Revisiting David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries

During the holiday season I have a tendency to be the scrooge at every gathering of kindred spirits. I don’t necessarily celebrate any one of the holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, or even Festivus. In fact, I view the entire affair with a sharpened cynicism. I stand ready to dish out harsh rebuttals to every aspect of the season. Gift giving? Just a scheme that preys on the wallets of our consumer culture and creates an abundance of unnecessary pressure and stress. Christmas trees? Came from the Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice and were once banned (along with the entire holiday) by the Puritans in the 1600s. Mistletoe? It’s actually a somewhat parasitic plant that preys on trees. Some varieties are even poisonous to you and your pets. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that my favorite moment of every holiday season is revisiting David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries.

For those who have been fortunate enough to stumble upon this staggering work of comic holiday genius, you’ll know exactly why I love it. Sedaris affirms the Grinch in each of us. The story, first appearing on NPR’s Morning Edition thirteen years ago and later in Sedaris’ Holidays on Ice, chronicles his experience working as one of Santa’s little helpers in Macy’s Santaland in New York City. His dry wit and knack for satire captures the absurdities of Christmas while filtering out almost every ounce of obnoxious and feigned holiday cheer.

There is the New Jersey man who shouts to Santa, “I WANT A BROAD WITH BIG TITS” while his “small-breasted wife” looks on. Or the woman who instructs her son to pee on fake snow. Or the other woman who requests a ‘traditional’ Santa and is sent by Blisters (Sedaris’ elf name) to Jerome, the black Santa. And, of course, the bewildered foreigners (from Santaland Diaries):
Often the single adults are foreigners who just happened to be shopping… a Santa Elf leads the way to a house where the confused and exhausted visitor addresses a bearded man in a red suit, and says, “Yes, OK. Today I am good.” He shakes Santa’s hand and runs, shaken, for the back door.
But perhaps the most raucous and potentially offensive story is Sedaris’ eyebrow-raising comparison between Santa and, you guessed it: Satan.

Santa just happens to be an anagram for Satan. Just move the ‘n’ to the end and you’ve gone from a jolly fat man to the epitome of all evil. When Blisters and his elf friend Puff came to this startling realization, they couldn’t help but substitute Satan for Santa when overhearing Macy’s shoppers (from Santaland Diaries):
“What do you think, Michael? Do you think Macy’s has the real Satan?”
“Don’t forget to thank Satan for the Baby Alive he gave you last year.”
“I love Satan.”
“Who doesn’t? Everyone loves Satan.”

You get the idea.

This year, however, I’ve come to the realization that the similarities between Santa Claus and Satan are actually quite eerie and alarming. This is a man who annually makes a ritual of breaking into millions of homes around the world. We should be concerned.

Firstly, consider Santa's home base. The North Pole is a frigid, frozen wasteland over which Santa reigns. From what I understand of the North Pole, Dante apparently had it just right when describing the ninth circle of his Hell in the Inferno. It's also a frigid, frozen wasteland, albeit holding the damned spirits of Earth's worst sinners. In the center of that final circle resides Lucifer himself. Could the North Pole indeed be this ninth circle? If so, Santa would undoubtedly be Satan.

Then, of course, are the peculiar traits Santa possesses that we naively see as lovable quirks. We set out heaps of cookies on Christmas Eve to appease his gluttony and embrace his propensity to give gifts, which in reality only breeds greed in our world's children. Gluttony and Greed- two of the seven deadly sins so far, but we certainly aren't finished. We must not forget that Santa works but one day out of the year. That would be number three: Sloth. Number four, Pride, is undeniable. You can't turn your head in November and December without seeing Santa's proud, plump face. I'm still working out Lust and Anger, but Envy is an easy one. Santa has obviously got it out out for the Judeo-Christian conception of God. Christmas, after all, is supposed to have a whole lot to do with God. Santa, however, falling prey to his immense jealousy of God's all-powerful and all-knowing status, is quickly rising to immortality and simultaneously shoving the Christ out of Christmas. When did anyone but God figure out how to know when you've been good or bad? I think it's becoming frighteningly clear that Satan has hijacked Christmas.

There are, of course, plenty more clues. Santa's red suit is no doubt a reflection of the evil in his heart. And who else but a devil would bewitch reindeer to fly? This December 25th I strongly suggest locking all doors and windows. If you have a fireplace either build a raging fire (though I'm not sure even that can stop Satan) or install a trap to catch that evil, yet jolly and obese man. Help create a safer holiday season for each of us.

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