I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it’s so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
So starts the famous editorial written by Francis P. Church 110 years ago this month. He goes on to say that little Virginia's friends are wrong. "They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age." It gives one pause to think what Mr. Church's reaction to the 21st century might be, were he here to see it. Is Santa Claus still real? Well, Newsweek hasn't yet proclaimed, "Santa is Dead", so I guess there's hope.
In my house, the controversy continues. My husband, a man of much romance but not an ounce of sentimentality, has decided to tell our daughter the truth about the Santa "myth",as he puts it. "There are plenty of other, more meaningful myths I want to raise her with," he proclaimed, although so far substitutions are not forthcoming. It should be noted that when Mr. Higgins learned the truth about Santa it was a traumatic event (insert your own instant analysis here). My own fact-finding about Santa was not only NOT traumatic, but is actually remembered fondly-a product of a childhood that is not known for many fond memories. In a nutshell, I read the truth about Santa in a fictional story in one of my mom's magazines. A young boy finds out about Santa, is disappointed but then learns about the true meaning of Christmas and responds by playing Santa himself. It wasn't award winning fiction and I can't really convey what it was that had such an impact on me. Perhaps it was the realization that my parents would go through such hard work to make me so happy and not take any credit for it. Especially since my siblings were so much older and I'm sure were threatened with their lives not to tell me. Whatever it was, the magic of Christmas never left me. Perhaps it's my fertile imagination. In 3rd grade, I wholeheartedly believed in Santa, gnomes and my parent's omniscience.What didn't I believe in? The Easter Bunny, Original Sin and my parent's veracity.
Somewhere in the Santa story is the essence of Christmas for me. Yeah, I know, it's a Christian holiday. It should be about the baby Jesus and all that. But if you read Church's entire response about Santa(and you should, it's a classic for a reason), it goes beyond Christmas and religion to the heart of what makes us human. "I still believe in the good of man" said Anne Frank. Sometimes, that seems as fanciful as Santa and his elves. Yet at work today, I saw a bunch of kids, who have access to the internet, Bratz dolls, Dr. Phil, and Youtube, in a word-kids who should know better-light up when they saw Santa. Santa the Biker came to our hospital this week and the kids went gaga. "It's a miracle!" one girl said, "Santa came in November!"
I think it's more than just the free toys. Most kids I know like the giving of Christmas, as well as the getting. When my eldest daughter was young, her school would have a day where the kids could go and buy cheap presents for their families. I'd give her $20 and you would have thought she was the luckiest girl in the world, able to buy presents all on her own without any parental input. And homemade presents? "I made it!" they shout proudly. If you've never been the recipient of small lump of clay decorated with garish stones and feathers and presented to you as a "paperweight", you are poor indeed.
I don't know where this leaves us with Santa at our house. My husband is still convinced that most people are disillusioned when they learn the truth about Santa. I'd love to hear your stories. I'd also like to win an argument in my house for once. So, if you want to tell your own Santa story, please leave it in the comments section. As for my little one, if she's anything like her parents, I have a feeling she's going to believe in whatever she wants to believe in.