How To Understand Santa (So That You & Your Children Can Credit Him)

As we look to the end of Christmastide next week, I thought it seemly to bid farewell to the season with a fond nod – not just of respect and gratitude, but as shall be seen of reverence and some awe – to the inspiring and administering angel of the domestic rites of that festival, Santa Claus. With that statement, I have given away the matter of this post.

All grownups know there is no such thing as Santa Claus. Yet all children who have heard of him – including such children as still live in the psychic depths of almost all grownups – know at once upon their first acquaintance with his myth that he must be real. As children eventually navigate the passage from the innocent child’s world, where fairies, elves, dragons, monsters, trolls, demons and angels are all quite vividly real, to the world of adulthood, and try to figure out how Santa might fit into that latter world so as to be somehow real, they come always up empty. These days, anyway. I sure did.

I thought about this on Christmas Eve, when talking with my daughter about Santa vis-à-vis her little niece and nephews, and about the Santa trap she and her brothers set when they were little (Santa was not entrapped, but signs of his struggle with the web of string and masking tape they had erected over the mouth of the living room fireplace on Christmas Eve were manifest all over the carpet – the trail of his ashen boot prints indicated that Santa had stumbled across the room and onto the couch). How is it, I wondered aloud, that if Santa is so completely unreal, nevertheless his domestic cult so doggedly persists? How is it that children are all so ready to credit him, and so loath to abandon their belief in him, and so sad when at last they do so? He must serve some profound important function in the lives of children. What is it?

And, at last and at most deep: if Santa is that important, can it really be that he is nowise real? If he is somewise real, in what wise might that be?

Now, it is not difficult to devise a just so story that explains the important function of Santa in the lives of children. Together with his dark companion and antithesis Krampus, Santa serves to reify and thus to objectify the moral ukases otherwise incumbent upon children only through their parents. Santa and Krampus testify that morality is not some adventitious or capricious invention of grownups, devised only to torment children, but is rather supernatural in origin, and fundamentally spooky – numinous, and sacred.

Such just so stories have been devised to explain – and explain away – all stories of the supernatural, whatsoever. That they do explain such stories does not however mean that the subjects of those stories are not real. On the contrary; that such and such a thing has an explanation is evidence of its reality.

How might Santa – and Krampus, and the elves, aye and the reindeer and Santa’s workshop at the North Pole – be construed as real, under terms that are amenable and thus credible to grownups with some metaphysical education? How then might parents hand down the tradition of Santa to their children without worry that they are partaking a lie?

It’s not that hard, really, once we recall the angels. They are the archetypal concrete instantiations of the Forms, and as such are subsidiary to the Form of the Good, who is God; are then his ambassadors, agents, and messengers, who administer and inspire every worldly event. Say then that Santa is the angel of the domestic aspect of Christmas (the angel of the ecclesial aspect of that feast is perhaps Gabriel). Everything then falls into place. Krampus is a Fallen angel – a demon, and subsidiary to Satan. He is Santa’s adversary. Santa feeds children, bringing them fruits and candies; Krampus abducts and, like his brother Moloch, devours them. Santa’s elves are his subsidiary angels; his reindeer, too (like the cherubim (griffins) and the seraphim (dragons), they can take animal form and have preternatural powers). Santa’s home in the north is perhaps his particular star, his realm of Polaris.

What about Saint Nicholas? How was he assimilated to the legend of Santa Claus? As the Resurrector of the Pickled Boys, he is the patron saint of children – especially of boys, who are more likely to get into trouble than girls. We may construe Bishop Nicholas of Myra then as a paramount human type and participation of the angelic Father Christmas.

Parents then, in their arrangement and supply of the lovely domestic rites of the Christmas feast, are likewise human types and participations of Santa’s angelic elves. When mothers and fathers array the presents under the tree at 2 AM on Christmas Morning, they enact the blessing upon children of their patronal angel, and act as themselves his agents, ambassadors, and human angels.

Are you real, mother and father? Then so are Santa’s elves, of whom you are unwitting agents; and so then is their lord, Father Christmas.

So is it that on Christmas Eve, Santa does really and concretely visit all households that celebrate Christmas, however ambivalently. When whether by calling them or imitating them you invoke or bid the angels – and the demons – then whether you reckon them or not, they do really come, and do really their characteristic work.

This is why Christmas morning around the Tree of Lights can be so magical, and good. It isn’t the presents, or the loving intentions behind them – those are as it were the elements of the happy ritual climax of the familiar year. Those elements are wonderfully and naturally good in themselves, to be sure; but they are consecrate, and in turn sanctify, on account of their meet appropriation to the operations of the Christmas angels.

That’s one way to think about it, anyway.

A Happy New Year to all orthosphereans, and to all men of good will.


Post Scriptum: it bears mention also that Santa’s sleigh is with the Merkavah chariot throne that Elijah rode into the heavens a type of the Throne of YHWH that sits above the cherubim in the Holy of Holies.

15 thoughts on “How To Understand Santa (So That You & Your Children Can Credit Him)

  1. Pingback: How To Understand Santa (So That You & Your Children Can Credit Him) | Reaction Times

  2. Well the origin of this phenomena is not a lie, only the prots had to go and make him into a lie to pump some hot air in their false religion devoid of heroes.

    St Nicholas’ gift bringing is an awe inspiring legend (not in the sense that it’s false) of selflessness, unconditional love, liberality with material wealth.

    In our childlike heart of hearts we wish for these men to be real among us. Even more perhaps in the age of ubiquitous satanic usury spiral called ‘economy’ – robbing the poor to stuff the rich.

  3. Symbols are real. They belong to mind, which is a higher level of being than matter. Barfield got it right. The modern mind has rejected the symbolic; it no longer grasps anything at the level of connotation. In its restricted thinking, it replaces symbols with crude idols. In addition to Barfield, Ernst Cassirer and Susanne Langer wrote about the decline of the symbolic.

    Happy New Year to you, Kristor.

    • And a Blessed and Fruitful New Year to you, too, Tom.

      Symbols are indeed reals, albeit not of the same sort as hammers or men, or angels. Taken purely, they are pure forms, pure potentialities – and, thus, are nowhere to be found except as intellectual abstractions from concretes. As instantiated in concretes, they are concresced. Likewise pure or prime matter, nowise specific, is nowhere to be found (it turns out to be a form, too!).

      Symbols cannot effectually connote unless they first effectually denote. A thing that is not itself real somehow can’t remind you of another thing; indeed, it can’t do anything at all, because it does not exist in the first place so as to do something or have an effect or character. Analogously, a term that itself is utterly devoid of meaning can’t remind us of other similar terms, or of their denotations or connotations.

      A symbol that did not denote something real in human experience would be strictly meaningless. It would not, i.e., be a symbol at all! So, in order to connote what he does for us, the notion of Santa must somehow denote a real. The puzzle is to figure out what it is, in such a way as to avoid the common modern error of stripping terms of all their concrete meanings, leaving nothing behind.

  4. I told my kids that Santa doesn’t exist. Why delude children with falsehoods? I think it’s more important that they know that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. And getting presents.

    • Do you dispense with the Christmas Tree, too? And the stockings, the eggnog, the mistletoe, the wreaths?

      The thing about Santa is that he is like those playground games that are passed on organically from one generation of children to the next, without any intervention or planning or even participation from the grownups. Or he is like language, idioms, aphorisms, markets, customs, that likewise propagate organically and without anyone needing to plan or organize them (such plans or organizations do eventually transpire, of course; but, they supervene what they plan and organize, in rather the way that my list of things to do – including procuring food and shelter – supervenes my bodily life).

      The question that prompted this post was why Santa perdures in this way if he is nothing but a falsehood. Notions and the practices they inform don’t last if they don’t somehow work; and they can’t work at all if they are completely wrong, period full stop. The post attempted to show how we can construe Santa in such a way that he is not simply a falsehood; in such a way that we can see how his myth might be true, and reconcile it with other adult notions about how the world works, without vitiating any of the stories we tell ourselves about the world, that enable us to make our way through it more or less well – including the myth of Santa.

      Now, you can of course quibble with my suggestion that we might construe Santa not improperly as an angel – a god, i.e., who is a vassal of YHWH. His instantaneous motions on Christmas Eve are certainly like those of angels. But you do not seem to have troubled yourself to consider it. Instead, you seem to have written off Santa peremptorily and altogether as altogether and simply false, in just the way that moderns write off angels, the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and indeed the entire Christian revelation. In just that way, the more thoroughgoing and consistent moderns write off free will, consciousness, morality, and truth.

      It is one way to live. But moderns are not reproducing themselves. So modernity appears to be maladaptive. It appears to be one of those notions that can’t last, because they are not true, and can’t work.

      It must be said also of course that without the birth of Christ, there would be no Christmas, and so no Santa. The modern attempt to maintain Christmas and Santa without Christ is doomed. It renders the holiday profane and fundamentally meaningless, so that the only proper thing is to forget about it, and its continued celebration must be either stupid or ironic; which is to say, self-deprecating, and thus somewhat painful. So, yes, no question: Christmas is and must be about the birth of Christ. The entire holiday hangs on that.

  5. Kristor,
    thank you for this! I’m going to keep it in mind, and use it in the future. That really is a wonderful way to look at the Santa mythology! Especially in this day and age, when so often Santa is claimed by secularists and disdained by the religious (which never sat well with me, as I loved Santa Claus when I was a kid, and always understood him to be essentially connected to God/Jesus/Christmas/Christianity etc).

    Also: I am sorry if this is a bit off topic, but the Seraphim are dragons? And the Cherubim are griffons? Very intriguing, but I have never heard of those associations. But then, there is so much out there that I don’t know of, and you have such a mind for ancient angelology that…somehow, despite my initial (and probably understandable) disbelief, I expect you are right. I am certainly looking forward to this reply, hahaha!
    Heavenly dragons? Huh. I know many cultures had them in their mythology(the Chinese, the Aztecs), but I thought the closest we got to that concept was Dungeons and Dragon’s Bahamut. Obviously Satan comes to mind, but he is a fallen being, deformed and cast out of Heaven. Then again, the whole ‘serpent forced to crawl on his belly’ thing would make more sense, let alone Revelations’ red dragon.
    Not: Satan the *angel* who fell from Heaven and became a *dragon*
    But rather: Satan, the *heavenly* dragon (Seraphim) who fell from Heaven and became a *hellish* dragon (fallen Seraphim)!
    Heh, that makes sense!

    • You’ve nailed it, yes. Although I should make clear that cherubim and seraphim – and other angels, for that matter – seem to be able to appear in many ways, depending upon the circumstances. It’s hard to pin down what they look like essentially and in themselves, because – after all – they are not essentially embodied, as we are. So sometimes they appear as men (as they appeared to Abraham at Mamre), sometimes as winged men (as Jesus appeared to Saint Francis in seraphic form), sometimes as fire or cloud (as an angel appeared to the Israelites during the Exodus), sometimes as griffins, dragons, wheels, stars, and so forth (or what our brains interpret as such), and sometimes as fantastic amalgams of metals and jewels and so forth (as one of them appeared to Daniel). So, it is not so much that the cherubim *just are* griffins or that the seraphim *just are* dragons, but rather that they each seem often to appear to us that way.

      • “Although I should make clear that cherubim and seraphim – and other angels, for that matter – seem to be able to appear in many ways,…”
        Oh yes! I know this, but I should have made that clear myself. Angels are spirits and are not embodied as we are.
        What I was surprised at was that we Christians had in our own tradition a positive usage of dragons, rather than the purely negative one everyone is familiar with. And at the top of the angelic hierarchy no less! That really is amazing to me!

        And even if its for childish reasons, it makes me happy to know it! I’ve loved Dinosaurs, reptiles, and dragons since I was a little boy, and, while I completely understand their usage in malefic symbolism, the child in me was disappointed we had no positive symbolism for those (not entirely undeserved) oft maligned creatures.
        Kristor, my inner child thanks you for bringing this to his attention. 🙂

        After my original comment, I went and googled it and sure enough, “fiery serpent” is what Seraph translates to in ancient Hebrew.

    • Dragon = Reptile Creature of Considerable Size

      Humanity had to contend with those at one point, organising survey parties designed to slay the beast.

      Probably they were Exterminatus’d by Humanity which, if you think about it, is far more awesome than some random meteor striking the Earth.

  6. Pingback: Cantandum in Ezkhaton 01/05/20 | Liberae Sunt Nostrae Cogitatiores

  7. Pingback: Santa Claus, Man of the Right | Counter-Currents

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