Our special guest for this session is Patrick de Haan. Pat is a Masters-Level Counselor and he’s been Santa for over thirty years. In fact, in 2017 he was the IBRBS “International Charitable Santa of the Year.”
You may also remember Pat from the amazing “Being Santa Claus for Children with Special Needs” session he helped organize and presented back in 2016.
As a counselor, he works with at-risk, often behaviorally-intense children, some of whom struggle with the challenges of mental illness. Many are in the judicial system. As Santa, he serves homeless, impoverished, special needs, medically fragile, and terminally ill children and their families. Annually, he encounters around 15,000 children.
He recently posted this list of the “Top 10 Reasons Children Like Pretending to be Santa Claus”.
While this list is not a scientific paper or a formal study, and no data that would be required by an academic submission was collected, the narrative Pat wrote conveys his observations as a professional counselor with decades of field experience and I believe it can be very useful to all of us who portray Santa Claus.
One of the activities Pat does with children is to provide them with the opportunity to select a character with whom they identify.
Then, through puppets or by dressing in a representative costume, they are allowed to become that character and act out their perception of what that means.
While some of the more popular characters are traditional, things like astronauts and firemen, the most universally chosen persona is Santa Claus or another representative of the Christmas Community, such as Mrs. Claus or an elf.
SO WHY DO CHILDREN LIKE PRETENDING TO BE SANTA CLAUS?
Here are the reasons the children gave:
1) Santa means Love – They aren’t clear about what this “love” thing is, but they can feel its presence and want to be surrounded by it.
2) Even better, Santa means Unconditional Love and Acceptance – They might not know the terms, but they understand there is a higher form of love that accepts you regardless of what you do. Forgiveness also ties into this area.
3) Santa is Safe and Will Not Abuse you – Many of the children we serve are victims of abuse. Often this abuse comes from a family member, from someone who is responsible for keeping them safe. Santa represents someone who is safe and nurturing, not someone who needs to be feared. I might add that a Santa hug has tremendous therapeutic value.
4) Everyone Likes Santa – This has to do with peer influence. They see that their peers like Santa and they simply want to be liked by their peers.
5) Santa is Famous – Our culture values fame and celebrities. Santa is one of the biggest celebrities on the planet and the children want that kind of recognition.
6) Santa Travels around the world – Many of the children, especially those living within the inner-city, never leave their immediate community and have no concept of the wonders beyond their neighborhood. They want to go out and explore the world, exactly like Santa does.
7) Everyone Trusts Santa – This is a double-edged sword. The children don’t trust very easily and often are not trusted by the community. Apprehension by the community is usually based on racial or socio-economic beliefs and factors like the area’s crime rate. The community accepts Santa.
8) Santa makes people Happy – They want to rid the world of the pain they feel and as Santa they could make people happy again.
9) Santa is Jolly and Laughs a lot – Often their lives are full of pain and fear. They want to be happy and laugh.
10) Santa Cares about me – The bottom line is they want to be someone who cares about others, which is the very definition of Santa Claus.
I’m guessing you’re thinking about now… “YEP… that’s who Santa Claus is… and I’m so blessed to be able to bring the magic of Santa and the Christmas Spirit to my community.” Or something like that. Right?
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