In an economic culture where buying mania must be instilled in people from the time they are small children, Santa is the perfect mind molester.
The shopping ritual begins (in the U.S.) officially the day after Thanksgiving. This give-your-money-away festival is monthlong. "Shop until you drop as in a religious fervor" is a possible motto for it.
Yet, Christmas is certainly a season of great joy as well, real fun and happiness; there's no denying that. People really do get happy with family and friends in feasts, escaping alienation, loneliness and drudgery.
It's a holiday! A fundamental unity of opposites in the structure of our spiritual life: materialistic addiction and the birth of love in merriment, plus renewal of life with the new year, all in one cyclical celebration, the Sunday of the Year. For this civilization there is something profound about Christmas.
We are a market, not a stone age economy of gift exchange. Token Gift exchange is used to promote commodity exchange really, but from the standpoint of celebration and ceremony, commodity exchange is promoted spiritually. Buying is a high, a good and virtuous high. Christmas cheer comes once a year.
Through buying madness, things control us and we don't control things. We become objects and things become subjects, with wills and powers as if alive.
The mystery around Santa Claus helps to promote this mystical reversal of the real relations between people and the commodities they make and buy. Our greatest addiction problem is not "drugs", but our addiction to commodities, our commodity fetishism, our buying madness, seeking to fulfill ourselves through things not people. People made the things, not elves.
Let me say it nicer. Celebration is vital. Christmas comes but once a year, and to me it means good cheer, and to everyone who likes wine and beer. Happy New Year is after that. Happy we'll be, and that's a fact.
Charles Brown is a political activist in Detroit, Michigan. He has degrees in anthropology and is a member of the bar. He teaches anthropology at Community College. His favorite slogan is "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”