The Role of Santa Claus in My Life
Written by Raymond Fontaine, Ph.D. in December 2003
When I was little, I first learned about Santa Claus from my parents. They showed me his picture with his reindeer and sled loaded with gifts. They said that he would bring me toys on Christmas if I was good. "Where does he live? I asked. They replied, "At the North Pole in a house made of snow."
Later, when I went to church and school, the priests and nuns never spoke about Santa. They talked a lot about Jesus who was born in a stable on Christmas Day. According to them, Jesus later healed the blind and the lame. He loved children. Now he lives in heaven beyond the stars in the sky.
Unlike the priests and the nuns, my mom and dad spoke about both: Jesus and Santa. My parents saw no conflict between the story of Jesus and that of Santa. Both loved children and inspired them to be good.
After graduating from elementary school in 1931, I entered a seminary to study for the priesthood. During fourteen years, I lived with priests and learned everything that the Pope and the Catholic Church teach about God and Mary and hundreds of saints but not one word about Santa. On Christmas Day, we celebrated the birthday of Jesus. We sang hymns honoring Jesus but not a single carol about Santa.
In 1945, the bishop of Cleveland ordained me priest and authorized me to preach the message of Jesus and the doctrines of the Church. At the altar and in the pulpit, I never mentioned the name of Santa. I did not propose him as a model of charity and kindness. During my entire priestly ministry, I kept silent about Santa because the Church considered him irrelevant for salvation.
Between 1962 and 1967, I was a missionary priest in Chad, Africa. During the day, I built an entire school and gym for the children. In the evening, under the stars, I carefully reviewed the history of the Popes and the Church. They made many mistakes, like condemning Galileo for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun. Eventually I no longer believed in what the Church teaches about God, Jesus, Mary and heaven.
In 1967, when I left Africa, I only believed what the designs and structures of nature presuppose: namely, that it was originally created by an intelligent Being about 15 billion years ago. Later I learned that people who believe this are called deists. So by 1967, when I left Africa, the priesthood, and the Church, I was one of them, as was Thomas Jefferson and Einstein.
Eleven years later, when I returned to Africa, near the Sahara desert, I worked for an Agency of the U.S. Government that helps underdeveloped countries. I planned and supervised the drilling of wells to provide water for drinking and growing food. The African people were delighted and grateful.
Just before Christmas, the parents of several American families working in the U.S. Embassy asked me to play Santa Claus for their children. We sang carols together. I gave gifts to everyone. We ate candy and cookies. The children were happy as were their parents.
At this moment in my memories, I turned on the TV for the evening news. The anchorman reported more bombings in Israel, Palestine and Iraq. Among the victims, I saw children covered with blood and others dying in the arms of their mothers. With those sad pictures still flashing in my mind, I went to bed. Before long my inventive subconscious found a way to kindle a happy dream.
I saw myself sitting on a bail of hay all dressed up in my Santa uniform and surrounded by hundreds of children. On the grass, Israeli kids sat next to Palestinian youngsters; Iraqi boys and girls mingled with American children - all cheering for Santa. At my signal, my elves dropped thousands of toys not from flying sleighs but from helicopters. They unloaded candies and cookies, soccer balls and dolls, sweaters and shoes, but no guns - not even water pistols. The kids were jumping with joys, clapping their hands, and laughing. In a wide outer circle, the parents of the children watched this scene of happiness and friendship. Soon they too began to smile, then laugh and sing. Then the men threw down their guns and Santa flung his bail of hay on the heap and lit a bonfire. In a husky voice, he began to sing, "Glory to the Creator of the world and peace to all humans of good will" and the entire crowd joined him in glorious harmony. For the index of my essays, click here