Diatribe: Am I The Only One Who Doesn’t Like To See Santa Claus In A Manger?
Each December, on my way home from the office I pass a home that is enthusiastically decorated for the holidays. They use blow up figures with lights inside, they have things that move and things hanging from the trees. I see reindeer and Smurfs and Disney characters. Candy canes line their driveway and there are bows tied to every fence post. Snoopy is there and SpongeBob Squarepants, too. They don’t miss a thing.
If you look really closely you’ll find that, amidst all the confusion, there is a nativity scene. It’s a cute little Manger with all the right statues in their correct positions. They take the time to spread a bale of straw around the scene and there’s a big star above it. Donkey, camel, angel, shepherd, angel, wise man, Santa Claus, wise man, Joseph, Baby Jesus, Mary …
Yep, Santa Claus is in their nativity scene. It strikes me as being oddly sacrilegious to see Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer included in the Magi’s parade to the Manger. (I also think that Jesus wouldn’t necessarily approve of his name and likeness used on bumper stickers and t-shirts … but I digress.)
As time marches on, it’s clear that the lines between Christian Observation, American Tradition and Secular Celebration are becoming blurred. To me, as long as the original origins of the celebration are understood, there’s no harm whatsoever in teaching youngsters the legends of Santa Claus, Frosty the Snowman and the Grinch that Stole Christmas. It seems that one no longer need be Christian to celebrate Christmas.
Since the 1970s there are laws regarding the display of nativity scenes, and even Christmas caroling, on public properties. Public-sponsored nativity scenes are required to have some form of secular display in the same context. So, it’s ok to have a big Christmas tree at City Hall without a Manger, but it’s not necessarily permissible to have a nativity scene that includes no reindeer.
Perhaps the folks that live in the house with the gaudy decorations have the right idea. Embrace it all! Enjoy the spirit of the season! I wonder, should I look even closer, if I’ll find a big neon Menorah.
What do you think? Is it ok for Santa to be in the Manger?