By Georgie Bright Kunkel
You know what I mean. Even before Thanksgiving the atmosphere is permeated with holiday music. I say holiday rather than Christmas because there are other celebrations during the dark season of the year. Can’t you just visualize the early humans being frightened when the sun sank earlier each day scaring them into believing that the world would eventually go completely dark forever? No wonder that some innovative person discovered how to create fire, the one way to brighten up the darkness. Early humans had no way of knowing that generations later there would be lighted homes and streets, television and I-phones. Many cultures have mounted protection against the dark with Hanukkah’s festival of lights, Roman Saturnalia festivals followed by the Chinese New Year in January. Even the Druids in Britain decorated oak trees with apples and candles to encourage the sun to return.
Remember that movie showing scenes from all over the world? There were high mountains, valleys, oceans, people living on dumps and scrounging in the filth, thousands of cars traveling on freeways, young children playing in the park, old people in nursing homes, warring tribes in action—all on this one earth at the same time. I began to ponder about the millions of universes that we haven’t yet been able to visit. Are there other planets inhabited with beings that are a happier lot? Is there a place where war is not a part of life? And if there is a god who made it all, why did this god create beings that were so violent at times? Even when I was a young girl I worried over all of this. I, in my limited knowledge of creation, could not fathom a world like the one I was living in. Since humans are born and then age and finally die I thought there must be a beginning and an end to everything. But then I wondered what was there before the beginning of my earthly home. We humans have created religion to explain it all as we can’t live with the secret of birth and death. Not knowing is something that we can’t tolerate. We must have an answer.
The late brilliant Christopher Hitchens lived his tempestuous life as if there were no death. He is said to have been able to write a 1000 word essay in an hour without revision. I haven’t matched that yet but then I am not always high on alcohol as he was. And I certainly won’t exit the earth as early as he did. He denied the existence of a god but he certainly dwelled heavily on his own death, analyzing every aspect of his final demise. I have often joked that I might try alcohol on my death bed but as I say on the comedy stage, “My doctor probably wouldn’t allow me to drink because it would interfere with my medication.”
So what has all this verbal meandering got to do with Santa? As religions have created beliefs to explain the unexplainable, parents have created Santa to relieve the anxiety and excitement during the holiday season. When I was little, Santa knocked on the door and left presents on our front porch. It was later that I discovered the fur suit that my father had brought home from Alaska years before he died and that my big brother wore when he came knocking at our front door. Disillusionment happens, right? It happens to us all when we shed our childhood and become knowing adults.
Facing reality as an adult is a challenge. So hail to Santa who brings us back to our childhood delight. Or if not Santa, then a belief in any creative myth that sustains us.
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com or 206-935-8663.