First, some very condensed history.
Humankind evolved in Africa and then migrated around the word.
During its African childhood Man had never encountered Winter. OK, he did have to face barren desserts, dry seasons, inundations, wild-fires, earthquakes, you name it…but none of these even comes close to watching the light of the day becoming shorter and shorter, the weather becoming colder and colder and the food becoming scarcer and scarcer.
Remember, at that time Man was a hunter-gatherer who had no notion of stashing food or any interest in astronomy. Simply because there is no real scope for hoarding large reserves of food in Equatorial Africa and no real scope for astronomy since at the Equator there are no seasons to speak of.
Now, try to imagine the horror experienced by the migrants who had climbed the Anatolian plateau for the first time and, after a while, felt the snow melting on their faces and the frost biting at their bare feet. All this while the sun kept sinking lower and lower towards the horizon.
Was it possible that those migrants did start thinking about the end of the world?
Were they pondering on whether they had entered the realm of a strange god who was trying to get rid of them by cooling the entire (or at least the ‘visible’) Earth and by making the food extremely scarce?
Did they try to placate that god? Through prayers and offerings?
Was that the very reason for which Abraham came back to Canaan after having “tarried for seven years at Harran“?
Were they extremely elated when noticing that the light of the day was becoming longer and longer? Did they throw a party to thank that God for listening to their prayers, soon after noticing that the winter solstice had passed – even before knowing what a solstice was?
And this is why in most cultures that have developed in the temperate regions of the Earth people celebrate, under various guises, the rebirth of the world that takes place right after the winter solstice.
That is why, after a while, Christians have started to celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.
But, if you remember, those migrants didn’t take the whole thing as a gift but as a trade.
They prayed, made offerings and the God kept his side of the bargain.
Same thing here. Christ had to offer himself so that the world could be redeemed.
In time another habit had evolved. When I was a small child, even in communist Romania, Saint Nicholas was serious business. People used to eschew any formal links between Saint Nicholas – presented as an opportunity to educate the children – and Christmas. That’s why Saint Nicholas was tolerated by the authorities – and we, the kids, could discuss openly at school the presents that had miraculously appeared during the night in our socks, carefully prepared the evening before, while Santa Claus had disappeared altogether – having been replaced by a Santa-Freeze who came on the New Year’s Eve instead of during the Christmas Night.
And now I’m wondering how many of you remember that Saint Nicholas brought presents only to the good children and that those who misbehaved during the year got either a rod or a few lumps of coal instead of the candy so keenly expected by everybody.
In fact Saint Nicholas is way closer to reality than Santa Claus. He doesn’t give anything for free.
Not that he doesn’t love us.
He really does and that’s why he doesn’t indulge us with undeserved gifts.
So that we don’t become frustrated later in life when we’ll have to work, hard, for any whim we might have. Not to mention the effort to feed our belies, clothe our backs and make sure our children make it safely to adulthood.
That’s why I think it’s time for us to cut the crap. Santa Claus might be a nice gimmick for the big retailers who came up with the whole concept.
But look at what he brought to the rest of us.
Yeah, I know.
“If I couldn’t have the nice childhood I dreamed about at least my children should have it.”
Only ‘nice childhood’ is one thing while ‘spoiled rotten’ is quite another one.
And ‘spoiled rotten’ can be achieved along many routes.
One of them being the one described above. Hard working parents, who consciously spoil their children, trying to compensate, through their kids, the hardships experienced during their childhood.
Another one being followed by the parents who are so busy that they basically don’t get to know their children. And who try to compensate the time not spent with their kids by showering them with gifts. The end result being the same.
After the children have become young adults, with no marketable skills, no exercise at self control and after never trying hard at anything, the shit hits the fan:
‘We have done our best yet we’ve raised a couple of ‘good for nothing’ bummers!’
Well, your ‘best’ wasn’t good enough and, mostly, it’s your fault. Not theirs!
Just as most of our ancestors didn’t need to till the soil before migrating to the Middle East – simply because they had enough to eat even without having to work/plan hard for it, our children won’t develop the necessary skills nor the necessary mindset if we insulate them from the right stimuli. In fact, if we insulate them from the real world.
After all, our ancestors might have been ‘the children of the Humankind’ while ours are simply ‘children’ but, in the end, ‘children are children’.