I was fairly young when I decided that Santa is the kind of person I want nothing to do with.
Santa springs from the dutch Sinterklaas who in turn was based on Saint Nichols, or Nikolaos of Myra, who was a 4th century Greek bishop. Myra was known for secretly leaving coins in shoes left out for him (though if you’re leaving the shoes out just for him, I don’t see how it could be secret, but whatever). When he died in 343 AD, he became Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, merchants, students, archers, and thieves. I wasn’t aware thieves even had a patron saint, but I suppose in the Catholic faith it makes sense – best to be forgiven while committing the crime, even better if you have a saint on your side. I’m not entirely sure how the patron saint of archers and thieves morphed into the jolly-old gift-giver we know today.
I was in elementary school when we learned about safety. Mcgruff the crime dog came into class to tell us all how to stay safe and look out for dastardly criminals, like those nasty burglars who dress in black, wear ski masks, and always have goatees. I think it was Halloween, because I distinctly remember Mcgruff telling us not to eat any candy until after our parents could check it. I’m pretty old, so this was probably around the same time the myth of razorblades in candy bars was started (likely propagated by candy-corn makers who wanted to increase sales – don’t buy chocolate bars that someone can put a razor blade in, buy candy-corn instead!). We also learned not to accept candy from strangers, which I had a big problem with since Halloween was all about accepting candy from strangers. We were told never to speak to people we don’t know, that there are some people – very bad people, possibly people with goatees – who like to kidnap boys and girls. These bad people lure boys and girls with candy and gifts.
Being a rational and curious child, I naturally assembled the pieces and came to the conclusion that Santa Clause must be a pedophile. He’s fat (and most of the pictures of burglars and bad people were pudgy), a beard is only a few skipped shaving days away from a goatee, and he sneaks into your house at night. He leaves you presents, but only if you’re good. There are no clear-cut rules for what constitutes good, so this guy is always watching you, spying on everything you do, even when you go to the bathroom. He supposedly lives in a far-away land full of tiny child-like elves. In December, you can go to the mall and sit on his lap. The free toys were the sugar used to mask the bitter pill of a pedophile who’s always watching you, wants to give you gifts, wats you to sit on his lap, and will sneak into your house while you’re sleeping.
My parents put a stop to my plans for booby-trapping the fireplace, but one year I did slip some laxatives in the milk we had to leave out for the bastard. I never made the connection when my dad spent Christmas morning on the toilet.