Politics Magazine

The Santa Myth

Posted on the 26 December 2012 by Steveawiggins @stawiggins

The North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, devotes its resources on Christmas Eve to track the path of Santa Claus across not only across the northern skies, but also around the world. The idea of what must be a devoted group of very serious defense professionals programming the flight track of a fictional character is strangely bemusing. I have an app on my iPhone called Star Walk—it is an astronomy program that I wish i had as a kid standing under the winter skies trying to identify constellations. On Christmas Eve my clumsy fingers slipped, accidentally turning on the program. Although I was indoors, and it was cloudy outside, I glanced around the virtual universe to see what was happening, when what to my wondering eyes should appear? Indeed, the self-same Santa Claus was flying through the night sky on my phone. Do doubt such lighthearted antics put smiles on faces of children and adults alike. They also show how deeply embedded the myth of Santa has become.

Santa Claus is a relatively new deity in the pantheon of cultural gods. Many children earnestly believe in him and some parents use him as a source of moral guidance: you’d better be good for goodness sake. Santa’s watching. Even in a pluralistic world, Santa visits Mecca and Jerusalem and Djibouti, no matter the religion of the people—and my source on this is no less than NORAD, guys who scan the skies for nuclear missiles. If they can’t be believed, who can?

Now as we wade through the discarded wrapping paper and face the inevitability of returning to work, it seems as though something really did come on Christmas. It may not have been a man in a fuzzy red suit, tracked through the atmosphere by fictional computer programs, but we can hope that it was at least a fleeting moment of peace. After all, NORAD’s Santa crossed international borders with impunity, neglecting trade sanctions and sometimes open hostility. Unlike other major figures of the Christian pantheon, Santa does not spawn wars and hatred. He encompasses no strict, dogmatic belief. Maybe it’s because we admit he’s a work of fiction, and nobody really ever lives up to the standard of always being nice. Yet, at least according to NORAD, Santa visited every person on the globe with a sense of peace, a gift that fits no matter what your size.


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