Towards a Theory of Santa: Or, the Ghost of Christmas Present

Ian Stronach, Alan Hodkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This account of the cultural phenomenon of Santa/Father Christmas draws on the polarities that attend the rituals of Santa/Christmas: secular/religious; commodity/gift; sacred/profane; material/spiritual etc., while also arguing that these dichotomies act together, rather than as simple oppositions. The account also draws on empirical work by the authors and a wider group of practitioner-researchers on how young children construct and reason with Santa. We then discuss the threat to Santa from the audit culture, which involves an inversion of his benign characteristics in terms of suspicion and surveillance. Our conclusion is that Santa is more of a religious figure than he is often given credit for being, and is felt by 'believers' to be superior in terms of 'delivery', as current systems of accountability might put it. But he is threatened by an audit culture for which he is almost the epitome of Stranger Danger. 'Santa', after all, is an anagram of 'Satan'. © RAI 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-19
Number of pages4
JournalAnthropology Today
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


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