Schoneker: Santa saves



Jake Schoneker

By some twist of fate, I found myself in a full red suit and beard last weekend, ho-ho-ho-ing down Lancaster Avenue, learning what it means to be a kid on Christmas again.

Remembering the pure joy of childhood made me wonder why the world can’t still work like it did when we were kids. When you’re in a Santa suit, it sure seems to.

Shuffling through town behind narrow spectacles, I watched smiles and excitement grow around me as drivers wove and children stared. There were no barriers to interaction. With everyone I encountered, friendly words were exchanged, and people responded – they were happy! It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re talking to a roly-poly fat man in red tights.

How did it come to be that a bearded old man with eight reindeer comes to all the children with toys and presents on Christmas? What on earth does that have to do with Jesus’ birthday, for Christ’s sake?

Santa Claus is a cultural superstar – a legend passed through the ages. Once upon a time, an old bearded German God named Odin used to ride an eight-legged horse through the sky, putting candy in children’s boots. Hence reindeer and stockings. In ancient Dutch folklore, Saint Nicholas (Sinterklass or Santa Claus) once liberated an Ethiopian slave boy named Peter, who decided to stay with Ol’ Nick and help push him down chimneys to deliver gifts to children.

Eventually this developed into a group of trusty servants who helped Nick on his adventures. How these people turned into elves, I’ll never know. I guess we don’t want to see a bunch of people toiling tirelessly to deliver toys to kids, but it’s okay for elves – what else would they be doing anyway? Making cookies? Playing ocarinas in the woods? Might as well be making toys.

The legend of Santa has been around for ages, but it would probably never be such a staple of modern American culture if not for Coca-Cola advertising.

In the ’30s, in the midst of the Great Depression, Saint Nick provided hope for the masses in his red-and-white depiction on Coca-Cola bottles. Don’t listen to those fools who point to the New Deal or World War II – Santa’s wink and smirk were what single-handedly brought us from the brink of collapse to an economic turnaround. He helped us believe in consumerism again. Thank you, Santa.

With the ability to inspire awestruck disbelief and overwhelming happiness, Santa works in mysterious ways – mostly, though, in the way of any self-respecting grandparent: giving us presents. Is that such a bad thing? Many Christians have come out against our holly jolly friend. These anti-Santites seem to believe that Santa Claus is responsible for making Christmas a materialistic holiday driven by retail sales rather than faith.

Just because Santa prefers to hang out in malls rather than in churches doesn’t mean he doesn’t deserve to be a part of Christmas. As I was walking through town in Santa’s clothes, I began to realize that Santa’s legend goes way beyond gift giving.

His generosity and merry ways spread more than money and candy around town. He brings joy and wonderment to people everywhere. The spirit of giving transcends suits and wrapping paper.

When I took off the Santa suit and continued my walk down Lancaster Avenue, I was still in the holiday spirit. But as I tried to meet the eyes of people on the street and interact, I found it impossible to get a reaction, much less a smile.

It’s like you need to be making a fool out of yourself in order to even talk to people. Or maybe you just have to give gifts.

That’s why we should all take the Santa Claus New Year’s Resolution Challenge. No, that doesn’t mean we’re going to lose weight or stop eating all those cookies. It means we should give gifts to each other everyday. It could be a smile, a hug or a helping hand. The most important thing is for you to remember the Christmas spirit throughout the whole year.


Jake Schoneker is a senior political science and humanities major from Lansdale, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].