Claus For Alarm, What Santa Insanity Says About Us

December 4, 2013 Alistair McHarg

Much can be learned about a society by looking at its mythology. Had we time and inclination, we might consider the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Jolly Green Giant, and even Mickey Mouse with an eye to discovering what they reveal about our cherished values, aspirations, darkest fears, and cultural archetypes.

Sadly, since time is at a premium, we must move directly to an examination of that most venerated societal celebrity, Santa Claus. It will be clear after only a cursory examination that the disturbing psychological make-up of this (spoiler alert) fictional character has a great deal to say about the inner workings of the culture from which he emerged.Claus For Alarm, What Santa Insanity Says About Us

Those of us who toil in the vineyards of mental illness, gathering a bitter harvest, crushing the grapes of wrath beneath blistered toes, thinking of little else but whine whine whine, are able to deconstruct the insanity of old St. Nick effortlessly. Let's begin with the morbid obesity, which is laughed away dismissively. So callous is our disregard that children routinely encourage Santa in this pathology by leaving food for him. Thus do we see addiction ridiculed and enabled.

Far more troubling is the view of Santa as a judgmental, punishing minor deity meting out pleasure and pain according to a proprietary system that divides all humanity into “naughty” and “nice” categories. Since he alone knows the criteria, humanity has no way to prepare and strengthen the likelihood of receiving desired presents.

Santa's mercy is random, like lightning, and like lightning it seems to strike those who can least afford it the hardest. Santa almost invariably showers lavish gifts upon the rich, who do not need them, thereby validating their wretched excess and entitlement. By contrast, Santa has little to offer the needy in the way of opulence and cheer.

From a business perspective, Santa’s practices could hardly be more disturbing. As members of a stigmatized subculture, i.e. the mentally ill, it is easy for us to empathize with those vertically challenged, differently enabled, wee-workers charmingly referred to as elves. Elves labor in demi-slavery, there is no elf union, no wages, no collective bargaining, no healthcare, no pension plan. Santa rules like a tribal warlord, pressuring these hapless laborers to meet yet another round of insane deadlines.

To paraphrase Sigmund Freud, “Cultural archetypes are a reflection of inner demons. Ultimately society does not create a healing, nourishing mythology, it creates a mythology exquisitely constructed, albeit incidentally, to reinforce psychic trauma, guilt, and agita.

“Thus, in Santa we do not have an unequivocally benign, loving paternal stereotype. We have instead, the delirious, unpredictable uncle who may or may not be sober, may or may not have gifts, and may or may not fall off your roof. A physically fit Santa would be intolerable; we find Santa’s poor hygiene, girth, and frailty comforting in the sense that they validate our terror. I'm pretty sure about this, but I need to talk it over with Jung.”

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2013, December 4). Claus For Alarm, What Santa Insanity Says About Us, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

Kellie Jo Holly
January, 2 2014 at 10:38 am

Oh my. I took this post WAY too seriously... Santa and I have a grand history, so I won't comment any further. Santa says to behave yourself, Alistair, or you'll get coal AGAIN next year.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
January, 2 2014 at 12:11 pm

Hi Kellie: Never take me TOO seriously. - Coal is good. I figure if I'm bad enough, long enough, I'll have enough coal to power my steam locomotive!

December, 6 2013 at 11:01 am

Hi Alistair! Santa causes other chaos too. The working conditions for his eight tiny reindeer are far from ideal on Christmas Eve. Imagine one night to circumnavigate the world. Who knows what mental anguish and trauma awaits them? What becomes of Rudolf? Santa misuses his birth defect to light the way,isn't Santa aware of the Individuals with Disabilities Act? Store clerks are inundated by crowds determined to supplement what Santa brings at the encouragement of said Santa. Their hours are long and their wages aren't high enough for what they have to put up with. What about Christmas trees? They need to in place for Santa to place presents under. They are accidents just waiting to happen. Cutting off the end of the tree trunk could result in loss of limbs, not to mention the task of placing the tree in its stand. The tree could topple over and cause a concussion for the person putting up the tree. Then there's the increase in the cost of homeowner's insurance for anybody with a fireplace. Santa could have a serious fall when landing at the bottom of the chimney or when prancing around the roof;it's a lawsuit just waiting to happen! The list could go on and on... The question is-where else will Santa appear and cause fear and havoc? The answer is waiting at the bottom of your chimney. Hope you have good insurance,good wine and cheese, and milk and cookies for the bribery of Santa. Enjoy the weekend and holiday season. Looking forward to finding out what Jung has to say about Santa!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
December, 6 2013 at 11:46 am

Cindy! You are in rare form! Excellent points. Now you have me wondering what Jung would say about Santa. - All the best.

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