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Santa Is Very, Very Creepy

The world is terrifying to a child. It's run by magic freaks who judge and surveil you.

December 24, 2019

Jonathan Poletti

sn’t Christmas kind of terrifying? Everyone is going around smiling and laughing and singing while pretending that some old guy is watching and judging us.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping . . .” Can I not even sleep without adults pretending a strange man is watching me?

And since they’re in the market of making up Santa, should I be concerned this was their own wish? Should I worry?

He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Can I be understood to prefer to do good without being bribed? Is that their real opinion of me? That yearlong surveillance capped by an evaluation, then gifts if I was “good”—was considered quality childcare? They put in place a system of incentives all based on magic fakery? Really?

They tell you this fantasy system like it’s real, then wait. They watch, don’t they, until you start to figure out that “Santa” it’s some cool fun magic gift-giver but a monstrosity of an Orwellian stalker in red fur.

At least that wasn’t real.

He was framed as fun and happy and colorful, this cool guy whose lap you were supposed to want to sit on, whose boxes you were to open, one string at a time—a little creepy, I’d say. Or maybe a lot.

You finally realize it was all a game, that adults were willing this weird “Santa” fantasy into existence, while simultaneously waiting for you to wake up to the ruse. Meanwhile being trained to think lies in general were real?—that magic is doing everything. That it’s okay to be watched and judged and that strange smiling men in your room is okay too.

They’re sick.

And those guys who dressed up as Santas? They’re sick too. Just fake fur-laden creeps. The only good thing about it this whole scenario is that they didn’t actually hurt any reindeer.

ife is, on reflection, strange and terrifying mostly because of adults. It starts early, when they amuse themselves by telling you that the world is run by magic freaks who run around stalking, judging and surveilling you.

I sort of like the Tooth Fairy, since I’m partial to beings of unclear gender. Plus the Tooth Fairy is only coming around when you lose a tooth, and not evaluating your behavior.

But, still. I have to draw the line at coming in my room when I’m sleeping. Is this some kind of adult unconscious weirdness manifesting? You can mail me the money.

The Easter Bunny isn’t too bad, but Santa is the worst.

What is this man doing in my room?

Why do I have to sit on his lap? The questions multiply.

Why are adults setting me up for the disillusion later?

Then you have to go back and re-think everything that’s happened to you. Who got you that gift, or that one?

And all the while lying to you and blaming “Santa” if the gifts were dumb?

You might’ve even grown up thinking the kids down the street got cool stuff from Santa because you were “bad” and they were “good.”

And just what are the standards for “good” and “bad” behavior? It’s a weird dislocated effort to say that magic beings are agreeing with your parents.

You have to re-think your whole childhood. Were they telling other lies?

hy didn’t they just ask you what you wanted instead of making you write a letter to a fictional creature in the North Pole? Writing to Santa, communication begins to seem so strange and dislocated, like having a chat with nobody on the other end of the phone.

You were never encouraged to think about gifts from the standpoint of what relationship you had with specific people, and what they could manage, and what you meant to them.

A fiction from the North Pole is supposed to be handling everything.
You’re not dealing with mature people here.

You’re being set-up, actually, to realize the adults in your life were deceptive, but because they all do it together, it’s somehow ok.

Santa is training you for participation in mass hallucinations, of which many more will follow.

I want to be the child who stands up and says to his parents: “I know you’re doing this because of a private fear you’re inadequate.”

It’s probably justified. But the way out isn’t by lies.

Parents need to stop lying.


ave you noticed that every Christmas story is packed full of malevolence and cruelty, but supposedly fun and colorful?

In the Bible the infancy of Jesus is a story of a murderous regime trying to find a baby to kill it out of psychotic fears of a Jewish child taking over the Roman empire.

This is not a feel-good story, exactly. It’s cool that Mary and Joseph maneuvered to escape, with quality luxury gifts that were actually helpful to them, and not some cheap crap from Walmart. I’m imagining Jesus being given a tiny cashmere sweater—it’s cold in the desert!—and not a video game unit.

Is it too much to ask that Christmas be about connecting on real terms with the real world? Instead of just more fantasy systems that conceal a deep, dark malevolence toward children?

Don’t even get me started on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, as if Victorian England—the center of colonial oppression, the very image of human suffering—was some kind of winter wonderland full of magic and charm.

A Christmas Carol is a story that finds its emotional center in Tiny Tim, a sick child, dying of rickets and tuberculosis in a cramped, polluted London, ruled by capitalist psychopaths (“Scrooge”) who only develop compassion when tormented by spirit beings.

Then Scrooge starts loving kids. As if toys and goodies and manic shopping trips are any kind of solution to his predatory business practices and complicity in systems that devastated the world.

Stop all of it. Stop singing “White Christmas” along with Bing Crosby. He beat his kids. (“Then I’d get bent over and my pants taken down and beat till I bled. He was never an enraged, insane man. He was very methodical.”)

You hear it in Bing’s voice too. The coldness. The precision.

I wish all these Christmas “carols” weren’t in my head. I hate them all.

“Frosty the Snowman . . . Knew the sun was hot that day.” A song about a cheerful magical being made out of snow — narrating the day the sun was melting him.

hristmas just starts to seem like another day to celebrate our inner violence toward beautiful things. The tearing of the wrapping paper becomes as important as the gift.

It’s gluttony and malevolence, a love of irony dressed up as childish fictions that can seem rooted, actually, in venality, greed and psychosis.

Bearing witness to a thick body flanked in a red suit and an absurdly long beard, you learn that grown-ups like to dress up and pretend to be magical— when they’re not. Their world prevented them from learning how to be anything but these pretending, childish humans riddled by fears.

It’s time to let it go.

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