Rambling: The "truth" about Santa . . . As I've come to believe it.
School's out so I'm taking a break from the research for a bit, so for now, here's a "rambling" inspired by my friend Jessica.
She was wondering why Santa gets all the credit for the good gifts and it got me thinking. See, Santa is a special topic of interest for me. I've always loved Santa, first the guy himself, then later the legend and the spirit. Growing up in Germany I was extra lucky because we also got to celebrate St. Nicholas Day on December 6th and he would leave candy and small gifts in one of our shoes we left outside. Over the years my mom always made a big deal about Santa in our house, every year it was amazing to see what Santa would bring. Later I started to believe what my friends at school were saying that Santa wasn't "real." For a time I believed it, even though my mom continued to sign gifts "from Santa."
At some point during my teen years I stumbled upon the classic editorial, "Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause." If you haven't read it, I urge you to look it up and read it for yourself. In it, veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church, of The Sun, a New York newspaper, tells little Virginia that Santa exists, "as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy." The part that has really stuck with me over the years is when Mr. Church explains:
"Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished."
Like Mr. Church, I feel that Santa is part of the magic of not only the holidays but the rest of the year as well. By teaching children to hold on to their belief in Santa we teach them to hold on to the magic and wonder of their childhood and to bring that into their adult lives. How "dreary" indeed would life be! The real world is hard enough as it is, we need as much magic as we can find. Being excited for Santa each year helps keep that childhood wonder in our hearts, whether we're 2 or 92. Additionally, Santa is an excellent example of love and generosity we can use to teach those principles to our children.
For those of us who are Christian, Santa can work in support of the real meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. Santa and Jesus are not mutually exclusive. I think a lot of American's have forgotten the fact that Santa is derived from the European legend of St. Nicholas, a 4th century saint from Myra, in what is now modern day Turkey, known as being the patron saint of children. Jesus is the reason for the season but Santa is an important addition to the holiday that can further the message of love and goodwill to all. Santa gives and only asks for our love in return.
This leads me to how Santa is still very important to me. As a 30 year old today, I, like Francis Pharcellus Church and Virginia, still believe in Santa Claus. Santa still leaves me gifts in my stocking and has never forgotten me or left me behind. Santa lives on and will always live on because Santa is the spirit of magic and childhood excitement that my mother has made sure I never forgot. Mom has always been an integral helper of Santa. Santa's "elves" are the mothers and fathers who diligently sign gifts "from Santa," eat the cookies and drink half the milk left for Santa, and nibble on the carrots left for the reindeer, and go to great lengths to make sure that their child gets those special requests whispered into Santa's ear.
Like the year I asked Santa for Rudolph (yes, as in the reindeer). Christmas morning I woke up to a stuffed animal Rudolph and a note saying that Santa needed the real Rudolph but had sent this special gift in its place. Such a simple thing but of all the gifts I received as a child, that small stuffed animal is an absolute highlight. At the time it was a sign that Santa was completely real, but as I grew up it became a symbol of the love my parents have for my sister and I, that they would look for that stuffed animal so that I wouldn't be disappointed.
So, Jessica, you may feel disappointed now because on Christmas morning your sons will be thanking Santa, but I can pretty much guarantee you that if you teach them the lesson that Mr. Church taught little Virginia, they will grow up to see just how important your role in their Christmases were all those years when they were little. The Christmas I received Rudolph, I thanked Santa, not my mom, but as an adult I thank my mom every year, not just for what she does for me now, but for all the years when I was little when she did everything she could to keep the magic and wonder of Christmas and Santa alive for me. And that is the best gift of all. Of everything my mom gave me growing up, the most important was the gift of belief: in Santa, in magic, in dreams!
By encouraging a belief in Santa, you're not just perpetuating a commercial product, you're teaching your children to believe that anything is possible. You may not receive the thanks now, but you will when they are older. I thank God every day for my mom, for everything she did to make Christmas special, including the work she did in the name of Santa. One day, God willing, I will do the same for my children, and Jessica, I bet yours will do the same for theirs.
That is the real gift that Santa gives.
Merry Christmas everyone! And don't forget to leave out the cookies and milk for Santa and some carrots for the reindeer!