by Robert Strybel
Six-year-old Heather Kowalczyk of Chicago recently saw someone dressed up as Santa Claus taking a break out in back of the mall, puffing a cigarette with his fake whiskers pulled down. Some kids at school say that there is no real Santa Claus, that parents only tell kids such fairy tales and put the presents under the tree themselves when the youngsters aren't around. To clear up her doubts, little Heather decided to write to a Polish-American newspaper her grandmother gets and ask what are things really like. A short while later, she received the following reply:
'No, Heather, there is no Santa Claus. Oh you'll see plenty of those roly-poly elf characters in their funny red outfits and silly pompom-topped caps everywhere you look: at the mall, on TV and billboards, in newspapers and store windows. Usually they're advertising something, because that is why they were created in the first place. Today's shopping mall Santa is nothing but a gimmick used by big business to talk people into spending more money than is good for them.
'So it's understandable that you see his pudgy red face at every store and mall. The surprising thing is that you also see him in day-care centers and schools. Teachers actually encourage kids to draw or color Santa rather than explaining that he's only an advertising agent our after their parents' credit cards. The same teachers may be promoting causes like environmental protection but somehow fail to oppose the Santa Creep, the world's greatest promoter of greed and vulgar materialism. Often they also overlook the mind-polluting effects violent cartoons, computer games, aggressive commercials, reality shows, rock music and Hollywood's 'cruel is cool' action movies have on youngsters.
'But it is even more surprising to see the Santa character promoted by parochial schools, Catholic pastors and Polish-American organizations. Why in the world would they want to propagate the one character who has done more than anyone else to take Christ out of Christmas? Why should they be going along with those who have turned the beautiful family-oriented religious Feast of the Nativity into one huge, many-month-long, razzle-dazzle-shopping spree? And then there are the parents who unwittingly help to brain-wash their own kids by making such a big fuss about presents: finding out who wants want, gift shopping, wrapping presents, hiding presents and finally ripping all the glittery wrappings to shreds on Christmas morning. Unfortunately, amid all the hoopla and confusion, more and more of our youngsters are growing up without knowing whose birthday is really being celebrated.
'Before the paid cartoonists, song writers, marketing experts and the tycoons bankrolling them joined forces to create the silly Santa elf and boost business, there really was a Saint Nicholas. He was a kindly bishop known for helping the needy. Despite all the dazzling shopping-mall glitter and 'Jingle Bell' noise blaring over the loudspeakers, he continues to live in the hearts of those who believe the Christmas season is more than just high-powered shopping and partying. The real "swiety Mikolaj" may still be encountered here and there visiting Polish-American parishes, schools, scout troops and clubs and rewarding kids who know their prayers, do good deeds and are kind to others.
"So, Heather, now that you know, you can tell your grandparents and parents, your classmates and friends that THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS. But there is a Saint Nicholas. He comes down from heaven on his feastday, December 6th, TO KEEP CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS!"
TST, Vol. 8, Issue No. 24/2001