Nonconformists & Rebels: Christmas Special as Training Film


Yes, Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford, you are absolutely correct. The old Rankin-Bass animated special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town is a covert training film for revolutionaries.  Released in 1970 (I was 4), it played to a host of counter culture themes such as love, peace, breaking the old social norms, and trying to change the world.  All of which are more than appropriate today. In fact, they are nothing short of instructional.  These days one of the questions on the minds of most progressive, liberal, and open minded parents is: “What do we say to our children?”  Well, show them Christmas specials. Start with this one.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town provides a number of lessons on how to resist hate, dictators, and injustice.

  1. The importance of community.  Kris Kringle is an orphan. Instead of getting institutionalized into an orphanage (or foster care), his misfortune in being lost (or abandoned) by his caretaker (Grimsley) turns into great fortune in that he is adopted. Adopted by the Kringles he grows up in a family and escapes the relational poverty, if not economic poverty, he surely would have faced in Sombertown as an orphan.
  2. Only love can overcome hate and only light can dispel the dark.  Kris Kringle’s first adventure as a young man takes him past the land of the Winter Warlock.  Like most mean, nasty, cruel people, Winter is isolated, lonely, hurt, and feeling very unloved.  Kris Kringle gives him a toy.  A simple act of love melts his cold heart.  It’s not always this easy in real life, but the principle holds true. Only kindness and compassion have any chance at defeating hatred and ill will.  Kris Kringle didn’t lose his head; he trusted in the power of love he was taught. In his case it involved toys, but throughout this tale the toys are a metaphor for gifts of the heart and spirit.
  3. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.  Changing your heart and your way of life and your worldview doesn’t happen as magically as it does in this story but the process is the same: Put One Foot in Front of the Other. One step at a time, each new skill, each new piece of information, each new relationship is a building block and foundation from which to go further and grow further.  Just getting started takes courage and encouragement, thus the importance of …
  4. Each one teach one.  Everyone Kris Kringle encounters becomes a teacher in their own right.  He builds allies (Winter, Penguin, Jessica) one person at a time and they in turn teach others.
  5. An unjust law is no law at all.  Toys are against the law?! How ridiculous. It’s absolutely insane for toys to be illegal. It is also insane for a group of people to be illegal or women to not have control of their own health care and bodies. You get the idea. When the law is counter to human decency and dignity and is actually harmful, then it is no law at all and our only recourse is to resist.
  6. There are consequences to resistance. Winter Warlock loses his magic. Kris Kringle and some of his friends are arrested and go to jail. For a number of years they had to hide out and go underground.
  7. The arts are crucial to resistance and revolution. The Kringles are craftspeople and make toys. Every situation has a song (and sometimes a dance).
  8. Dictators always fall. We believe the arc of the moral universe is long but that it does bend toward justice. Even the Burgermeisters fell out of favor.
  9. Freedom requires constant vigilance, the Burgermeisters rear their ugly heads and “Bah Humbugs” and hate crimes and other nastiness on a regular basis. Every generation must come out of Egypt for itself.
  10. Love, kindness, and compassion are holy. Kris Kringle chose the “holiest day of the year” (for him, Christmas) as the day to go on his regular errand of love.


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