Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa's Dark Side

     Have you ever seen a child scream when placed on Santa's lap?  Have you heard the adults nearby laugh at the frightened child's agony?  Has it turned your stomach?

     Have you ever wondered if it's at all abusive that we subject our children to lies that Santa exists, force them sit on a strangely dressed and frightening old man's lap, and encourage them to tell him their deepest desires and wishes?

     Beyond the joy of the gift giving, it's all a bit sadistic.  If you are naughty, you deserve nothing and you get nothing.  You will be punished by some white-bearded guy, who is omnipresent throughout the world's edifices, and descends from above to inflict his judgment.  No wonder children cry on his lap: what pressure!

     Get ready for the extreme.  ABC news reports:
      Elsewhere [in the world], Santa has a much darker side.
      The Netherlands' Sinterklaas does have a white beard and a big book with children's names in it, much like the gentle Santa who keep a list of who's naughty and nice, but he also goes about with a posse of soot-covered sidekicks called "Black Peters." [Not a racist sounding name at all.]  If Sinterklaas' records show a child to have been particularly bad, legend has it he or she could be carried off by a Black Peter to be turned into a cookie.

     Dutch journalist and filmmaker Arnold-Jan Scheer has studied St. Nicholas' scary side. He says some parents feel it's good for their children to be taunted and intimidated by St. Nick's helpers.
     "I think the mother thinks, well, this is tradition, this is part of life, this is how it has to be," Scheer said. "Children need to be confronted with their fears."
     In parts of France, St. Nicholas is accompanied by a cannibalistic child killer named Père Fouettard (or the "Whipping Father"). He flogs children who have been naughty and dispenses lumps of coal, leaving St. Nick to bestow gifts to the good. In village parades this time of year, sinister Père Fouettards grab children and whisk them along, while some cry in fear and others taunt him back.
     In parts of Austria, it's worse still. When St. Nicholas makes a house call, he is accompanied by a demon named Krampus. While St. Nick rewards good children, Krampus beats the bad ones. Wearing fierce-looking masks, horns and animals skins, he overturns tables, sets fires, and grabs adults and children to spank them while St. Nicholas watches from the sidelines.
     I was unable to embed the video, but please click here to watch it.  You won't believe your eyes.

     A collared cleric, Canon James Renthal, President of the St. Nicholas Society, speaks in awe of the "good reason" for exposing children to this cannibalistic demon as being to teach them the difference between good and evil.  Ask that of the screaming and wailing children in the video, who are being ripped from their parents and carried off by the demonic side-kick to be eaten as Santa, mommy and daddy all watch in delighted laughter.  Is it just me, or is there something sinisterly ironic about a cleric speaking of what's best for children?

     But is there really a difference between what these European Santas and their evil sidekicks do to children and what religion does?

     If you are nice you will go to heaven with our loving and white-bearded Father and be rewarded with everything you've ever wanted, but if you are bad, the devil will pull you into the fires of hell for an eternity of pain.  It's a Merry Christmyths after all.

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