Monday, 23 December 2013

He's Making A List...

On this Monday morning, the Christmas Tarot (Corinne Kenner, 2010) offers us a cross between Father Christmas and a priest - the Hierophant.

He wears a red cloak, has a long, white beard, and carries a sack of toys that he offers to the children before him.  Yet, he also wears a priest's mitre, a cassock, and carries a shepherd's-style staff, with a golden crook.  So, a more generous image of the Hierophant than is often seen, yet it makes me wonder what the children had to do, or were told, about receiving presents from him.  Did they have to go to bible class, or recite a psalm, or attend church every week?  And how different is that from the whole "Santa's making a list" business?  Coercion may take many forms, but when there is a desire for conformity, it often rears its head.

It's strange, I never believed in Santa Claus as a child, due to the vagaries of having a German mother and living in England.  In Germany, Saint Nicholas comes on the 6th of December with presents and sweets for the children, at which time I was at school in England.  Then, on the 24th of December, Germans celebrate Christmas, but with open gift-giving where you know who is giving you the present, at which time I was normally with German family.  It makes me somehow suspicious of the whole idea of Santa Claus, and how adults use him to coerce children into better behaviour.  Gifts are given for being good, rather than because you are loved by your friends and family, or because exchanging gifts is a social bond: can you tell I studied Anthropology? :D  So, we haven't tried to teach Big Boy about Santa Claus, nor do I plan to start when our next child is born, either.  I still enjoy a lot of Christmas traditions, but they are to do with encouraging everyone to enjoy some family time together.

I am grateful for the reminder of what Christmas means to me.


  1. Teaching kids to believe in Santa is a strange tradition, but very popular in America where I grew up. I was taught so, and I did the same with my own child. It's a weird thing to do, all around. :)

  2. This is definitely a picture of Saint Nicholas. In the Netherlands every child believes in him until they are about 8 years old then they become the keepers of the big secret which bonds everybody above 8 together.. Nowadays we don"t threaten our little ones. Our "Sinterklaas"has also a book with all the names of the good and the naughty children, but that is from the very old times when Santa was still Wodan