I’ve felt conflicted for some time about the role of Santa Claus in Christmas.
Here’s the source of my conflict. I love the magic of Christmas. I love that Santa embodies possibilities and dreams. I know there is a lot of symbolism that can be found in Santa’s story that further supports the true meaning of Christmas. But I hesitate to build him up too much with my boys. Maybe I’m over thinking things (a nasty habit of mine) but I worry about them confusing a perpetuated myth with a system of faith.
So when my boys ask about Santa I often deflect the question. “Oooh, I don’t know how his reindeer fly. What do you think?”
With this full conflict brewing in my mind, I was struck when my father-in-law very sincerely and even tenderly declared to my children that he still believes in Santa Claus. I was puzzled a bit, but soon I came to see Santa as he does.
I believe much of it goes back to the Christmas of 1980. My father-in-law had been out of work for a few months during that summer, and when he was finally able to find a job, it was one with very long hours and emotionally draining. On top of that, he was going to school on the weekends to open other options for employment. Their home was in a slow-motion renovation as they worked to add on to their two bedrooms that housed a family of eight. As Christmas approached, things were tight, to say the least. And then Santa appeared.
First, a letter arrived from the North Pole, indicating that the carpet for the living room in their addition was paid for as soon as they were ready to lay it. Then another came saying Santa had paid for some things my mother-in-law had ordered for their home. A third note arrived informing them that Santa would be visiting shortly before Christmas Eve with gifts for all six of the children.
My husband still vividly remembers that special visit. Sure enough, the man in red showed up at the door, with several garbage bags full of gifts. His parents were both crying and he remembers trying to figure out if this was a good thing or a bad thing. Another scan of the pile of presents and he quickly decided it was a good thing! It’s been in the years since that he has realized the actual magnitude of the events of that Christmas.
And it didn’t end there. Santas, both known and anonymous, sent envelopes of money to help with bills, renovation costs, and other necessities. It was the magic of Christmas, the possibilities of dreams being realized, of worries relieved.
It made me think again about when my children are ready for “The Santa Talk”. I think when they’re ready, I’ll tell them the story about their dad’s Christmas in 1980. We’ll talk about the opportunity they have not just to receive from Santa, but to be Santa for someone else. That Santa represents giving and service, but also the act of giving without calling attention to self.
And now, every time I hear – or even declare myself – that Santa is real, I know that it is in the hearts of those who love, who give without hope of reciprocity, and who serve in anonymity where he resides.
Top photo by alpeviolen.