. The dancing flames refract through a glass on the table, warped by the wine sitting still within it. I wait comfortably on my couch expecting at any moment for one of my family members to knock on my door.

For a good long while, there’s silence. I don’t know why because I sent out the invitations more than three weeks ago. Even though no one replied, I figure at least one person would show up anyway. What had I done? At the very least, I want to know why my parents ignored their only son.

I stand, run my hands through my soft, short hair, and then pace the room. I try to think of all the things I had done the last three weeks—beyond even—but I can’t think of anything that might alienate everyone from me. Had they always not liked me? Had they only tolerated my existence in their lives until they’d finally had enough?

Nonsense. That can’t be true. I get along well enough with my older sister Viera, and my little brother Gabe—not so little now as he approaches thirty—always comes to me for advice. My dad, though our relationship has always been silently turbulent for some reason, had at least tried to get along with me by talking cars or sports. My mother, bless her good heart, loves everyone, even her enemies. It just doesn’t seem like my family at all to ignore me, especially on Christmas day.

I find myself standing in front of the phone. I reach out for it to give them a ring to find out what the deal is, but then I retract my hand. If they were truly ignoring me, then they would certainly ignore my call. After all, I’ve done it before, isn’t that what caller ID was for? To dodge unwanted calls from wives, sisters, brothers, errant lovers, and—more importantly—evil telemarketers?

I decide instead to visit my parent’s house because I suspect if I surprise them, then an answer—perhaps one of guilt—will shadow all their faces with the truth.

I walk to the closet near the front door to withdraw my coat, but I look down and I’m already wearing it. It’s amazing the things you forget when those closest to you are driving you mad.

The evening is crisp. Sometime during the day, a light snow coated the small neighborhood. The street lamps glisten off the fresh ice, and the moon glows high and bright in the sky. I don’t live far from my mother and father, and because I find it’s far too beautiful of a night to waste with a drive I decide to walk.

As I pass through the neighborhood, I feel the warmth from the Christmas lights and the families enjoying their time together through the big picture windows of the homes. Some are eating grand meals, some are watching movies, and some are exchanging gifts. A lot of them are wearing ugly sweaters that either grandma or grandpa thought too cute to pass up, but they all had smiles on their faces. A true reminder of how joyous people are to have the chance to spend a moment of their time with their loved ones, something I wish I could enjoy this night.

When I reach my family’s house, the lights my father put up are pulsing and reflecting against the white wonderland. A wooden Rudolph stands alert in the front yard while a mechanical Santa waves to passing cars. On the other side of the lawn is a small nativity scene that has “Baby Jeeves” written across the top of the manger thanks to my dad’s humor.

These are some of my favorite things, I think and then begin humming Andy Williams’ version of the same name.

I approach the front door, and I immediately hear a lot of talking just above a soft chorus of Christmas music. I recognize all of the voices: Viera, Gabe, momma, pappa, and Uncle Pete. I feel the crushing weight of depression burn in my chest as I realize they’re all together without me. I blink hard to push away the tears and before I know it, I’m standing in the foyer.

The sweet aroma of my mother’s fruitcake—that nobody likes but everyone eats with a smile—and a hint of pine from the nearby Christmas tree sends a nostalgic chill down my back and raises my skin with goose bumps. I rub my arms as I exit the foyer into the main room where I find my family sitting near the fireplace.

No one seems to notice me, which is painful but not unreasonable if I had done something to offend them in some way. I take my coat off hoping to feel the warmth of the fireplace, but I’m much too far from it I think because I still feel a bit frigid.

“Hey everyone.” I say, though my voice is weak and timid. Normally I’m strong and loud, but their denial of my invitation has humbled me.

Viera and Gabe sit next to each other on a maroon couch talking to my mother who has a glass of whiskey in her hand. She hadn’t taken a drink in years, but I decide it was Christmas after all and there’s no need to bring it up right then. Uncle Pete and my father, who looks a tad pale, sit away from the others. Pete’s hand is holding my father’s and they’re talking about something, but they’d gone too low to hear.

“Guys can I just say something here? I don’t know what I did, but please just—” I start to say, but my sister interrupts me with, “Jesus it’s cold.”

“Honey, watch your mouth,” my mother reprimands, though she did so with a weak voice of her own.

Viera stands and walks past me, not even bothering to give me a look in the eyes. So typical of my passive sister. She disappears for a moment and returns rubbing the arms of her cream turtleneck sweater.

“Someone left the door open,” she says at the doorway, and this time she looks me right in the eyes as if to accuse me—she’s right. I look back at my brother who gives me the same look. The sister-brother tag team, but I suppose I deserve it for some reason. Then, she walks right through me, and sits back down on the couch.

For a moment, I’m lost. Thoughts seem to fog in my mind as I try to grip what just happened. I look at my brother who gets up and sits next to my mother. He wraps his arm around her and pulls the glass from her hand. She buries her face into his shoulder and weeps. My sister dabs her eyes with a tissue she plucked from a box on the coffee table. I look up at my father, and he has his face buried in his hands. Uncle Pete has both his hands on his brother’s shoulders with a grim though empathetic face.

I try to speak, but nothing comes out. I take a step into the room, and a glimmer of light above the fireplace catches my eye. I look up. Nestled between two photographs of me—one young and one taken just last year—is a brushed metal urn.

“No.” I’m finally able to say as the shock relents, and I suddenly realize why my invitations went unanswered.