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Sunday, November 20, 2011

A new twist on Santa

They call it “The Lighting of the Doves.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus with several elves, float along and greet their fans.

Jingling as they go, the jolly entourage scoots by as families with their children wave with love and affection.

You can tell what a hit Santa was by all the cell phones that lit up as he came on stage.

When I first heard of this, being a redneck, and being from a place where rednecks and guns and fireworks and defenseless creatures are often mixed in various configurations, I was not sure how much I wanted to see this popular extravaganza. But given its prestigous location and my special host, I gave it a shot.

I had the pleasure of volunteering as auxiliary elf for Santa at this event in the Woodlands, Saturday on the 19th, where Santa Claus was of course the star attraction and was the honored guest who switched on the Christmas lights that illuminate giant doves who fly over the river walk there... It is a grand event in the American league of neighborhood pageantry.

When Santa flicked a giant light switch, all... hell broke loose with loud music and laser beams shooting in every direction, for a moment feeling more like an alien invasion, until we all just stood and gaped at the simple, primitive beauty of smoke and lights and artistry.

I had to remind myself where I was. As a kid I used to roam near these woods as a Boy Scout, always thinking of this area as total wilderness. When they began to break through the forest and lay roads, it seemed so absurd. The Woodlands always looked like a modernistic experiment in the beginning, not even real.

But The Woodlands finally wears a patina, it no longer feels like something just fabricated, and has become and sustained… what it was always conceived to be; A wonderful, idyllic community, where life happens like we all think it should, and seasonal festivals have been masterfully laid out, complete with live entertainment, vendor booths, children’s activities, and yes, magnificent beauty. After decades of doing this, by Saturday it had completely evolved into its self-projection, as a thoughtfully designed hometown, decorated to the nines in Christmas glory, with Santa floating down a flickering golden river-walk. And as he and Mrs. Claus stepped out into a crowd of tens of thousands, young couples, little children on their daddy’s shoulders, Christmas music blaring and bouncing off of the water, it made me suddenly appreciate this place I live in.

No, I do not live in the Woodlands. I, like most of you can only admire it from afar. But for that moment The Woodlands became something more than itself, as it so powerfully personifies who we are as a people. As Americans.

Only in a self-realized community like this, in the United States of America, can we Americans see who we are, or at least who we all want to be… if we only could. We often complain because we have so few cultural traditions… That we are such a melting pot of different peoples, we have no cultural identity.

Santa read The Night Before Christmas to a spellbound crowd, as his huge countenance was televised on a movie screen.

The laser light show was quite stunning, and the children's expressions were all shades of joy.

But look at this… this Lighting of the Doves; Santa,(a glorious one, if I must say so) is brought to the masses in the most dramatic and tasteful fanfare possible, to bring cheer and delight to all the little ones who still don’t know what a terrorist or a super committee is, and remind all of us of the wonder and bliss we had as children… and the kind we want to preserve for our innocents, for as long as we can. That is the kind of world we want… if we only could; Throngs cheer on Santa as if he were a conquering General. He is escorted to the stage with the diplomatic hustle of a worldwide celebrity… and he is. Families clutch one another as he engages with them, one at a time, in clusters, in mass. He is somebody we all know, trust, and love. People of all ages, religions, and cultures can enjoy him… because he is after all an agent of our collective identity, our national conscience. He is our alter-ego.

When you compare him to his equivalent in other cultures, you see how lucky we are. Mythical and folk heroes require centuries to create and are hard to expunge. Just think, we could have dreamed up a selfish, spiteful leprechaun, or been stuck with the Native American trickster, who kept his victims perplexed and frustrated. South American natives had a giant boa constrictor who made them murder and plunder. A review of the gods of India leaves us with no desire to trade our jolly St. Nick for any of their multi-headed, multi appendaged personages. And Santa is real, because he really represents our answer to all the weird, scary, paranormal freaks the world has provided to upset little children.

Santa is good, industrious, benevolent, and loves children all over the world. And that is who we are too… as long as we believe.

So I’m through trashing our old, reliable elf, through complaining about the lack of Christ in Christmas, since after much study, I realize that Christmas is not really Jesus’ birthday, it is and always has been a convenient time to make a tribute to his birth. That is all. There is nothing in the Bible about December 25th. And Santa, the old loveable elf, is an amalgamation of all the Christian values about loving our children, family and giving that Christ inspired.

For people who cannot wrap their brain around Jesus of Nazareth, perhaps they can understand the wonder in a child’s eye, as he or she looks upon love in action. And that is a good start.

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