Four Santas


I am late returning from the North Pole this year because Santa has been on the road. I am one of Santa’s helpers who come to the North Pole every year to help with the preparations for Santa’s Christmas Eve work. I help track and locate children who have moved since last Christmas, so I watch migration patterns closely. This year has been awful for so many children.
One might think that the Syrian refugee crisis, the kidnapping and murder of children in Africa, and the immigration of unaccompanied children from Central America to the United States would not concern Santa, but it does. Many of the children who, with their parents and siblings, have left their homes in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other places to find shelter in a safe country are not Christians, and they do not observe Christmas. The good news is that religion is of no concern to Santa. His care for children extends beyond Christians, beyond the Christmas season, and beyond whether or not the child has been naughty or nice.
Santa cares that children can live in safety, that they have food, clothing, shelter, health care, and education. He cares that children are protected from both structural and personal violence. He cares that children are protected from the hypocrisy and vulgarities of adult life. Children ought to occupy a zone of innocence and of Christmas magic for the few fleeting years that they are children. I say and say again that childhood is so short, and adulthood, if we are blest, is so much longer. The obligations, anxieties, disappointments, competitions, and struggles of adult life last for decades. We rob our children of a precious gift when we rush them into adulthood, even when they seem to want it and seem to be ready for it.
Santa spent time walking the streets of Paris after the terrorist attacks in November. From there, he attended the meeting of the four Santas in Lagos before returning to Paris for the Climate Change Conference. While we were keeping things on schedule at the North Pole, I understood why Santa went to Paris after the terrorist attacks. (People usually walk right past him when he is not wearing the red suit.) He went to stand in solidarity with the French people. He went to eat in an open air café and to show with his own person that terrorists only succeed when they make us afraid. He was very happy when the French people and their president were not terrorized into refusing to welcome refugee children and their families.
I also understood why Santa returned to Paris for the meetings on climate change. He sees the consequences of climate change on the ecosystem of the North Pole. It is having profound effects on nature and wild life in that region of the globe, effects that we have no idea about their long-term impacts. However, what surprised me, and what I did not understand was the meeting with the four Santas. Four Santas?
When I asked about this, he explained. Everyone knows that Santa has helpers. Over time, various cultures have imagined different helpers and different figures who bring gifts to children at Christmas. Now, most countries – north, south, east, and west – carry forth the narrative of a jolly old man who brings gifts to children. The Universal Spirit of Christmas, Holy Spirit, Divine Love, has decided it is time for children to expect a Santa who looks like the people they know.
“Why should every Santa in every part of the world look like the Norse God Odin?” Santa asks.
Christmas is more than a celebration of the birth of Jesus and a celebration of winter. In some places in the world, Christmas comes in summer. So, the four Santas are the Santa we know who lives at the North Pole; the Santa of the south who lives in the Seychelles, an archipelago off the coast of east Africa in the Indian Ocean; the Santa of the east, who lives in South Korea, and the Santa of the west who lives in Costa Rica.
The four Santas met to discuss how they were going to facilitate the transition from one to four, what territory each would cover, and most important, how to look after the safety of children beyond the few weeks of the holiday season, how to encourage adults to live the spirit of Christmas and to pursue the goals of peace on earth and good will toward all every day of the year.
You must be wondering, as I did, how the universe chooses Santas. I will answer that question another day because the explanation would take more time than I have at the moment. Just let us say that the Universe knows what is in the hearts of men and women, who is sincere and who is not, who walks the talk of peace, and who lives the Christmas spirit all year round.
While at the North Pole, the work pushes politics quite far to the back of one’s thinking. However, when I returned, there was a controversy over a “Washington Post” cartoon making fun of a Republican presidential candidate and his daughters. I was shocked until I saw the ad where the candidate exploited his own family and Christmas to attack Democrats in an act of shameless self-promotion. The ad was not clever or cute. This candidate erased the boundary between his family and his campaign and then complained and raised money off hypocritical outrage when a cartoonist followed him across the erased line.
It is important to understand that Santa does not comment on the politics of any nation. He cares about what policy makers actually do for children rather than what they say or promise.
I say: this candidate’s exploitation of his own children is disgusting and depressing. This person is careful to say Merry Christmas lest he fall down on the wrong side of the fictional “war on Christmas.” Yet, he calls for carpet bombing in Syria until the sand glows. He wants to deny Syrian refugees sanctuary in the United States. With these policy positions, he ought to be quiet about Christmas.
Still, I am thankful that Christmas joy has the last word. As I was reading about this sorry episode in American political life, as I was reading about the somber mood in Bethlehem this year because of all the recent killings in Israel, a group of my neighbors walked down the street singing “Amen.” The song sings of the birth of the baby Jesus and of various moments in his life – speaking with the elders in the temple, his baptism, his call to his disciples. The song also reminds us to keep on pushing.
To this, I say: “Amen.”
May the joy and the love of this Christmas and holiday season be with you and yours. And, may there be peace on earth and goodwill toward all of humanity, nature, and creation every day of the coming year.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”

2 thoughts on “Four Santas

  1. Just to say “thank you” and Merry Christmas to you. May 2016 be one of the “three steps forward” years. We have had enough of the two steps back in 2015.

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