Autumn Phillips: Stop the Santa scam


Santa Claus does not exist. I'm sorry to disappoint all my avid 3- and 4-year-old readers, but it's time to stop this charade. I can't take it anymore.

With this concert and that fund-raiser, everyone mentions that Santa will be visiting. He will be dropping by from his home in the Arctic Circle just to say hello. I smile and write it down on my little notepad, but inside my smile, my teeth are grinding.

No more. I can't take it.

Stop the Santa lie.

Debeard him.

I have two theories about why parents and/or society perpetuates the Santa scam. First, Santa "exists" to destroy the psyche of young children.

By convincing children to believe so completely in a fat Norwegian man who brings presents, then telling them it was all a lie, this society is turning all its children into nihilists -- cynical, psychological zombies.

You may be picturing a nihilist right now in your head. You may be imagining a German man with good posture and an all black wardrobe. Nay. There are nihilists all around you wearing a variety of guises.

Yes. Look up. That guy sitting next to you with the beard and his hat on backward. I'll bet you one string of shorted-out Christmas lights that he's a nihilist.

By definition, a nihilist does not believe in anything. In fact, a nihilist cannot believe in anything even if he or she wanted to. "Why?" you ask naively.

A nihilist is created when a person believes in one thing completely and then realizes that it's not true. From that point forward, nothing can be completely believed. From that point forward, every theory or belief system may be explored with interest, but always with doubt in the back of the mind.

A child who once believed in Santa Claus and then had the rug ripped out from under him or her can never blindly believe in anything again. Perhaps Santa Claus was created to prepare children for the cold, cruel world by hardening them, by making them prematurely distrustful.

Or perhaps there are other reasons. Read on: Theory No. 2.

If Santa was not invented just to play with the minds of youth, maybe the fat man is just a wall behind which parents can hide the source of bad presents.

My mother walked into the hallway as a young child and saw her mother hiding presents in the closet. She stood there in horror, letting the lies spin through her mind. She was so traumatized by her discovery that Santa was not real that she promised never to do that to her children. So, every Christmas, instead of hearing the story about Santa and the elves, we heard the story about my grandmother hiding the presents in the closet and traumatizing my mother.

Which means: First, I became a nihilist without ever being told about Santa (which is a whole other column). Second, I know exactly who sent me that horrible sweater.

The package arrived Tuesday.

It is easier to give than to receive. Christmas always becomes a funhouse mirror as you unwrap the presents and see the huge chasm between how you see yourself and how others see you. In my mind, I would never wear a cardigan sweater that zips up in the middle to form one giant Christmas tree decorated with sequins. But there it was -- a gigantic green Christmas tree that covered my whole torso. I checked the label: Autumn Phillips. Yes. That's me. But this sweater is not.

For a moment, I thought that this might be my mother's way of saying, "Daughter, let's end the façade between us." Maybe this was a test. Maybe she was back home laughing, and I wasn't getting the joke.

But deep down I knew this was just a continuation of the lifelong miscommunication between us.

Picture a Christmas many years ago: I was in junior high. I passed a roadside stand full of Mexican pottery and saw a brown clay water jug, burned on the bottom from pit firing.

I had enough money from my $30 allowance to buy the thing for my mother if I skimped on presents for everyone else. I liked the jar so much that I never thought for one minute that my mom would think it was hideous.

She smiled when she unwrapped it, but I think her teeth were grinding inside that smile. I carried it into the living room and put it on a shelf. She kept it on that shelf for more than a decade, always trying to hide it behind other things.

And three years ago, when I moved to Steamboat Springs and finally pulled up to retrieve some of my belongings from her garage, she slipped that water jar into my trunk. I discovered it when I was back in Colorado.

I had to laugh. I carried it inside and put it on the top of my bookshelf. It looks great in my house.


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