I remember when The Polar Express first came out. I was in Elementary school, probably 5th grade, maybe earlier. It won the Caldecott Medal Award in 1986, was a New York Times Best Seller as well as Best Illustrated Book of the Year.
It’s the story of a boy who begins to doubt Santa’s existence, boards a magical train to the North Pole, thrilling ride and adventure ensues, meets up with Claus, and reason to believe as well as the power of magic is instilled once again in the heart of the boy.
This great book was made into a rather disappointing movie years later, in 2004. I sat down to watch it recently. I had two thoughts: First, this sort of animation is bizarre. Kind of creepy, and the kids, well, they look like something is…well…you know, wrong with them. But maybe that’s just me.
Then I thought: What to do about Christmas? Should I continue to subscribe to it for the sake of my child, even though I have long since relinquished my personal subscription? Should I tell her about the abundantly Caucasian Santa Claus, as portrayed in The Polar Express and generally everywhere else?
I’d like to cancel my subscription entirely, though I would like, also, to think I am not that jaded.
I suppose I burned out on Christmas and all that goes with it years ago. Rightly so: between the rise of severe commercialism/consumerism and the 72 hour continuous showing of A Christmas Story on TNT with NO COMMERCIALS one year, I just had it. I was done with Christmas; done with the plethora of movies- The Grinch Who Stole Christmas? No thanks. It’s A Wonderful Life? No way. Home for the Holidays? Well, maybe.
Let’s not forget the year I saw all the characters from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a childhood holiday favorite, joyfully displayed in a department store: The Dentist action figures, plush Abominable Snowman toys. All of this shone as a shameful act of exploitation in my mind. There, in the department store, was a part of my childhood for sale.
I was done with the decorations-No Christmas tree, no Christmas lights, holly, boughs, creepy Santa Gnomes, reindeer antlers, etc, etc, etc. Not that I ever had a Santa Gnome….
The food, well, that stayed intact as the Christmas Dinner. That’s just too good to pass up. So were the presents-in moderation of course.
Oh, and the religious meaning behind it? Done with that too, in fact, never was into that aspect from the beginning.
It is reported by the NRF (National Retail Federation) in 2005 U.S. citizens spent $438.6 Billion on the holiday season, in the months of November and December alone. In just two months. This includes presents, cards, creepy Santa gnomes, Christmas trees, lights, and other Christmas paraphernalia. Amazing. For that amount, you could live in a fairly posh hotel for a year with room service and other amenities. You could go on a cruise, first class, around the world. You could probably even fly into space for that, these days.
Some people just gotta have their Santa gnomes.
So, here comes the question round again: What to Do about Christmas? Still shun commercialism and move towards Winter Solstice (the holiday that Christianity took over) as we have been doing for the past couple years now?
What about Santa? And Candy Canes?
I think I will introduce Santa Claus to my daughter. For a reason as simple as this: kids need that sort of magic in their lives. They need to believe there is power in magic. Besides, why instill such disbelief and cynical tendencies at a young age when they will have to deal with that later as they get older? Why take it away when there are fairies and elves to have tea with?
However, I still feel the need to shun commercialism and pack up most of the Christmas movies. I could settle for a tree with lovely lights. But please, let’s not go crazy with the decorations.