For those of you who don’t know I am currently living in the great city of New Orleans. I work at a hotel for their catering company. On any given evening I could be bartending, waiting tables or serving food. It is a job devoid of true intellectual significance, but it pays the bills and I get to schmooze. I’m not sure what else I thought I was going to do with my political science degree.
I received a phone call about three weeks ago from my boss and she greeted me with a friendly hello on the phone. Before I could respond she blurted out, “You’re Santa!” As someone who is incapable of growing any significant facial hair I was intrigued but also confused.
My boss quickly informed me that I was going to be Santa at the Christmas Party this year. Many words came to my mind, but the most prominent one was, “Poop.” It’s a lot of pressure to be Santa. I hadn’t even really thought about until I asked about the details of this God-forsaken expedition into holiday magic and enchantment. The deal was that I was supposed to have the children of the hotel staff sit in my lap and they would tell me what they wanted for Christmas. Jesus Christ. I had this horrific vision of a gap toothed three year old gazing starry eyed into the face of doppleganger Santa and asking him for something truly and devastatinly unattainable. Oh yeah kid? You want a pet velociraptor? Wel,l who doesn’t?
Then I imagined explaining to this three year old that velociraptors don’t exist (anymore). Then I would have to explain the notion of extinct. Then I would have to explain to him what death actually is. This would ultimately end in me letting the kid know that not only does Santa exist only in your imagination but the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and justice are all things that your wait for you to figure out for yourself. I assumed all of this would lead to the building of pressure and an eventual headsplosion. And everyone knows that brain matter and tinsel don’t go together. Talk about a holiday faux pas.
How do you fill the shoes of a magical man who is capable of visiting millions of homes in one evening? What’s the legal recourse if he has to poop and doesn’t flush? All of my questions about Santa Swag could never be answered.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, swag is defined in the dictionary as “the individual’s ability to accomplish various formidable tasks that make them more attractive and successful in their social interactions.” Thus, Santa Swag, is one’s ability to be like Santa in both style and grace.
The day of the Christmas party arrived and I still had some personal concerns I had it down to two options: Go in and be Santa or Go in and be Santa with a couple of drinks as my worker elves.
Eventually, through coaxing and cocktails, I was felt confident enough to put on the suit. I must say that the Santa suit didn’t breathe the way I expected it to. Made entirely of polyester, the Santa Suit was a bit stuffy.
Despite the potential for being the first Santa on record to sweat through his suit, I greeted the party with my best “ho ho ho.” It felt lackluster, but I have to tell you folks, those kids lit up and screamed, “SANTA!” Little phalanges pawed at my legs, tugged at my hand and groped for my beard implant . It was a very strange feeling to have people believe you’re someone that you know you’re not. It was a little like going to summer camp, but with less drinking.
The first three children sat on my knee and asked for normal things that kids might want: bicycle, Barbie, action figures, videogames. This all felt pretty standard. Then this last little girl scampered to Santa’s throne looked up and squealed, “Merry Christmas Santa!” After I reciprocated, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. As seriously as a child could she whispered, “I want a bunny and a rainbow for Christmas.”
Read that again. A bunny and a rainbow. Well shoot, you can’t explain to a child that rainbow are refracted light or that bunnies poop more than grandpa. Christmas is something for kids that inspires hope in the miraculous and the magical When looking at Santa I would like to think kids see more than just the man who gives presents.
The myth of the man speaks of an immortal man who spends every day of every day of every year using all his resources, time, love and intellect perfecting the task of giving. These are all traits that we expect from our heroes. They fly in the face of the impossible, they are perfectly altruistic and they always, always, deliver. Heroes are projections of the ideals society claims to hold dearest. And there is no bigger hero than Santa. He gives of himself and only asks for baked goods for himself and carrots for his reindeer. What a wonderful thing to tell children, that there exists in this world the personification of giving. While the myth of Santa provides leverage for good behavior one month out of the year and provides justification for consumerism or material indulgence, I would also like to believe that at its core has higher aims. St. Nick or Santa Claus is also known as St. Nikolai the Miracle Creator. The miracle for Santa is more than just traveling at the speed of light, it’s the infinite capacity for giving.
I think it’s easy to be cynical about how Christmas has been hijacked by Coca Cola imagery and five a.m. sales, but Christmas really can be a beautiful thing. For all the children it spoils, there are two dozen more who are taking away a lesson that it is better to give than to receive and that each child brings with it great hopes and that your life is meant to be one of giving of yourself to others. Santa is the American Saint of indulgence, but also of hope. If this is what Santa can do, imagine what Jesus Christ could.
So in this the brief moment that I had to mull over the request of this little girl, I looked up at the crowd of people all waiting for Santa to say the right thing, the perfect thing. It can help a kid believe in the right things about people, about miracles, and about Christmas. So I smiled, looked at her and whispered, “I think my elves can handle that.”