Sitting here on Christmas morning, on this bleak 50 degree day in New England, knowing full well many kids have by now ripped into their many brightly colored boxes, I wondered about the reality of Santa. How many of those kids believe, or what do they believe he is and how do the parents keep him real.
As a parent myself, with a myriad of religious/spiritual backgrounds, our household was filled with Christmas, Hanukkah and Solstice celebrations. I’m not quite sure when my childhood belief in Santa, or my own kids, disappeared. In neither case was in some tragic fall to the ground state of despair. It just seemed to be a quiet realization that maybe this guy in the red suit you see everywhere in the malls doesn’t really bring the presents to put under the tree.
I personally wasn’t angry or upset at my parents about this new theory. If not Santa, then who? I’m not sure I pestered my parents to explain it (we didn’t even have a chimney as we lived in an apartment building in NYC) as much of the myth didn’t really work for me anyway. There are so many Santas everywhere you walk in the city: every street corner ringing bells, in every department store and sometimes just walking down the street. So how could any kid possibly believe?
As my kids started to become skeptical and since we lived in a more mystical home, it was very easy to explain that Santa really isn’t a person. Santa is more the representation of the joy of the Christmas spirit and season. I tried to explain that as this symbol he brings gifts because the season is supposed to about giving and he’s jolly because we are supposed to be joyful (because of the birth of Christ I assume). So really he is like a spirit and in that sense real.
And all the Santas we see as kids (and adults) everywhere, they are simply the images of the true feeling and sense of what the day and season is supposed to be. Like any icon should remind us. Whether we are Christian or not, the message is a good one: joy, giving, kindness, love–these are never bad things to celebrate.
It doesn’t matter if Santa is tangible or not. I’m not sure if I had it to do over if I would tell my children he was ‘real’, but I certainly would continue to perpetuate his myth, mystery and magic of this sweet and lovely holiday.