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Canadian institutions keep us believing in Santa, says Queen’s researcher


December 14, 2005, Canada boasts some of the oldest and longest-standing rituals to celebrate Santa’s spirit during the holiday season, according to recent research at Queen’s University.

In her paper titled The Cult of Santa Claus: Maintaining the Myth of St. Nick for Canada’s Children, Master’s student Laurie Gashinski says that the phenomenon of belief in Santa Claus as a supernatural icon has been woven into our social fabric and is supported by such Canadian institutions as the military, the media and Canada Post.

“Santa is infused within Canadian culture. He is a societal construct of our own making,” says Ms Gashinski.

“Our worship of Santa is highly ritualistic,” she adds.

Children offer Santa food on Christmas Eve. They tell stories like The Night Before Christmas and learn treasured Santa songs. They sit on his knee in a kind of confessional and he makes judgments about their behaviour. Santa is all knowing and all seeing and we don’t remember a time when he didn’t exist.

According to Ms Gashinksi, there are in Canadian society those who believe in Santa, and those who are the secret keepers and play the role of Santa. Those who play the role believe in their part as strongly as children believe and invest value in that belief.

“As a society we tend to value characteristics of kindness, benevolence, and generosity. We also value children’s innocence,” points out Gashinski,

“ Santa embodies these qualities. We’ve manufactured a supernatural being to which we can safely transfer our adoration and respect in a pluralistic society. Santa is inclusive. He is not as ‘religiously loaded’ as the image of baby Jesus and therefore is more accessible and acceptable as an iconic figure of a secular Christmas. Santa-worship is more conducive to our pluralistic Canadian culture than an infant Christ.”

She cites the following evidence to illustrate how some of our most powerful institutions influence and support our belief in Santa.

* NORAD has tracked Santa’s journey around the world for 50 years and lends him military escort through classified air space. NORAD’s chief of Santa tracking operations (CST0) and deputy director of NORAD’s public affairs is Canadian Major Doug Martin. In addition, two high-profile Canadians -- the character “Bubbles” from the Trailer Park Boys and musician Tom Cochrane -- are among the NORAD Santa Tracking celebrities for 2005.
* Canada Post was the first postal service in the world to commission Santa stamps. The Santa stamps issued from 1970, 1975, 1985, 1991 through 1993 and 1996 totaled 613,790,000 by 2003.
* Santa’s geographic address at the North Magnetic Pole is within Canadian boundaries and Canada Post delivers over one million letters to him each year free of charge. Besides Santa, free postage is reserved for letters to the prime minister and members of parliament.
* Toronto’s Santa Claus Parade, one of Canada’s largest winter tourist attractions, is the oldest and longest-running Santa Claus parade in the world. No other legendary icon has convinced the City of Toronto to close approximately six kilometres of main transportation route for an annual parade.
* The most money ever spent on a movie by Canada’s public broadcaster, CBC, was on a movie entitled “Must Be Santa” in 1999.

“Santa imbues the qualities we traditionally value as a society: generosity, fairness, goodness, kindness and forgiveness.,” says Gashinski. “Our society is mirrored within each of us. To reject Santa is to reject our core values as a society. Canadians cannot rid themselves of Santa. Santa is here to stay.”

For more information contact or to arrange an interview contact Lorinda Peterson,, 613 533-3234.


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