Santa Claus and Suicide

By Joel Hess

They say that cases of depression and suicide spike considerably during the holiday season.  I don’t know who “they” are, but my experience with large pools of people at my last two churches supports that melancholy observation.

After watching all the Santa Claus movies and one of my favorites, Polar Express, I blame that fat bastard, Santa Claus!

Seriously, he should be put away.  He’s a liar, a cheater and a snake oil salesman!  He is the number one cause of suicide.  We would be better off going to see the Church of Satan’s anti-nativity scene on the capital lawn here in Lansing, Michigan.  No, I’m not kidding.


People get depressed this time of year because they watch all the T.V. specials and holiday blockbusters. They see all these happy people around the Christmas tree wearing reds and greens, smiling, high fiving and reconciling.  Then they stare at the empty chair at their dinner table, or the empty wallet in their pocket, or the empty card from their ex who has the kids that weekend and they weep!  The happiness on the big screen magnifies the sadness of their reality. Which is unfortunate because the happiness on T.V. ain’t real!

Frequently these holiday films provide the typical plot exploring how individuals lose the “Christmas spirit” and then regain it through some sort of experience with the jolly St. Nick.  Take the Polar Express for example.  The main character is a kid who has grown out of believing in Santa Claus.  We are invited to be sad as he realizes that his presents come from his parents and there is no such thing as Santa Claus.  You know, he actually wakes up to reality!

The boy is taken on a fun and mysterious adventure where he visits the North Pole and sees Santa Claus. There he is taught that he must “believe” in order to hear the ringing of the bells. After he learns this lesson, he returns, and all is well.


But what the hell does any of that really mean!? Nothing. Believe in what? If you believe something really hard, then it’s true?  Hey, there is no Santa Claus. And if there was, what real peace or hope does some fat elf who comes around once a year really bring? Free toys?

This is the elixir provided by the world for those depressed during Christmas!  Sure, this is just a fantasy film for kids. No one takes it seriously right? Not true at all!  People really do take films like this seriously!  Millions of parents actually spend time and money to convince their kids that Santa is real and there is an elf on a shelf.  A while ago, my oldest son casually mentioned Santa’s nonexistence to his neighborhood friends.  Quickly we were bombarded with phone calls by upset parents!  They acted as if we were religious extremists!  Ironic.  I told them my son wasn’t an idiot and quickly figured a dude can’t jump down chimneys simultaneously all across the world in one night.

Quite frankly the film, Polar Express, expresses the religion of many Americans!  You know, those brainwashed minions who say inane things like “I’m spiritual but not religious” or “it doesn’t matter what you believe, just believe.” This is the propaganda broadcast everywhere to cheer people up!  Santa causes suicide because when he is served to desperate people as the meaning of Christmas, the reason for peace, hope and love, it will not satisfy.  It will lead to despair.  Unless you are an idiot, of course.


This morning I was called to the bedside of a mother who was dying.  She was there in a smelly nursing home, with a stained carpet and mentally challenged people walking aimlessly up and down the hallway outside.  Her son sat next to her crying.

One might be quick to conclude that this was an especially bad time for death, for a funeral.  It’s near Christmas after all.

Quite the opposite.  This is precisely why we celebrate Christmas.  Telling someone to “believe” so he can hear the bells would be a joke.  Telling someone about the “spirit of the season” would ring hallow.  But, as Linus lectured Charlie Brown, telling someone about a Savior in a manger, a God on a cross,  a man walking out of a tomb.  Well, that changes everything!


Christmas is not for the happy and the comfortable. Christmas is not for the satisfied and self-righteous.  Christmas is not for the unafraid or the unencumbered. Christmas is for the dying and the dead, the broken down and the burdened, the mourner and the depressed.  It is for the man repentantly struggling with perverted desires, the woman who cries every night because of an abortion, the old man who wakes up every morning with a weight of shame because everyone knows he left his wife and kids for the bottle.

Christmas is for the shitty manger.

And some stupid fantasy about believing and Santa Claus and wishing you were a kid again will only lead to despair!  But the gifts of Christ which he won on the cross alone give peace, joy and hope.

Merry Christmas