Like many, I have always had my favourite Christmas tales. I watched them with the awestruck innocence of a child and years later, with the nostalgic warmth of a very strong hot toddy.
But recently, I’ve noticed something, well, disturbing about some of these yuletide gems. There is a rather strange morality being taught by our old favourite Christmas tales.
First, there’s Rudolph. Ever a merry tune if there was one. But the gist of it is that we’re going to laugh at, mock, and shun you until you can do something for us. Only then will we accept you. Oh, and dentistry is not a valid career choice.
Next comes the theory that even when you’re really bad and commit murder, you can still buy your way into people’s good graces. This is thanks to Frosty the Snowman and the evil magician who bribed Santa with his magic hat in exchange for Christmas presents. Is this what we want our children to learn?
While I love Dr. Seuss, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas proves that while presents and all the trimmings aren’t necessary to make the season merry, everyone was certainly happy to get them back.
Miracle on 34th Street shows that some adults are just plain mean and will arrest even Santa Claus. Charlie Brown’s Christmas told kids that if you add a lot of decorations to a skinny, naked, half-dead tree, it will look full and lush once again. (This is, in fact, false. I’ve tried it.)
And it may be a Wonderful Life, but the only time people say thank-you is when your whole world is crashing down. And based on George Bailey’s courting method, you don’t even have to be nice to her in order to get the girl.
In T’was the Night Before Christmas, a town discovers that Santa won’t answer their letters or visit them on Christmas Eve due to a misunderstanding. So apparently, Santa does not see everything which confirms, once again, that it does not matter if kids are bad or good – thereby nullifying the whole “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” threat.
Will Farrell may look pretty hot in green tights, but Elf ‘s lesson is that if you don’t fit in at home, they’ll send you away without food, clothes, money, or any social or marketable skills. And National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation says that electrocuting cats is funny; visiting relatives are not. Meanwhile, Home Alone showed us not once, but multiple times in various incarnations that regardless of what your parents promise when they tuck you in at night, they can and will forget about you.
And finally, The Santa Clause reveals the holiday’s ugliest secret – that Santa killed to get his job.
I’m not sure these are the right lessons for the season. Hopefully, our children’s youthful naiveté and lingering sugar high will leave them in blissful ignorance a little while longer.
Then again, this could just be the hot toddy speaking.