Santa Claus and The power of belief

Ivan Seeking

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While watching a Christmas special, I was struck by the fact that time and time again, in who knows how many movies, TV programs, stories and books, we are taught from early childhood that there is magic – a Santa - in the world. Why do we do this? Why do we continually foster the notion of fantasy through early childhood only to slay those beliefs a few years later? And why in particular do we push one of the most common themes in Christmas stories; that Christmas magic requires belief?

In many homes, this belief is combined with a belief in a baby Jesus lying in a manger. Now, first of all, we all know that Jesus wasn’t really born in December, and probably at least five years earlier than the calendar indicates. We watch movies about animals talking at midnight and the Ghost of Christmas past, we sing about The Little Drummer Boy, and right along side Santa we are taught a variety of fairy tale versions of yet another belief system. But what is was perplexing to me is that even as adults, we watch the movies, we sing the songs, we hang the socks by the chimney with care, and we place a baby Jesus in a manger under a Christmas tree that happens to be an old pagan symbol.

So what is the logic in all of this? Some might argue that we seek to capture the magic of our childhood and that we want our children to feel the magic that we once felt; that we value this as part of our life experience. But I think it goes much deeper than this. Consider that along with Santa, according to Christian beliefs, faith based belief in Christ is also paramount to salvation. In fact a key lesson found in the Christian tradition is that of doubting Thomas, who had to see to believe, and who was diminished by his lack of faith. And though not an expert on other religions, I would bet that faith based belief is a key concept in nearly all religions. So Santa just parallels a more general notion that magic does exist but only if we believe it does. And I’ll go one step further. I think this lies at the heart of Xmas and Santa Claus. I don’t think we are trying to capture something lost, rather, I think we are expressing the intrinsic knowledge that “good” is real, and that something greater than ourselves does exist.
 
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Astronuc

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Some might argue that we seek to capture the magic of our childhood and that we want our children to feel the magic that we once felt; that we value this as part of our life experience.
For some, perhaps many I think that is the case. Perhaps it applies to those with a more secular way of life.

But I think it goes much deeper than this. Consider that along with Santa, according to Christian beliefs, faith based belief in Christ is also paramount to salvation. In fact a key lesson found in the Christian tradition is that of doubting Thomas, who had to see to believe, and who was diminished by his lack of faith. And though not an expert on other religions, I would bet that faith based belief is a key concept in nearly all religions. So Santa just parallels a more general notion that magic does exist but only if we believe it does. And I’ll go one step further. I think this lies at the heart of Xmas and Santa Claus. I don’t think we are trying to capture something lost, rather, I think we are expressing the intrinsic knowledge that “good” is real, and that something greater than ourselves does exist.
Christmas is a curious blend of pre-Christian pagan ritual and Christian mysticism, and it's become part of the culture. For some it is a spiritual ritual, while for others it is an annual ritual, and certainly there are others who do not observe it, and they may or may not observe other rituals. It is also the end of the year, and time to relax from the daily grind.

And there is a certain level of magical thinking involved - often with a hope for things to be better than they are.
 

Evo

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Wow. <sniff> Did you write that yourself? That was beautiful. <sniff>

(I'm watching White Christmas right now, can't wait for the "snow" song on the train :approve: )
 
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I think you're right, Ivan.
 

Averagesupernova

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Well ONE reason that the Santa tradition is continued is because it is a convenient way of making children to behave because 'Santa is watching'.
 

Ivan Seeking

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Evo said:
Did you write that yourself?
You're asking if I plagiarized a Christmas post? :biggrin: :rofl:
 

JamesU

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Santa's not real?!:frown::cry::uhh:
 

Evo

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Ivan Seeking said:
You're asking if I plagiarized a Christmas post? :biggrin: :rofl:
Yeah, that didn't sound the way I intended it. :blushing:
 

arildno

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Great post, Ivan, but just a little comment:
Ivan Seeking said:
And though not an expert on other religions, I would bet that faith based belief is a key concept in nearly all religions. .
If you modify this to "nearly all monotheistic religions", you may be right.

When it comes to polytheistic religions, like the Greco-Roman, Shintoism and Hinduism, observance of rituals is regarded as a lot more important than personal faith.
 
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This is why I love PF, where else would one find a disucssion on anything from a reply to a joke to why you wouldn't ever find that 2+2=3.99 with a slide rule, but more probably 4.01, to discussing why santa clause is taught to little children.


I think that children believing in santa is much like older people believing in other religions. The difference is that we know that santa doesn't exist....

*I just finished reading it* Erm, I guess you just implied what I said in a way.

Nice post though. Children are taught about Santa in order to make Christmas seem far more exciting than it already is. Now, why some people teach their kids that the easter bunny is real, that I do not know.
 

Astronuc

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moose said:
Children are taught about Santa in order to make Christmas seem far more exciting than it already is. Now, why some people teach their kids that the easter bunny is real, that I do not know.
:rofl: Children are taught about the Easter Bunny in order to make Spring seem far more exciting than it already is. Actually it's a vast conspiracy between the Sugar Producers, Confectionary Industry and the various national Dental Associations. Allegedly there is a similar conspiracy regarding Halloween, and somehow the Pumpkin Producers and Pie Makers got a piece of the pie :biggrin:. Children are taught about Halloween to make the end of October seem far more exciting than it really is. :biggrin:
 

Ivan Seeking

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BTW, in case you didn't know, the classic Santa was made famous by Coca-Cola.
santa-coke.jpg


...The jolly elf image received a big boost in 1823, from a poem destined to become immensely popular, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," now better known as "The Night Before Christmas."

... Dozens of artists portrayed Santa in a wide range of styles, sizes, and colors, including Norman Rockwell on Saturday Evening Post covers. But it was in the 1930s that the now-familiar American Santa image solidified. Haddon Sundblom began thirty-five years of Coca-Cola Santa advertisements which finally established Santa as an icon of contemporary commercial culture. This Santa was life-sized, jolly, and wearing the now familiar red suit. He appeared in magazines, on billboards, and shop counters encouraging Americans to see Coke as the solution to "a thirst for all seasons." By the 1950s Santa was turning up everywhere as a benign source of beneficence. This commercial success has led to the North American Santa Claus being exported around the world where he threatens to overcome the European St. Nicholas, who has retained his identity as a Christian bishop and saint...
http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=35

Talk about a successful marketing concept!
 
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You all forgot to say "Bah Humbug"
geez, nothing wrong with a little Christmas magic. Spread that holiday spirit.
 
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I think its wrong to lie to your kids. It shows you don't have very much respect for them.
 

Evo

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Entropy said:
I think its wrong to lie to your kids. It shows you don't have very much respect for them.
It's not lying!!! :grumpy: Every parent "is" Santa and the Easter Bunny.
 
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Entropy said:
I think its wrong to lie to your kids. It shows you don't have very much respect for them.
I want to meet your kids someday o:) :wink:
 
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It's not lying!!! Every parent "is" Santa and the Easter Bunny.
Their still lying about him traveling down the chime and flying in a magical slay. All you're doing is betraying your children. Children usually catch on that their is no santa at about eight and there still at an age where it can be logded in their psyche that they can't trust their parents.
 

Evo

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Entropy said:
Their still lying about him traveling down the chime and flying in a magical slay. All you're doing is betraying your children. Children usually catch on that their is no santa at about eight and there still at an age where it can be logded in their psyche that they can't trust their parents.
I don't know any children scarred by it. Parents do it for their kids because they remember how much fun they had with their parents when they were little.

How many people here distrust their parents because of Santa & the Easter Bunny?
 
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Parents do it for their kids because they remember how much fun they had with their parents when they were little.
Nah, it probably wouldn't any less fun without Santa, as long as the kids still get presents.

How many people here distrust their parents because of Santa & the Easter Bunny?
Scarred isn't accurate. More of a subconscious mistrust.
 

Ivan Seeking

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I remember being disappointed, but really I had suspected for a very long time, you know, like a year or more! But as soon as I knew for sure, I took great pleasure in helping to continue the illusion for my younger siblings. In fact, thinking about it now...it felt more like a right of passage. It set me apart from the "little kids".
 
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It's not lying to your kids, Entropy, it's fantasy. there is a difference. Lying would be like when your parents said they loved you.
 
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Entropy, it's fantasy.
For the parents, yes, because they know it's fake. A fantasy is something you KNOW isn't real. But the kids think it's real, so it's lying.
 

Ivan Seeking

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I agree Tribdog. I remember understanding immediately that it was like a game.
 
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I remember being disappointed, but really I had suspected for a very long time, you know, like a year or more!
I agree Tribdog. I remember understanding immediately that it was like a game.
You just contradicted yourself.
 
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Entropy said:
For the parents, yes, because they know it's fake. A fantasy is something you KNOW isn't real. But the kids think it's real, so it's lying.
I'd hate to be your kid. Okay, it's a lie, but it's a harmless lie and it makes the kids happy. You ever seen the kids lined up to sit on santa's lap? They aren't the ones who need therapy later on, it's the sad kid standing in the corner all by himself not believing who keeps therapists in business.
A lie isn't necessarily a bad thing. Look at all the lies Evo and her cronies tell to the people who submit their pictures.
 

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