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An Open Letter To Santa

By Matthew Wojtechko

Santa, I love ya, but we need to rethink this whole Christmas thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas! Christmas music any time of the year never bothers me – even Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You. Then there’s the decorating, the sense of goodwill… I wish the festivities lasted all year!

Illustration by Peter Wojtechko (C’15) and colors by John Wojtechko (C’18)

But, Santa, I recognize there are people who feel differently than me. For many, Christmas is annoying, or even depressing. Christmas is all about happiness and family, so to those who feel lacking in those areas, we must respect how the holidays are less than jolly for them.

For others, Christmas seems like a commercial cash grab. And let’s be honest – it is. It shouldn’t surprise us really. After all, companies will take advantage of whatever they can to make money, that’s what they do! I mean, Santa, you know this better than anyone else! For a guy who likes the isolation of the North Pole, I sure see your face everywhere I turn this season – from mall plazas to Coke commercials.

But as you know there’s much more to Christmas than this! The spirit of Christmas is a real, magical thing that brings real joy! But sometimes, coerced by a misguided view of what the spirit of Christmas really is, people miss out on the full extent of this joy. It’s this crisis I want to bring to your attention.

I’ll explain what this problem is and how I think we can solve it. But I hope you’re not on a roof right now, Santa, because this is going to knock you right off: I think there’s a fundamental flaw in our culture’s interpretation of the Christmas tradition.

Christmas is all about giving, right? Or at least, that’s what we say. But let’s be real here, Santa – to many, Christmas is all about receiving. And at risk of being put on the naughty list, I must respectfully note that you’ve played an integral part in this. I mean, what do you represent? The spirit of giving? Sure, theoretically. On paper, you’re all about giving, goodwill, all that. But in practice, I think children are much more focused on what they’re getting from Santa, and less receptive to the idea that this mystical gift giver is doing good work and that they should follow this example of goodwill as they grow up.

And I’ll be frank with you, Santa. I know you spend a lot of money on these gifts every year. And I know money sometimes runs tight in the North Pole. You have a lot of expenses – lights, reindeer insurance, who knows how many elfish mouths to feed. So I must ask: is that really the best use of that money? Billions of dollars a year to… fuel the fires of children’s hedonistic desires?

Instead, Santa, I think there’s a better strategy. Instead of letting children be the primary beneficiaries of gift giving, let’s enable them to experience the gift of giving. To some, that may sound like a weird idea. “Kids don’t like giving,” some may think. “What the heck kind of fun is that?” But, Santa, I know I don’t need to convince you that there’s something truly magical about giving. And we’re all aware of it too, deep down. After all, Christianity espouses giving as a cornerstone of its guide to spiritual fulfillment. But I know we often don’t act like that’s the case – which makes instilling this in children all the more important.

So, Santa, I respectfully request that you transfer your funds.

Sure, give some gifts – one or two per child, nothing too big if you can’t afford it. And with the money left over, invest in the parents. With this extra money, parents can embody the true spirit of Christmas and give it away to a good cause! Without deception, parents can show children how giving really works. The joy there is in it. When they’re most impressionable, let’s show children how good giving is. How good it feels. The good it brings.

Let’s imagine this retooled holiday season. Picture this, Santa – instead of tracking you Christmas Eve night on Google, Google offers a super holiday-themed experience where you donate money to people who need it all around the world. Instead of excited children eagerly watching the cartoonish visage of a flying bearded man reaching their spot on the globe, they get excited as they watch an animation of a child on the other side of the Earth light up as they donate much needed food, medicine, or shelter. Or, perhaps children receive a letter from you, thanking the child for their family’s charity, describing simply how good their act was. And the whole receiving gifts thing is just icing on the gingerbread house, so to speak. Still present, and still a lovely, fun tradition – but not the main attraction.

Now, Santa, as you know, I tend to keep on the nice list. But I’m no Bill Gates. I don’t donate to charities – like most people my age, I think. But if, in the name of Christmas, so much money is being spent – not only on something unnecessary, but something that actively diminishes the true spirit of Christmas – then a Christmas-lover like me can’t help but brainstorm a solution!

And remember, Santa, this re-imagined Christmas wouldn’t be just for the kids – it would be just as beneficial for the adults! If Christmas was less focused on gifts, gifts, gifts, we adults would feel much less pressured to spend, spend, spend. And though we’re not as impressionable as children, we too would be transformed by this participation in charity. I mean… each holiday season, how many sweaters or novelty singing spatulas do we really need to give – or worse – receive? Instead of spending so much on our friends and family, often for gifts they don’t really care about, we’d feel so proud making life a better place for someone, whether in a large or small way. And of course, the beneficiaries of our charities would certainly benefit, too.

I know this all sort of cuts in on your whole schtick, Santa, but I think it’s the greatest gift you can give. Allow me to underscore my point with this quote from 20th century educator Edwin Osgood Grover:

“Santa Claus is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows; who shares his joys with those who are sad; whose hand is never closed against the needy; whose arm is ever outstretched to aid the weak; whose sympathy is quick and genuine in time of trouble; who recognizes a comrade and brother in every man he meets upon life's common road; who lives his life throughout the entire year in the Christmas spirit.”

So, to you Santa – as well as all the Santas – merry Christmas! Let’s have a new year.


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