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Tilley, B.W. (1965). A Christmas Fantasy. Am. Imago, 22(4):227-231.

(1965). American Imago, 22(4):227-231

A Christmas Fantasy

Barbara W. Tilley

A Christmas fantasy which unfolded in a female patient's associations in the course of three treatment hours last December, provides a clinical illustration of the observations made by Richard Sterba in his paper “On Christmas.” He pointed out the unconscious symbolism of our Christmas observances as the enactment of the birth of a baby. Sterba writes:

“It is astonishing to see in how many details this acting out of childbirth finds expression. First there is a long preparatory period of growing excitement and impatient secret anticipation which corresponds to the period of pregnancy…. Everybody is ‘expecting.’ … One person tells the other that he is not supposed to enter this or that room … exactly as if a birth were taking place and the children were being anxiously kept away from the possibility of observing…. It is not surprising that the presents come down the chimney since fireplace and chimney signify vulva and vagina in the unconscious and the child-present comes out of the birth canal.

Santa Claus with his fat belly is a pregnant woman…. Santa's bag full of presents is another symbol of (he pregnant abdomen and corresponds to the doctor's bag in which the child is supposed to arrive…. It may be that the fusion of masculine and feminine attributes in one person in the stories which are used to hide the facts from children, symbolically tell them of the fusion of male and female for procreative purposes, and thus we are again unable to lie without telling the truth.”

That the holiday season acted as a specific stimulant in awakening old fantasies about childbirth in the patient presented here is confirmed first in her acting out the pregnancy and birth and then in her associations, revealing childhood wishes to conceive a Christmas baby.


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