In today's drawing American cartoonist Stuart Carlson portrays a typical Yuletide scene with a comic twist. During Advent, the season preceding Christmas, department stores and shopping malls hire men to impersonate Santa Claus for the many children accompanying their parents on shopping expeditions. The pre-schoolers (interest in Santa Claus, though not in presents, wanes quickly after kids enter first grade) stand in line for their chance to sit in Santa Claus' lap and tell him what they want for Christmas.
Like the modern figure of Santa Claus himself, this is pretty much a merchandiser's gimmick to encourage spending. Parents spend a good deal of time wondering what to get their kids for Christmas. The visit to Santa Claus - in the very midst of all the potential gifts - sharpens kids' desires and provides valuable hints for mom or dad (more often mom).
But this precocious little boy's desires have run riot. He brings a huge list of presents he wants. His way of talking is not that of a child; he has obviously been listening to the talk on TV about how the American consumer is keeping the world economy from sinkingsintosrecession and perhaps even staving off a catastrophic bout of deflation. Santa looks stunned. What will this child grow up to be? Perhaps a fast-talking stockbroker or a greedy executive like the ones who were jailed over the summer in the wake of US corporate scandals.
Religious beliefs, ethnicity, social class and individual taste all affect how American families celebrate Christmas. Some families spend tremendous sums on gifts; in others, a sense of restraint prevails. In the middle ground are those families that do blow a fair amount, but in large part on rather utilitarian gifts - new clothes and shoes, for exam-ple, not video games or the toys and gadgets ad-vertised so relentlessly on TV as December 25 approaches.