Last week my wife and I vacationed in southern Indiana in celebration of our 4th anniversary. We stayed near French Lick, home to wineries, antiquing, and just a stones throw up the road from Santa Claus, IN.
For those of you not familiar Santa Claus, IN, or as I initially referred to it “the creepiest place on earth”, is a year round Christmas town. Nearly every store and business is prefaced by Santa or Christmas (i.e. Santa’s Auto Repair, Christmas Dollar Tree, etc.). And of course they have a huge Christmas store, with just about every Christmas related thing you can think of, including a real life Santa.
Santa’s of every shape and size grace this store. You’ve got Santa on a motorcycle, a $4000 Santa napping on the moon a la Dreamworks kid, and somewhere toward the middle of the store you’ve got a display of “kneeling Santas”.
Here’s what a kneeling Santa looks like for those who’ve never seen one:
Now my wife and I are standing in front of this display when she comments to me that she doesn’t quite know what to think about kneeling Santas and that it seems a little weird to her.
I should comment before we go any further that I both have my wife’s permission to tell this story (and use this title) and that I agreed with her that these were a little weird though before I got a chance to say it out loud …
Not two seconds after she says this to me than we look up and are met with a real live Santa. See this Santa doesn’t stay confined to a little chair to take pictures all day, but rather wanders the store randomly encountering the patrons. When they say you better be good because Santa Claus is watching you, in this store they mean it.
My wife and I are a little startled and we both say “hello … Santa”. Now this is a good Santa, real beard and *ahem* belly, and a great coat, gloves, boots everything.
Santa: “This is my favorite part of the store.”
My Wife: “Um … because of all the Santas?”
As it turns out we were standing in front of this Santa’s favorite display, one he had advocated for being in the store last year. He discussed with us how Santa dated back to the early centuries, and how he wasn’t always the symbol of materialism he is today. We both stood there listening, not exactly sure what to do. I mean … you can’t be rude to Santa, even if he wants to read you a story in the middle of a store.
To this Santa, Christmas is not about the materialism of Black Friday, and of gimme gimme gimme, but is really about the birth of Christ our lord and savior. Rather than thinking of Santa as a symbol of materialism, like most of the other Santas in the store, this Santa was well versed in the origins of his myth and how they coincided with what Christmas was really all about. He used Santa as a way to tell this story to kids who might otherwise be too caught up in all the other distractions of Christmas.
The mother of one child who had sat on this Santa’s lap asked how many gifts a child should get for Christmas, to which this Santa replied, well … the baby Jesus only got three and he was our savior.
Interesting guy this Santa, certainly an example of evangelism thriving in unusual environments.
Even in the “creepiest place on earth”.