Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Santa book misses true meaning of Christmas

One of my Christmas gifts was copy of the new book Being Santa Claus: What I Learned About the True Meaning of Christmas by Sal Lizard (with Jonathan Lane).

I enjoyed the book. Many of the stories about the children, the questions and interactions with a variety of people, the joy of being one of Santa's helpers, all rang true as I thought back over my own eight seasons in the red suit. I got a few chuckles, and I liked some of his ways of addressing various problems and issues that arise as one portrays the big guy.

I appreciated Lizard's honesty as he talked about mistakes he made and lessons he learned. And I was touched by his poignant stories of dealing with families in distress, and especially sick children. I could easily see myself crying at times as he did. I know I've been moved almost to tears even in just the mall setting at some of the visitors' stories and by requests made by children and their families.

But I do have some major quibbles about the book.

It starts with the title. The book is supposedly about discovering the true meaning of Christmas, but the true meaning is not in the book. Jesus, His Birth that we celebrate Christmas Day, the fact that Santa is based on a Catholic saint, are all missing. He talks about Christmas the feel-good holiday and Santa the mythical iconic figure who helps people feel warm and fuzzy. Maybe he should have called it What I Learned about the True Meaning of a Secular Christmas.

The only mention of Jesus in the book is in a chapter called "The Reason for the Season." In that chapter he deals with the shift toward a more politically correct celebration  - "Happy Holiday's" rather than "Merry Christmas." He talks about the war on Christmas - but he fails to address the underlying attack on Christianity. He is distressed by what is happening to Christmas, and rightly so. He does find an answer to his distress when a woman asks him to bring in a gift at the beginning of the Christmas Eve service at her church and leave it on the altar. As he walked up to the altar, he said, he "looked up to see the statue of a blessed man on a cross above me." "Blessed man"????! He couldn't say "Jesus," the Son of God whose birth is what the day marks, whose birth and sacrifice on that cross are the real reasons for the season?

At the end of the chapter he says, "Whether you're Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, or anything else, the essential element is faith. Faith in families, faith that we can create peace on earth, faith in love. To me, whatever we believe in and cherish is what we want to make Christmas about. The true meaning of the holiday can ever get lost if we keep that spirit of Christmas alive in our hearts." Sounds nice. But it fails to mention the true meaning of Christmas - which is not Santa Claus, or just smiling and being nice to each other. Christmas is a Christian celebration, not an interreligious one. If you don't believe Jesus is the Son of God born into this world to save us, then how can you celebrate the true meaning of the Christmas? That is the "faith" that really underlies Christmas. Maybe he believes that, but he failed to include it in the book.

Amusing book. Good read, especially for all those who are involved in being Santa's helpers. It does celebrate the joy and concern for others that fills the season. If they had just left the title at Being Santa Claus it would have been fine. But the subtitle promises more than it delivers. It misses the mark if you're looking for the deeper spiritual meaning of Christmas.

Pax et bonum

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