Originally posted Dec. 2, 2007
Have you heard the latest? Get this: the Acting U.S.
Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Steven Galson, says Santa Claus is
too fat to be a role model.
Are you kidding me? Sounds a tad discriminatory, don't you
"It is really important that the people who kids look up to as
role models are in good shape, eating well and getting exercise …
Santa is no different," Galson told The Boston Herald
recently. Galson is not alone in his assessment,
apparently. In an effort to discourage childhood obesity,
London Santas are slim this year. The charge doesn't end
there. In fact, The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas
agrees, 'suggesting' that its 800 members lose weight in time for
their July convention.
I'm all for teaching moderation and encouraging kids to embrace a
healthy lifestyle, but I have a hard time swallowing the argument
that whipping Santa into shape and withholding Christmas cookies
from the jolly old fellow with a tummy that shakes like a bowl full
of jelly is gonna make a darn bit of difference in the health of
our children. Think about it, Mr. Surgeon General: do we
really need more skinny celebrity 'role models?' How's that workin'
The attack on Santa gets worse. Going down under for the
Holidays? You won't hear a "Ho Ho Ho" outta any Australian
Santas, for fear of offending women. And Santas in the States
have been discouraged from wishing people a "Merry Christmas," lest
folks of other faiths take offense. For Pete's sake.
But a Santa with six-pack abs? Since when does Santa need to
be a role model for a fit nation?
Anyone familiar with his story knows that he already has enough on
his plate. Dozens of biographies of St. Nicholas, a real man
born around 270 A.D. in a village then called Patara (formerly
Greek, but now southern Turkish territory), consistently bear
witness to the fact that Nicholas was and is a fine role model for
the compassionate life. Born into a wealthy family, his
devout Christian parents died during his youth, leaving a generous
inheritance. Nicholas felt called to live simply and to share
his wealth with the needy, but preferred to do so without
attracting attention. A famous tale tells of his climbing
into the upstairs window of a poor man's home under the cover of
darkness (so as to preserve the poor man's dignity), where he left
gold coins, enough for three dowries so the man's daughters could
marry. Various accounts report that Nicholas tossed satchels of
coins, landing them in the daughters' stockings which hung by the
fire and in their shoes, giving rise to ensuing
traditions. Nicholas, who eventually was appointed the
Bishop of Myra for his good works, was later dubbed "Saint
Nicholas" after somehow surviving religious persecution for his
Christian faith. During his longer than average life (he lived to
be about 73 years and died December 6, 343 A.D.), and, some would
say, even after his death, St. Nicholas purportedly came to the aid
of numerous children and others in need, doing many kind and
generous deeds in secret, while expecting nothing in return.
A role model, indeed. How many of us, flat-abbed
goody-two-shoes or not, can honestly say we do that?
Folks of every stripe and walk of faith can appreciate Santa's
unimpeachable morals, in spite of the bastardization and co-opting
of his legacy for commercial gain.
As for the Surgeon General's laughable statements, I cannot repeat
my husband's comments here.
But our nine-year-old son, Noah, reading the Herald story over my
shoulder as I muttered something about the absurdity of picking on
Santa, the ultimate keeper of wonder and role model for compassion,
earnestly volunteered that "We're gonna give him (Santa) extra
cookies this year, okay Mommy? A whole plate," he said.
My last word? Watch out, Easter Bunny. Those cute
little Peeps you always leave? Their days are numbered.
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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