Sunday, December 16, 2007



It’s that time of year.

It’s the time of year when we let children believe that there’s an old man with a white beard, who lives “up there” somewhere. We let them think that if you’re good, you’ll be in his graces and he’ll lavish you with his gifts... but if you’re bad, you’ll suffer the consequences. He looks at all the world from his mysterious abode, and he knows what’s in the hearts of all of us, so the story goes. There’s no escaping his notice.

We encourage the children to ask him for things, implying that they’ll get them (if they’re good, and they believe, and they ask properly). What we gloss over, of course, is that it’s really we who deliver on those promises, but we’re happy to attribute the beneficence to the man up there. After all, it’s harmless fun for the kids.

It’s a time when we take children to places where many believers queue up, where they can see the old man and talk to him. And that’s a major way for them to beseech him for his gifts. It’s not really the old man, of course; it’s just an image. But the kids accept it, and at least pretend that they think he’s real.

And when, in a week or so, the kids’ prayers are answered, they’ll thank the old man and praise him for having made them happy. We’ll all smile, knowing the truth, knowing that their time as children is all too brief, and that they'll grow out of it, that one year soon they will no longer believe in the old man with the white beard.

Because, after all, only a child would believe in these fantasies, right?

1 comment:

Miss Profe said...


What does Christmas mean to an athiest?