We did it. We made it through the holiday season. As January comes to an end, the days of crowded shopping malls and family gatherings are but only distant memories. As we fade away from the holiday season, I cannot help but wonder about the reality of the story of Santa Claus. You may be thinking, but wait, Santa Claus isn’t real! And you’re right, he’s not (sorry if I just ruined all of your childhood dreams). What is real about Santa though, is the discourse about Santa and the story that is kept alive through popular culture. While not everyone celebrates Christmas or believes in Santa Claus, the details behind Santa Claus are worth investigating.
I cannot help but wonder, with all the fame that Santa gets, what about Mrs. Claus? What does she do? What is she famous for? Santa gets to spend all night out, riding a sled and delivering gifts to children all over the WORLD, while Mrs. Claus patiently waits at home, maybe knits a scarf or two and bakes up a batch of delicious cookies. While these behaviors are very much so important, it is really Santa Claus who gets all the fame.
It is clear that the longstanding tradition of Santa Claus is deeply entrenched in traditional gender roles. Mrs. Claus is clearly expected to spend her time in the cult of domesticity. The first link that came up in a Google search for Mrs. Claus is Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen where visitors can be informed that Mrs. Claus and her elves are, “busy baking some wonderful holiday treats.” There is even a cookbook included, so visitors can make holiday treats just as delicious as Mrs. Claus’ treats! Mrs. Claus has clearly not been following along with the feminist movement, as despite efforts for women to gain the right to vote, enter the work force, and to gain equal pay, Mrs. Claus’ place seems to be at home, in the kitchen. Maybe the North Pole hasn’t caught up with the ideals of the Women’s Movement yet.
When examining this issue further, I realized that Mrs. Claus does not have a first name! She is consistently referred to as Mrs. Claus. In contrast, Santa is not defined by his relationship, and he gets to have a name of his own which signifies that he is an independent individual. The fact that Mrs. Claus does not have a first name demonstrates her dependence on her man, and her inability to act as an individual agent.
It is important to discuss popular culture and media depictions of the Claus family when investigating this topic. Many Christmas movies focus on Santa Claus, such as The Santa Clause (1994), Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), Bad Santa (2003), Elf (2003), Saving Santa (2013), Fred Claus (2007), and the list can continue on and on. While these films may feature Mrs. Claus, Santa is often given the prominent role while Mrs. Claus remains in the background.
Regarding movies staring Mrs. Claus, there are significantly fewer options. One film that stands out is Finding Mrs. Claus (2012). IMDB explains that Mrs. Claus “feels neglected by her less than attentive husband.” This is not surprising, given that Santa receives most, if not all, of the Christmas fame.
It is clear that there is a gender divide when examining Mr. and Mrs. Claus, which is reflective of the larger patriarchal culture in which we live. Since Mrs. Claus’ Kitchen provides a convenient countdown until next Christmas, it appears that we have 329 days to fix this issue. It is imperative that we teach children to recognize that all genders can be powerful and fearless. All genders can be productive and can travel the world delivering gifts on a sled with flying reindeer. All genders can be strong and brave, and all genders can bake cookies! It is time that we stop teaching children gender roles and start teaching equality.
How is that for family dinner conversation?