Santa as the Ghost of Christmas Present (What Santa Means to Me)

Ghost of Christmas Present

Starting today we will have a number of posts about Santa Claus. If you have something that you would like to add to this series, let me know in the comments. Here is my attempt. Merry Christmas.

I like Santa Claus. He is not real, but he has spiritual significance for me. In this way, Santa is like Job. I do not think that Job was a real person, but I do think that Job is one of of the most powerful books of the Bible. Symbolic meaning sometimes has the greatest impact.

Watching A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version…of course) last night, I realized that, for me, Santa Clause is the Ghost of Christmas Present. Now, I am not an expert on Dickens as a literary figure, but I have always loved this story and I have grown to appreciate it even more in recent years.

The Ghost of Christmas Present (GCP) focuses on two things: the merriment which we have as family and friends at during the holidays. This is symbolized by the joy which nephew Fred has with his wife and friends. It is also symbolized by the joy which the Cratchit family has despite the their poverty and worry about tiny Tim. Yet, they are together.

The GCP also draws attention to those who are suffering. Not only are they suffering at Christmas, they are suffering while Scrooge has much. He also introduces this suffering to Scrooge to show the cruelty of his own comments about the poor and disadvantaged. Ebenezer Scrooge is the embodiment of 19th century Social Darwinism. Christmas is the cure for this vile outlook.

What does this all have to do with Santa? Santa Claus is the symbol of holiday cheer and giving. While he has become the symbol of Christmas consumerism, it is not Santa Claus that is the problem. Our society is the problem. It is our greed that is the problem. The mall has ruined Santa in the way the it has ruined Che t-shirts. But, we must not give in.

Santa has also been given the God role of deciding who is good and who is bad. I reject this view of Santa…much in the way that I reject this view of God. What about those children who receive nothing for Christmas because of poverty? Well, let us do away with poverty.

Like the story of Job, I think that the meaning and principles, not the myth itself, is what we should preserve. The best part about my children getting older is that the older ones now get to be part of the fun. They know that Santa does not come down the chimney. However, they now realize the joys that can come from being Santa in the lives of others…particularly their little sister.

I am reclaiming Santa. He is about giving to family and friends, He is about connecting with our fellow humans at the coldest time of the year. Now we could probably do these things without the symbol of Santa Claus, but I think that symbols are useful in bringing us together. They are also worth fighting for.

Who will you be this year? Ebenezer Clause or Santa Claus?

Does Santa distract from the Christian themes of Christmas? If you serve the Cratchits and the family living under the viaduct, you understand Him who came. That is what Santa Claus did. That is what Jesus Christ has taught us to do. Go and do likewise.

9 Replies to “Santa as the Ghost of Christmas Present (What Santa Means to Me)”

  1. Lovely post, Chris. I also look at the Ghost of Christmas Present–given the, in my opinion, pseudo-scriptural status of “A Christmas Carol”–as one of Santa Claus’s (note the spelling) manifestations. (I also happen to maintain that Santa Claus is real, but like all mature people, we can agree to our religious differences.) “He is about giving to family and friends, He is about connecting with our fellow humans at the coldest time of the year”–that’s a wonderful way to express it.

  2. During the month of December, in honor of Santa, when I read the new testament, I say “Santa” instead of “Jesus,” because I think that it is a fitting tribute to the magnificent Kris Kringle. Like this:

    Paul, called to be an apostle of Santa by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Santa, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Santa, both their Santa and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Santa. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind — just as the testimony of Santa has been strengthened among you — so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of Santa.

    And to top everything off, we removed the graven image of Jesus from nativity scene, and replaced it with the most perfect little baby Santa, all dressed in red just lying there peacefully in a manger, with Mary and Joseph and the Wise Men looking lovingly at the tiny, precious baby Santa.

  3. Chris,

    You’ve inspired me to watch a Christmas Carol tonight. Wonderful post. I think the richer the set of our symbols the more depth we can bring to our celebrations.

  4. I know that the George C. Scott version of a Christmas Carol is the only true and living version on the face of the earth — I would be very ungrateful if I didn’t publicly express my thanks to Edward Woodward for being the most awesome Ghost of Christmas Present in the history of the world.

  5. Russell,

    Thanks for pointing out my spelling errors. I have been watching the Tim Allen Santa Clause movies a bit too much lately. (I am listening to Philosophy Bites with GA Cohen on inequality as I write this).


    You are weird.


    It is streamed on Netflix. I watched the second half again last night. The best part was that my five-year-old daughter came down from bed and watched it with me.


    I did not realize that was Edward Woodward. Most awesome, indeed.

  6. Russell, when I first read your comment I thought you were making a point about how to make a word ending in “s” possessive. 😉

    DKL, I laughed at that. Well played.

    Chris, I like this post, but notice you said nothing about *literal belief* in Santa, teaching our children that Santa is REAL. Do you support this? I also believe in the spirit of Santa, but find the literalness of the transmission of that belief problematic.

  7. Chris,
    I enjoyed this post. I too love Santa as a symbol, but I have had a problem with how to handle him with my kids. My parents were quite sophisticated in their methods of maintaining my belief in Santa until I was probably in the 4th grade. My approach has been to never encourage belief or lie to my kids, but that hasn’t slowed them down a bit.

    In answer to your last question about whether Santa distracts from the “true” meaning of Christmas, I agree that he does not. I’d go so far as to say that Santa does a far better job of spiritualizing Christmas than the babe in the manger. The babe in the straw is charming for about 10 seconds. But a jolly old man giving toys to the world’s children without hope for reciprocation….that’s beautiful.

  8. The scene when the Ghost of Christmas present opens his robe to reveal those two wretched bastard children — Ignorance and Want — chills me every time I watch it. “They are your children,” he tells Scrooge. The book contains more detail:

    ‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And abide the end!’

    And, in the movie, when Scrooge cannot bear to look at them anymore, GCP closes his robe and assures him, “They are hidden … but they live!”

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