When I was a kid, I didn’t really believe in Santa Claus. I did write letters to him, and somehow most 0f what I asked for actually showed up on Christmas morning. I figured that, most probably, my parents bought the presents, but still thought the Santa Claus story was charming. I enjoyed the Tim Allen picture, The Santa Clause, when it came out a few years ago, as an interesting vision of the story.
Let’s consider, for a moment, what Santa Claus has to do:
- Compile a list of all of the children of the world;
- Determine whether each child is ‘naughty’ or ‘nice;’
- Identify one or more appropriate presents for each child, possibly taking into account the child’s own wishes;
- Build all of the presents, although this part could be outsourced;
- Deliver all of the presents, across the entire world, in one night.
When I was a kid, accomplishing all of these tasks seemed beyond what the people or organizations around me could do, but I imagined that it might be possible for someone to do it. And since the presents did arrive on Christmas morning, and my parents swore up and down that the presents really came from Santa, I contemplated Christmas with a sense of wonder. Maybe that Santa stuff was true, after all.
But now, not only does Santa Claus have a Web site, but he also has an iPhone application that supposedly determines, in real time, whether one is naughty or nice. The wonder is gone: Santa lives on the Internet, where it is obviously possible to keep track of everyone. And if we track a parcel from California on its way to New York, tracking Santa on his Christmas Eve travels should be trivial.
When I was a kid, what was charming about Santa Claus was that the details of the process were left to our fertile childhood imaginations. But now the process of Santa is now available for all to see, and it has become about as charming as, well, FedEx.
And as a result, it has become that much easier to realize that it isn’t real, after all.