I remember the year I realized that Santa wasn’t real. It was the year we had moved to Colorado Springs from Syracuse and I must have been 7 or 8. It was the first time I’d witnessed a Christmas without snow, so naturally I asked my dad how Santa would land on the roof. Without missing a beat he said Santa put roller skate wheels on the bottom of the sleigh. Later, I found wrapping paper in my parents’ closet that was the exact same paper that had covered the box containing my Pocahontas talking Grandmother Willow bank. When I asked about this, dad said that sometimes Santa got too busy to wrap presents, so he would drop them off and ask the parents to wrap them for him. He tried so hard to keep that one going, but it was pretty much over for me at that point.
The strange thing was, though I realized he wasn’t real, it didn’t mean that I stopped believing in him. The older I got, the more I identified with Santa. Or the spirit of him, I guess. I came from a family of atheists, so Christmas has nothing to do with the birth of any deity figure for me. As a loose follower of the ancient Celtic religion, I celebrate this time of year as Yuletide and the passing of midwinter, one of the origins of modern-day Christmas. But growing up, Christmas was about Santa Claus and celebrating family, friends, good food, and yes, gift-giving. It’s not all about the gifts, and I think it’s important to instill that in our children–in fact, one of my pet-peeves is when people ask what I want for Christmas or worse, tell me what they want for Christmas–in my book, gifts should come from the heart and you should appreciate that the giver took the time to think of you in the giving of it. Christmas is not a time to ask carte blanche for cash. You know all the Whos down in Whoville who loved Christmas just because it brought people together and it was a time to love one another and spread joy? That was my family. Our house was decorated warmly and festively and it was, like the song says, the most wonderful time of the year. Still is.
And that’s why I’m continuing the Santa tradition with Caroline. Since we don’t celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, I want to give her something to believe in during this season. Lately I’ve read a lot of other bloggers who seem to hate the idea of introducing Santa to our kids. A lot of people seem to think it’s about the worst lie you could possibly peddle to your kids and I think that’s ridiculous. What’s wrong with Santa? What’s wrong with getting our kids to believe in magic and create a sense of wonder in them? So what if it’s not real, so what if some day they’re going to find out. If you’ve done it “right”, it shouldn’t matter, because they will still believe in the magic and the spirit of Christmas.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. You know the story of The Polar Express? The boy who finds himself doubting Santa until he meets him and receives the sleigh bell which will only ring for people who believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas? The adults can’t hear it, but he always does, because he believes. My dad still hears that bell. 58 years old and he can still hear that bell. Which means that I do too.
And I hope Caroline always will, too.