The Santa Claus Syndrome

The Santa Claus Syndrome

By Ethan Indigo Smith

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

The Santa Clause: Lying is OK, so long as everyone else is doing it.

The Santa Claus Syndrome is the effect of societal complicity in, and/or complacency to, lies and the belief that’s ok.

Take a moment to imagine yourself an outsider and visitor to a new culture. Imagine if you will an annual global celebration so fantastic  that  people excitedly await it all year long. Imagine the celebration correlates the winter solstice. Imagine the celebration is so spectacular and grandiose that it spurs the sales of products worldwide and some businesses exist solely because of it. Imagine that nearly all businesses profit from it and promote it. Imagine that the main part of the celebration, for most people, aside from sparkling decorations and elaborate gift giving, is openly lying to young children!

Most everyone celebrates the holiday, but those who do not celebrate it are expected to go along with the tradition of broadly lying to children and accepting the excessive materialism out of consideration for cultural tradition.

Conjuring, Consumerism and Conditioning

Although some call Christmas today a ‘Pagan’ holiday, in reality it is nothing of the kind. The pagans I know want nothing to do with it.

Christmas  is a children’s consumption holiday. They look forward to it the most. Well, children and the profiting corporations, of course. Children receive countless presents, rewarded for accepting  as truth impossible fictions  about a  fat man from the North Pole, an  omnipotence external being  who  “sees you when you’re sleeping”, who judges children, and who  withholds or grants material incentives  accordingly.  

It is better to give than to receive, they are told.

Celebration and happiness  is in the  receiving,  they observe.

Reward is earned by  modelling behavior and suspending critical thinking, they learn.

Generally speaking, telling children  fiction as fact is  counter-productive to their  developing minds. But  children  do of course eventually inquire of their parents and strangers alike about the phenomenon of the holiday and the fat man. For a period of time after that first enquiry, many children are lied to further  – to  prolong the “magic”. Finally, they get their answer and find that majority of adults are  in on the lie. Even institutions like schools lie, and local and national news. And now they will  lie, too. And it’s all okay…  so long as everyone else is doing it.

The Santa Clause Syndrome - The Magic Of ChristmasAnd that, kids, is the magic of Christmas!

Other  celebration rituals  involve cutting down young trees for indoor decorations, wrapping gifts in paper from other trees and putting them under the dying, decorated tree on the last night of the celebration and saying the fat man did it.  The children are told the fat man traverses the world on an inadequately sized sled powered by flying reindeer  (the lead one  featuring  an inexplicable glowing nose)  and stops by the homes of children, entering through chimneys  yet  staying crispy clean, having cookies at each house as he drops off plastic weapons  and impossibly thin dolls.

And the fat man, old Santa Claus, he isn’t just generous, he’s mysterious. He doesn’t simply give because it’s better than receiving. He and his elf workers in the North Pole watch all the children of Earth all year long. He decides which children  receive the promise of abundance based on who’s been naughty and nice.

Sounds a bit  like the other Big Guy, who decides who receives the promise of abundance in the ‘afterlife’, based on who’s been naughty and nice.

First Lies

The Santa Claus story is an  unnecessary social conjuration of a blatantly un-sacred holiday.  Those of us who grew up in  in ‘Christmas’ homes  were all influenced by it in one way or another; even the ‘not Christmas’ kids were openly encouraged to withhold the truth from the ‘Christmas’ kids – to  prolong the magic.

Abstract and nuanced, it is the first load of garbage young humans in Christian-influenced  societies  have to mentally digest. For many  kids, it is the first time they come to  doubt  their parents on a point of truth, and the first time they are knowingly lied to if their suspicions are  deflected.  Then, once entrusted with continuing the Santa Claus myth  with younger children, it  is the first time they  learn that the caveat  to the long held ‘no lying’ rule is  … ‘so long as everyone else is doing it’.

Just play along kids, and you’ll still get the  gifts.

Image by

Image by

Amid all the  Christmas hoopla, which starts to build in stores as early as  October, children are normally so occupied  with shiny lights and  the prospect of gifts that there really is no impetus to question it. Eventually, despite the enticements on offer, the lie is realized of course, for  some kids much sooner than others, and  the specifics and  nuances come undone as a natural function of their  maturing minds.

Tradition or Parody?

Regardless of any magical intention, the blunt reality is that parents, teachers, strangers, radio hosts, and local weathermen are deceiving children in perfect synchronization, steering them into immense emotional and material attachment to a collective (unnecessary) illusory figure  that withholds from the ‘naughty’ and rewards the ‘nice’.

The holiday in its current formation gives us all practice at complicity, passing on cultural fictions because they were passed onto us, and because that’s what adults do. It  is effectively  a child-friendly celebration of the doctrines  —  It’s better to receive than to give, and you’re expected to lie so long as everyone else is doing it — proudly brought to you by  your favorite sugary drink, Coca-Cola.

The worst part of the celebration of this vile conjuration  is not the lie itself, but the results of it.  Lying to kids in this way creates  a parody  of genuine human  tradition, substituting meaningful ritual with an illusory commercial  mockery.  But that’s only stage one of the Santa Claus Syndrome…

Learning the  Santa Clause is the the first test of  adulthood. Left unresolved, the experience can manifest to varying degrees, in a number of ways.

The Santa Claus Syndrome

The Santa Clause: Lying is OK, so long as everyone else is doing it.

If you don’t question what you’ve been told, accept  incomplete information, and  don’t proceed with your  natural impulse, you quite likely have  the  Santa Claus Syndrome to some degree. Quite simply, it  makes people ignore serious issues.

Merry total apathy

The Santa Claus Syndrome  manifests in a number of stages:

Stage One:

It manifests as insistence on celebrating lies posing as tradition, elaborate intent on the deception of youth including distraction with sparkling decoration and gifts, and instilling ‘the Santa Clause’  in  children.

Beyond that, ;the Santa Clause’ teaches us to conform to widely-accepted untruths.

Stage Two:

Stage two is the acceptance of adult lies, servitude to  authority and unquestioning  belief in whatever the ‘proper authority’ states. The childhood belief in Santa Claus and trust of authority leads to an adulthood belief that the government, corporate and religious institutions they trust do not lie.

Just like a kid sees the local weather reporter tracking Santa’s flight path, an adult with stage two Santa Claus Syndrome will see as real other fictions  in the news and media  (such as  chemically treated  food is just as healthy  as organic, or nuclear is a safe energy system).

The Santa Clause Syndrome - HolidaysStage Three:

Telling adult lies. Stage Three Santa Claus Syndrome is also indicated by people who continue adult likes, such as nuclear is safe… or cannabis has no medicinal value… or insert any number of lies here _____ that many people perpetuate on behalf of our  corrupted institutions.

Stage Four:

In Stage Four, one has all the symptoms of stages One through Three. Further, those in Stage Four are likely to lash out at those  who question the status quo or  expose lies (and  forcing  change) in anyway.  Stage Four can involved the conjuration of adult lies, instituting great and broad fictions  for trifle and temporary gains, often as a way to psychologically rationalize not just with others but  themselves, to believe what they are doing – and who they are – is ok.

Trading why  for what

It is no coincidence that around the time when young children begin to ask the eternal why, a series of ‘whys’ in regard to every subject, they are taught ‘the Santa Clause’, which teaches them, teaches us, to replace the endless series of why into an endless series of what. Where the Santa Claus fiction is concerned, knowing is less important than obtaining. It is the first true test of our ‘adulthood’;  once you are entrusted with the truth of the  lie, adults check that you repeat the lie to those younger than you; those who aren’t to know.

Then in adulthood, we are exposed to big and sometimes seriously dark and disturbing lies. And  adult lies  –  lies told by authorities  –  are often backed up by the local news reporters and retailers, just like Santa Claus. And just like the children we were, and the children we raise, we adults too stop asking why in exchange for what.

Santa Clause is DeadThe materialistic enticement  of ‘the Santa Clause’ has contributed to  a culture  where understanding is inhibited, and truth undervalued. We  teach our children  not to tell the truth so as not to make the babies cry. We reward  materialistic impulses, confusing gratification with what  is  right and wrong. But worst of all, we teach  little people to accept that we  are  lied to,  and to contribute to  broadly accepted lies  —  as long as we  have  bright shiny things.

Evidence of the Santa Clause Syndrome is everywhere in our society. Many personal and societal problems can be theoretically traced to it, but also many institutions can be rationally broken down as disturbingly negative or outright useless when considering it.  Most evidently, Santa Claus Syndrome does  not promote  individuation, but conformity – at a very impressionable stage of childhood development.

Santa Claus is Dead

Christmas today  doesn’t celebrate the humanity nor the amazing  world around us  – in other words, anything real  – and that is a direct reflection of our sick society. Although  I risk being accused of some ridiculous thinking here, I believe we need to heal and re-create our culture  through  sacred, nutritious traditions grounded in love, simplicity and gratitude.

In contrast,  the fiction of Santa doesn’t encourage  a sense of  gratitude in children. Children “earn” gifts from Santa Claus by  adhering to  social norms  – naughty or nice  – and  any innate sense of gratitude a child may feel for this  annual  abundance is intentionally misdirected at  a magical, fictional patriarch, until a  comprehensive  deception  is finally realized. Sadly, that realization is  where, for most kids, their broader  sense of magic is hindered  a learned  distrust of their developing senses.

Arguably the most underestimated and psychologically disturbing rites of passage for children in Christian-based  cultures  today, ‘the Santa Clause’ is  another failing institutionalization, much like the  religions that spawned it. And so, many of us are now facing  the decision to keep perpetuating ‘the Santa Clause’ within our family circles, or begin  the process of transforming this ritualized nonsense into  a genuinely sacred, annual celebration of peace, renewal and gratitude.

This year Santa is dead to me. There will be no false idol. This year, children will learn the truth if they come around here. And with that, healing from the Santa Clause Syndrome can begin.

This holiday season,  be sure to not tell your kids a pack of lies and  cater only to their material desires – no matter the tradition.

Let’s create a new holiday.

Peace on Earth… only for real.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Total Apathy

From the Editor

Merry Total Apathy! - The Santa Clause Syndrome

The Santa Claus Syndrome instils more than just materialism and the acceptance of lies. And chances are, if you can recall the names of more than one of Santa’s reindeer, you are likely affected by it in some way.

In his book  A Holiday Hazing: the Santa Clause Syndrome, Ethan Indigo Smith examines the many psychological influences of one of the most widely celebrated traditions the world has ever known, and exposes common beliefs of  ‘self’ and ‘society’ in a way that might make you chuckle, and a little bit angry.

A Holiday Hazing: the Santa Clause Syndrome  is available on Amazon as  an e-book  — just in time for (saving you from) Christmas.

If you enjoyed this article,  be sure to check out Ethan’s festive holiday message from 2013 –  Merry Total Apathy.

Previous articles by Ethan Indigo Smith:

About Ethan Indigo Smith:

 The Failed Politics and Faulty Science of Climate ChangeActivist, author and Tai Chi teacher  Ethan Indigo Smith  was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Guided by a keen sense of integrity and humanity,  Ethan’s work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality,  meditation and a unique sense of humour.

Ethan’s publications include:

For more information, visit Ethan on  Facebook  and check out  Ethan’s author page on Amazon.

This article adapted for Wake Up World by Andy Whiteley.


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