santa as antidote to the “noughties” (2000-2010)

I thought is was interesting that the past decade is being called the “aughties,” as in “aught,” a cipher for the mathematical symbol ‘0’ commonly called “zero.”  In Commonwealth/British countries “zero” is called a “nought.” 

“Nought” lead me to “noughty,” which lead my mind to “naughty or nice” and then to “Santa.”  Indeed, Americans have been naughty this past decade… which may attribute to America’s overzealous lust for Santa Claus impersonators this past season. 

demand for Santas up as they fulfill our needs

I read that professional Santas were busier more than ever this past season, with average hourly rates for Real-White-Bearded-Santas up 25%.   I know this from the statistics from the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, otherwise known as A.O.R.B.S. Visit:  Apparently, Real-Bearded-Santas can earn $8,000-$10,000 during the 5-week season.  House-call Santas earned $125-350/hour. (I’m in the wrong business!)

I was not surprised to learn that demand for Real-Bearded-Santas was up;  I see a number of cultural trends in play in America driving Santa demand, such as:

  • Americans seeking wonder, fantasy, escape and solace in their imaginations (the movie industry is capitalizing on this now).
  • Americans seeking authenticity (rejecting fakes) in everything.
  • Americans seeking more memorable experiences, sensory stimulation and entertainment, especially at retail.
  • Americans seeking cleansing, exoneration, blessings from authority figures for their “naughtiness.”
  • Americans hoping that there’s a greater, supernatural force for “good” at work to be relied on for an optimistic future (the same hope driving Harry Potter popularity).

 santa tradition endures despite, or in response to, changing culture

In New York City this past season I noticed more of my non-Catholic friends embracing Santa. Where Santa was once directly associated with Christian Christmas, it seems that Santa is taking on a more non-denominational face, more like a leprechaun.  “The Santa myth is childish fun and basically celebrates the spirit of giving gifts to those we appreciate,” said one Jewish friend. “Gratitude and magic transcend religion.”

According to an AP-AOL poll, 60% of respondents with children at home consider Santa important in their holiday celebrations.  Santa is important to 51% of Americans without a religious affiliation. 91% of whites believed in Santa as a child; 72% of minorities did as well. 25% of those now living in households with incomes under $25,000 did not believe in Santa.  Compared to “angels” 86% of Americans across nearly all backgrounds and religious beliefs say they believe in angels.  Even 57% of those who say they have no religious affiliation believe in angels!

I think it’s ironic to call this past decade the “naughties” in light of the Santa bust given that Santa is symbolically an arbiter of the naughty and nice!


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