Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas

On Christmas Eve it is interesting to see how Christmas magic, superstition, and faith are both supported and debunked on the Internet. I often wonder if a child's faith in Santa gets tested as rigorously by a Google search as a similar set of queries about the existence of the stork that brings babies without sexual reproduction. Many online sources reinforce the Santa myth, although this Wikipedia entry encourages doubt.

There has long been some opposition to teaching children to believe in Santa Claus. Some Christians say the Santa tradition detracts from the religious origins and purpose of Christmas. Other critics feel that Santa Claus is an elaborate lie, and that it is unethical for parents to teach their children to believe in his existence.[8] Still others oppose Santa Claus as a symbol of the commercialization of the Christmas holiday, or as an intrusion upon their own national traditions.[9] Others point out that the Claus tradition is a good example of how children can learn that they may be deliberately misled by their elders; this will help teach them to be cautious about accepting any other superstition or unsubstantiated belief.[citation needed] is one of the most popular results among the Santa-is-real websites; it offers interactive stories with sound effects to Santa Claus enthusiasts. Oddly no one seems to be doing anything with the domain, despite its obvious lucrative potential.

My former UCI colleague historian Jennifer Luff has argued that the "Night Before Christmas" poem and the domesticity that it represents was partly exploited by those who wanted to end the public carousing and collective drinking and carnivalesque behavior in favor of a more sanitized at-home alternative. The piety and patriotism of, with its "God Bless America" banner and "Yes, Virginia" story plays to this normative Santa narrative.

From a digital rhetoric standpoint, it's also interesting to see so many web design failures. At the critical juncture, was down for maintenance, and with its Comic Sans and its loud sound effects and jarring color scheme is a classic website of the "World's Worst" variety. offers more ugliness with its clip art, and the over-animated and over-hyphenated may be even worse from an aesthetic perspective.

For those who worry about the "Googlization of government," like Siva Vaidhyanathan, the use of Google products by NORAD in its elaborate "Santa Tracker" may be a sobering reminder of the global reach of the Mountain View, CA company.

Of course, people can still use the Internet to congregate with others as they simultaneously stay at home in virtual places like America's Army, Second Life, and World of Warcraft.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home