Santa Claus the Classist

By John Gillespie and Jake S.
Capitalist Santa enjoys a sip of Coca-Cola while overseeing his Elvish workers / Jacobin 

Christmas is coming [1]. The feeling of joy mingles with the smell of fresh desserts and the air is stained with the spirit of festivity. People listen to classic carols recreated by this year’s pop stars. Wobbly shopping carts are stockpiled with presents for the world’s well-behaved children. Cashiers stand in angst as they wait for their nightmare shifts to end, and the world anxiously waits for the jingle bells to ring, and the flying caribou to assist Santa Claus the Classist down the chimney of the world’s worthiest. Tis the season to be jolly, holy, excited, and/or blessed depending on how religious one's views are, but even more depending on the amount of money in one's pocket. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of capitalist exploitation. Truly, regardless of the origins of Christmas, the holiday teaches children where they stand in our classist society.

Put yourself in the shoes of an impoverished child and consider the story of Santa Claus, who on Christmas Eve visits each house in which a child sleeps, leaving behind gifts for the good children or a nasty lump of coal for the bad. When Christmas morning comes and that child finds nothing under the family tree, he might naturally think "perhaps, I’ve been bad. Perhaps, I have to try to be better next year.” Then next year comes and Santa skips their house again. The child may ask their parents if Santa has their address. They can only swallow their pride and suggest St. Nick will visit next year. But he doesn't. The literally-minded child may conclude that s/he is some sort of criminal. Or, more likely, the myth of Santa Claus is shattered early. However, a key lesson is retained.

The Santa Claus story creates an equivalency between wealth and goodness. When Santa ignores the poor (bad) children, the implication is that the poor deserve their destitute circumstances. This idea is reinforced when winter break ends and children return to school. Inevitably the wealthier students will brag about what they got for Christmas, while the poor remain silent, embarrassed and afraid of ridicule. Through this process we learn that material possessions are a barometer of moral uprightness in our commercialized society. Parents buy the most expensive gifts they can afford for their children, in order to demonstrate to their children, their neighbors, and themselves that they are in that twisted Christmas sense "worthy."

Of course, no child should be mocked for their paucity of presents, and no parent deserves to be judged for their inability to match extravagance of their neighbors. In contradiction to the Claus-ish morality, the poor are working and living as best they can, longing for the same opportunities that the wealthy enjoy. The Santa Claus tale plays a significant role in shaping the self-perception of the poor by encouraging an understanding of poverty as a personal problem and the result of individual choices. Abolishing the Santa Claus narrative is an important and necessary first step towards building an unashamed class consciousness.


[1] Editor's Note: Use your imagination.

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