If Virginia O’Hanlon were 8 years old today, she wouldn’t have written , or texted , or tweeted about whether there is a Santa. She would see him all over TV and across the media universe selling you name it . A modern Virginia might not even care about those abstractions the New York’s Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Church referenced in his famous reply on September 21, 1897 : love, generosity, devotion, poetry, beauty, joy, faith, romance, fancy, and glory. Our Santa is a marketing persona for merchandizing concrete goods, such as electronic toys and games, DVDs, and a myriad of digital gadgets to distract the young from concepts beyond the world of the senses. When did Santa Claus become a huckster, a shill, a ubiquitous salesman?
One of my favorite Santa Claus movies—and probably the very best— is “The Miracle on 34th Street”. It imagined a real Santa who reflected those unseen transcendent human attributes that Church described. Its Santa was repelled by the impersonators unworthy of his meaningful mission; who lacked the moral dimension; whose focus was purely commercial and impersonal.
Isn’t it time we as a society, and especially we Christians in our society draw a line in the snow? Give us back the Santa that Virgina O’Hanlon asked about. After all, his original inspiration was an actual saint who believed in the Christ in Christmas. A saint whose generosity had nothing to do with the bottom line. There are still skeptics as there were in the 1890s. A Santa who glorifies materialism plays right into their hands.