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trickortreat
July 13, 2014 | by  | in Features Homepage |
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Trick or Treat

As kids, our parents taught us not to lie. In the next breath, they told us there was a man who watched us constantly (even while we were sleeping!), rewarded us for being good, and worked miracles. Just as religions have used God, Satan and the threat of eternal reward or punishment to moderate their followers, parents have used mythical beings like Santa to make their kids behave.

Recently, psychologists have argued that the ‘Santa Lie’ should be avoided. It’s an unjustified lie, they say. It undermines the relationship of trust, and it encourages ill-motivated behaviour. Others have argued that parents shouldn’t feel guilty, because Santa is a good lie to tell your children. It encourages their creativity and imagination. It shields them from sad adult truths while they are in their age of innocence.

Salient takes a look at the gods our parents created for us.

SANTA CLAUS
(AKA an immortal fat man who reigns over elf slaves and drives a magical sleigh pulled by reindeer)
ORIGINS:
The original. St Nicholas lived during the fourth century in what is now Turkey. He used to put coins in random people’s shoes. The Dutch used him as an inspiration for their Sinterklaas, who is a serious old man who rides a white horse and who has a helper called (we kid you not) ‘Black Pete’. Santa Claus is the much happier and less-racist Western version.
WHAT HE IS USED FOR TODAY:
To get kids to behave, especially around Christmas time. It’s hard to stop kids from acting out
with all the excitement of the holidays, so parents bribe them with presents. Although parents could take the credit for the presents, they sacrifice themselves so that kids can believe.

THE TOOTH FAIRY
(AKA a tiny magical flying woman or man who buys your teeth)
ORIGINS:
The earliest written record of Norse traditions tells of a ‘tooth fee’ paid to children for their first lost tooth. Unlike Santa and the Easter Bunny, there isn’t a consistent version of what the tooth fairy looks like. There’s some doubt as to whether she’s even a ‘she’. In America, the tooth fairy gives $3.70 per tooth on average.
WHAT HE/SHE IS USED FOR TODAY:
Turning a bad experience (losing your teeth) into a happy one (making bank). Also, some variants of the myth say that the fairy pays more for a clean tooth than a decayed one. So, parents effectively bribe their kids to brush their teeth.

THE EASTER BUNNY
(AKA gigantic human-rabbit that gives out chocolate miniatures of himself for you to eat)
ORIGINS:
How the death of Jesus became associated with a chocolate-egg-bearing bunny is a complex one. It was widely believed that hares were hermaphrodites, and could therefore give birth while remaining a virgin (like Mary). During Lent, Christians weren’t allowed to eat eggs, so they’d boil them and eat them to break their fast. Chocolate’s just nice to eat.
WHAT IT IS USED FOR TODAY:
In a similar way to Santa, parents can threaten their kids with no Easter chocolate if they misbehave. The Easter chocolate trade is worth billions of dollars – in Australia, $157 million is spent a year on chocolate.

THE BOGEYMAN
(AKA a monster in your closet that stops you from leaving your room in the night and disturbing your parents’ rumpy-pumpy)
ORIGINS:
This folkloric beast has its origins in Germany, and its name has the same origin as the word ‘bug’. The monster doesn’t have a specific appearance, and instead takes on the form of the individual child’s worst nightmare. In some cases, the Bogeyman is a nickname for the Devil.
WHAT IT IS USED FOR TODAY:
Much the same thing as it always has: as a threat of pain and punishment for doing naughty things. Children are told that if they suck their thumbs or play up, the Bogeyman will get them. His outwardly sinister traits mean that even adults can be afraid of him – see horror movies for evidence of that.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
THE MEAN STRANGER
(AKA the random person your parents say will tell you off if you don’t behave yourself)
SACK MAN
(AKA a scary man who will snatch you and take you away in his sack)
CHANGING WINDS
(AKA the belief that if you keep pulling a face, the wind will change and it will stay that way permanently)
PINOCCHIO’S NOSE
(AKA the idea that if you lie too much, your nose will grow long and you’ll be hideous)
WITCHES
(AKA scary old women who will boil you in a stew)

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