I believe in Santa Claus.
I'm not saying I simply promote belief in Santa with my children, although that is also true. I'm not saying I think the Santa myth is fun, and that I like to pretend he's real.
I'm saying I believe in Santa Claus.
Like most, I grew up believing in Santa. I wrote lists of gifts I would like, and well-crafted letters mailed off addressed to Santa, North Pole.
I visited him not at a crowded mall, but at the local Hudson's Budget Store. There on a make-shift throne sat not one of "Santa's helpers," but the real Santa. At least that's what my brother and I were convinced. He had a real beard and kindly blue eyes. I remember preparing for our yearly rendezvous for days, overcome with nervous excitement. I was not a terribly shy little girl, but I was certainly not the type to be comfortable sitting on some old man's lap and rattling off a list of toys I wanted.
I did ask for toys, and sometimes I got them, and sometimes I didn't. I remember that one year I decided there was only one gift for me: a miniature toy vacuum cleaner. I had spotted it in the Sears Catalog, and had carefully drawn a circle around it. It was just like my mom's, only in wonderful toy form. On Christmas morning I excitedly tore open the packages marked To: Cathy From: Santa. I'm sure there were lots of wonderful gifts there. I don't remember what they were, but I remember that I didn't get the vacuum cleaner. But I still believed.
I never had a Christmas on which I "discovered" that Santa wasn't real. We had a book on our shelf that told a story about a little boy who got a black eye at school when someone challenged his belief in Santa. (I'm pretty sure there are no books like that in print these days!) The book went on to explain Santa's origins in the form of St. Nicholas. I used to imagine I was a bit like that boy: I would be willing to go to the mat for the Big Guy. In fact, I still am.
There is a trend in some circles to deny the existence of Santa Claus, a trend I find quite disturbing. I know some folks quite well who raise their children with the belief that St. Nicholas was real, of course, but that Santa Claus is merely a modern invention of consumerists who want us to spend more money this time of year. (They also demonize Halloween, which is another story entirely.) They contend that if they indulge a Santa fantasy, which they will someday say is a fib, their children won't believe anything they've told them, and will end up doubting the existence of God, which they will now identify as a myth as well.
I've heard this theory more than once. It's interesting, but the fact is I have never, ever heard of a case in which this has happened. Rather, I've many examples of well-rounded folks who love Santa and love the Lord and live a healthy, well-balanced life filled with ample amounts of fantasy and reality.
Fr. John Dietzen, in his recent column for the Catholic News Service, agrees with me. He eloquently defends belief in Santa, acknowledging that fantasies such as this are "doors to wonder and awe, a way of touching something otherwise incomprehensible."
Fr. Dietzen also share the words of G.K. Chesterton spoken in Santa's defense. Chesterton compares Santa's generosity with that of Our Creator Himself, and contends that our experience of Santa's goodness becomes a reflection of God's great gifts to us. (Read Fr. Dietzen's reflections and Chesterton's words here.)
So I believe in Santa, and like Chesterton, I find that "Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it." I believe in Santa, and I believe in the magic of Christmas. If your belief has dimmed, take a moment to remember what it is like to be a child on Christmas Eve. That night contains all the wonder, joy and magic that can ever be. I admit that every Christmas Eve, while I join Santa in fulfilling the wishes of my children, I start to believe that anything is possible. I recall the Christmas Eves I have lain in bed, a new baby growing beneath my heart, considering the Holiest of Nights when another young mother gave birth. And what does that have to do with Santa? Everything.
I believe in Santa. I believe in goodness, and in selfless giving. I believe in wondrous nights on which anything, even the miraculous, can happen.
One of my favorite bloggers wrote recently about a little girl who "found out" there was no Santa. I wished I could tell her what my mom told me through her actions when I was a little girl, and what I told my children who began to doubt his existence. Santa is real, as real as wind and warmth and love. If there is a time when you doubt that he lives, it is time for your belief to evolve. It is time for you to be Santa for others.
Every Christmas Eve my belief in Santa is renewed. It may be me who fills the stockings, and my husband who eats the cookies.
Then again, maybe not.
I believe in Santa. I hope you do, too.