Parade Upsets Non-BelieversPosted: December 5, 2011
Local group complains parade is “not for them”
All is well. It’s a cool, crisp, early-December morning. The streets are crowded. Every other passerby greets me, waving or extending their hands for a handshake or high-five or fist-pound. “Merry Christmas!”, “Happy Holidays!”. I can’t go ten feet without someone wishing me the best this time of year. It’s the annual Santa Claus parade: hundreds of thousands of people are out in full force, each excited to see the Big Guy. So you’d think.
My attention turns to Sean Berkowitz (not his real name, he confides). He’s a young guy, in his mid-twenties. He’s wearing a suit jacket, a wrinkled pink dress shirt, jeans, and one of those fashionable fedoras. He’s one of the few people I see without a smile on his face, and he’s the guy I’ve come out to meet.
“That time of year again,” he says with a sigh. For most, Christmas is a great time of year. For others, it’s just a reminder of the fact that you don’t fit in.
“I hate it… I hate this,” he gestures towards the big man himself — Santa Claus — waving to the crowds from atop a float going down the street. “My taxpayer dollars go towards this.” Sean’s beating around the bush so I prod him.
“I just — I don’t believe in Santa Claus. Once a year I’m reminded that, unlike everyone else, I’m not a believer. I don’t fit in. Every year my coworkers say after the holidays, ‘oh, did Santa get you something nice?’ and what do I say? I have to smile and nod so I don’t seem like a freak. Just the other day my youngest started telling me how excited he was, how he wanted to go to the mall and meet Santa Claus. Believe me, we go to church every week and I never would have thought my son would become… you know, one of them. I tried to raise my kids right and well, they believe in jolly ol’ St. Nick.”
“I respect people who believe in him, don’t get me wrong. I mean, both of my sons believe in him, my wife, well, she’s kind of agnostic to the whole thing. All these people here believe in him and me? I’m ostracized; I’m the outcast.”
Berkowitz isn’t alone, of course. There’s a group of them and they make an appearance every year. “Christmastians”, they call themselves. Believers fittingly call them “Grinches”. While Berkowtiz remains in the closet about his views for fear of reprisal, the Grinches don’t care.
“It’s a lie these people are living,” Amanda Clark says, gesticulating wildly and almost spilling her Starbucks Caramel Candy Cane Latte. “It’s sickening, you know, seeing these… these sheeple, walking around, waving at that fraud. You know that there are no birth records for ‘Santa Claus’? No baptismal certificate, no governmental records, no newspaper birth announcements, nothing. Yet here these people are, believing a lie. I go to church once a week like most people. I’m a good person. But this? It’s absurdity.”
Clark’s standing with a group of about twenty others, all waving various signs. ‘Keep Claus out of Christmas’, says one. ‘Elf Labour is Slave Labour!’, says another. “COAL is NEGATIVE REINFORCEMENT and BAD FOR SELF ESTEEM” espouses another, the letters getting smaller and smaller.
“Did you know that Christmastians have received more systematic prejudice than just about any other group in the last fifty years alone? Home Alone, The Santa Clause, Christmas with the Kranks, Home Alone 2, Jingle All The Way, Miracle on 34th Street, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, starring the legendary Martin Short as Jack Frost, Elf, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi… the list goes on. Every single Christmas movie does one of two things: they either argue that we are wrong and that despite evidence to the contrary, some fat guy in a suit flies around the world in a single night (she scoffs at this point), or that it doesn’t matter if he exists, all that matters is we spend time with those we love.
“Have you ever seen ‘The Truth About Santa’? No, probably not. It was scheduled for a wide release last year, but at the last minute it was canned and went straight to DVD. And why? Because Santa is the biggest commercial draw in the world. They’re trying to make us into little obedient playthings and Santa is the linchpin to the whole effort.”
When I propose the theory to passerby and local man-about-town Glen Allen, he laughs.
“Every year they try and, ya know, that group’s just been getting smaller. Of course Santa is real. [Clark] wants to know how he flies around the world in a single night? It’s magic. And I saw ‘The Truth About Santa’ and, let me tell you, there are dozens of debunk videos out there that take that ‘movie’ to task. Listen, let me tell you how it is. He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, and he’s going to find out who’s naughty and who’s nice. I mean, these guys, out there shouting and crying and pouting? They better not, and I’m telling you why: Santa Claus is coming to town. And let me tell you, these grinches? They’re getting on the naughty list. And that’s fine with me. The message of Kris Kringle is out there for anyone who wants it. I’m not going to force my beliefs down anyone’s throat and if you don’t want presents on Christmas, hey, that’s your own business. They can do what they want, I can do what I want, doesn’t that make sense to you?”