Have you ever noticed the similarities between Santa and Jesus? I don’t mean that in a smart arsed or mocking way, I’m genuinely surprised at all the overlap between the two. In the run up to Christmas (a day they both share) I thought I’d examine the similarities between the two (Note: this is as Christmassy as this blog will get). Both are the symbols of good and both can achieve anything. And of course, neither is real.
Both Santa and Jesus are the image and pureness and goodness. If you are good, then both will reward you. For children, the reward for being good comes on Christmas Day when they receive the toys they wanted. For Christians the reward comes on Judgement Day when they enter Heaven and get all their wishes and reams fulfilled. Santa “sees you when you’re sleeping/ knows when you’re awake/ knows if you’ve been good or bad.” Jesus too is all-seeing and all-knowing (the line between Jesus and God is blurred and no one really seems to know where one ends and the other begins).
Both have a vague hint of sinister punishment. Santa punishes naughty children with coal (which in itself draws connotations of Hell). Now, it would be incredibly cruel to dash a child’s hopes by actually giving them coal, so that part of Santa is played down. Likewise, it would be incredibly cruel to send someone to Hell to suffer forever, so that is always played down. At every funeral the priest says the deceased is now in Heaven. This cannot be true for everyone, after all someone must go to Hell. However, I don’t think the mourners would appreciate this point, so it is quietly ignored.
Both rely on faith. It is demanded of all Christians that they must believe in Jesus or they will not enter Heaven. They must believe without evidence and faith is regarded as a great virtue while questioning is discouraged. Likewise, Santa (like most children fairytale characters) draws his powers from the faith of children. Children are warned that if they do not believe in Santa they won’t get any presents.
Neither is logically possible. How can one person fly to every house in the world in one night? How does Santa make all the toys? How does he fit down a chimney? How does he get into houses that don’t have chimneys? How do reindeers fly? Why do spoilt rich brats get better presents than honest poor kids? There is no answer to these questions, so instead parents rely on a mixture of threats and faith. If you keep asking questions, Santa won’t give you toys. Likewise there are numerous problems with Jesus. How does he hear our prayers? How can he love every single person? If he loves everyone, doesn’t that make it a bit meaningless and not very special? How did he die for our sins? Likewise, Christians don’t have answers to these but respond by saying Hell is a real place and you’ll go there if you keep asking questions and don’t believe it as truth. Both rely on magic to answer these questions. Santa can do it because he can or he has magic elf dust. Jesus can because he can or because he’s mysterious.
Santa supposedly lives in the North Pole, but explorers went there and couldn’t find him. Heaven is supposedly somewhere in the sky (after all where did Jesus ascend to), but explorers couldn’t find it. Both legends grew out of (probably) real people. There was a Greek bishop in Turkey in the 4th century called Saint Nicholas. Over time, more legends were added onto the story and it grew and was mixed with local customs until we ended up with Santa Claus. Likewise, there might have been a person called Jesus (though not one who performed miracles) who had details later added onto to his story and mixed with local customs until we ended up with Jesus Christ.
Both are myths designed to comfort us and make us obedient. Children get great joy out of Christmas and many of the old and dying are comforted by the thought they will go to Heaven. Would children do as they were told without the promise/threat of Christmas? Would Christians know right from wrong and act accordingly without the promise/threat of the afterlife?
It is considered a sad day when children are told Santa isn’t real. The joy and magic is gone. Instead they see life for what it is. Likewise many Christians believe because they want to, because they think they will be empty if they don’t. It is assumed that Atheists are empty and lack meaning and direction in their life. However, there is still joy and happiness in the world after you find the truth about Santa, likewise for Jesus. You see things for how they really are, instead of a comforting myth. You give credit to those who deserve it, for example, you appreciate your parents for buying you presents, instead of a fictional character who did nothing. I passed my exams because I worked hard and studied, not because my Mom lit a candle for me. (If exam results were dependent not on study but how many prayers were said, the results would be disastrous).
I don’t remember when I stopped believing in Santa, I think I gradually realised it was a bit silly and not physically possible. I stopped believing in God for the same reasons. Both are comforting myths that are nice in their own way, but are not true. They’re good for a while, but eventually you have to grow out of them.