Religion Section News Articles
LDS Church Security Staffed by Full-timers and Volunteers
Newest Forum for Some Utah Congregations Feature Comfy Seats, Casual Atmosphere: Movie Theater Churches
Premarital Sex vs. Religious Beliefs
Furnishings with the Spirituality of a Chapel: Home Chapels
iWorship, Technology Spurs Pious to Study Religion Outside Church
How the Claus Stole Christmas
|Main Page > My News Articles > How the Claus Stole Christmas Article
Publication:The Signpost; Date:Nov 30, 2005; Section:Features
Home | Site Map | Contact
How the Claus Stole Christmas
Some students, professors believe in Christian Christmas, abhor Santa
The Signpost correspondent
Ogden, UT, Nov 2005 - On a silent night, away in a manager, in a little town called Bethlehem, Santa Claus came to town?
Santa Claus has become the larger-than-life icon for the Christmas holiday.
While many families all over America have accepted this mythical figure for
the last 150 years, some see Santa as a threat to the integrity of Christmas.
Kay Gillespie, Weber State University criminal justice professor, has been
an anti-Claus activist for 37 years. Gillespie delivers an annual lecture on
campus discussing how emphasizing Santa Claus has corrupted Christmas. This
year's Anti-Claus Lecture will be held in the Shepherd Union Building Wildcat
Theater Friday at 10 a.m.
"Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ," Gillespie
said. "Santa Claus is a big commercial tool for businesses and that's why
you see Christmas stuff in stores before Halloween now."
There are others who share in Gillespie's belief that Santa has overshadowed
Jesus as the central figure of Christmas.
"Everywhere you go, you see pictures of Santa Claus," said Dennis
Young, WSU senior. "You don't see as many manger scenes as you used to."
Some view Santa as a positive icon because he changes the focus of Christmas,
which enables other groups and cultures besides Christians to join in Christmas
celebrations. Gillespie disagrees with this notion.
"People in their cultures should be able to celebrate their holiday without
altering it," Gillespie said. "A Christian holiday should be celebrated
as a Christian holiday, or a Jewish holiday and so on. People who don't believe
in Christ shouldn't celebrate Christmas; they should have their own holiday.
I don't celebrate Hanukkah or other religious holidays simply because I don't
subscribe to that belief system."
Santa Claus wasn't concocted to steal Christmas from Jesus. The jolly old man's
party-crashing evolution began like Frankenstein's monster, pieced together
from various sources.
Santa's name comes from Sinterklaas, the Dutch name for Saint Nicholas of Myra,
a fourth century bishop in Turkey known for secretly distributing gifts. When
the Dutch settled in North America in the 17th century, they brought the Sinterklaas
tradition with them.
The contemporary trappings of Santa originated in the 1836 poem, "T'was
the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Moore. Moore invented Santa's fat
appearance, the reindeer and their names, the flying sleigh and Santa's habit
of delivering toys down chimneys.
In 1862, cartoonist Thomas Nast drew the first pictures of a green-suited Santa
for Harper's Weekly. In 1920, Santa got his red suit. The rest of Santa's persona
has come from popular songs and commercial ads.
When Coca-Cola began printing pictures of Santa drinking Coke in the 1930s,
his commercialization was complete. Today, consumers can see Santa peddling
products ranging from children's toys to sexy lingerie.
Many parents view Santa as harmless fun, a right of passage that everyone goes
through. However, Gillespie sees more harm than good coming from perpetuating
"The fact that people remember the time when they found out there wasn't
a Santa suggests that it was a traumatic event," said Gillespie. "People
remember where they were when 9/11 occurred, and they remember when they found
out about Santa."
WSU junior Kristin Waite said she remembers how she found out.
"I was 9 years old. I went shopping with my mom because I needed socks.
When I woke up on Christmas morning the socks were sitting with the stuff I
got from Santa Claus. That's when I figured it out," she said.
Gillespie is concerned that the Santa myth damages the trust between parent
"Parents lie to their children, then later tell them that what they said
about Santa really isn't true," Gillespie said. "I find children start
to question everything they're taught by parents, thinking, 'They told me Santa
was real, now he's not. What about what they told me about Jesus and God?'"
Brent Kimball, WSU adjunct professor, relates to Gillespie's concerns.
"One year, my daughter said to me that she knew Santa is real just like
she knew Jesus is real," Kimball said. "It really caught me off guard."
Pushing belief in Santa on kids also contradicts safety lessons taught by parents,
such as telling children not to talk to strangers, and then letting them sit
on Santa's lap; or teaching children it is OK to take candy and gifts from strange
men in Santa suits.
Santa also places additional financial strain on parents during the holiday
season. According to Bankrate.com, it takes the average person six months to
pay off his or her Christmas debt.
"My kids were telling me what they wanted for Christmas," Young said.
"When I told them we couldn't afford that much this year, they told me
that they would just have Santa bring it to them."
Gillespie said he sees further social implications from this little white Christmas
"It affects children later on," Gillespie said. "When they have
questions about sex and drugs, they go to their friends instead of their parents
because their friends told them the truth about Santa and their parents lied."
"People in their cultures should be able to celebrate their holiday without altering it. A Christian holiday should be celebrated as a Christian holiday, or a Jewish holiday and so on. People who don't believe in Christ shouldn't celebrate Christmas; they should have their own holiday."
Dr. Kay Gillespie, College Professor