No kidding. I really do.
I didn’t used to. I remember, as a child, seeing a Sears price tag on a Christmas present and wondering whether Santa did all his shopping via catalogue. In fact, I can’t remember ever really believing as a kid. Some people have very traumatic memories of when they discovered harsh so-called “truths” – my mother recalls the very moment her Christmas dreams were crushed all around her. So she never pushed Santa on us too hard, and maybe that’s why I was always pretty fuzzy on the Santa motif.
My own children are now going through the process. We’re pretty sure that Cleta, our precocious 10-year-old teenager, has a more practical approach to Christmas than she used to have. And our six-year-old twins are hardcore believers. Two-year-old Stalliondo likes to eat Christmas cards, so I’m not sure where he is on the whole thing.
It’s Chloe, the eight-year-old, who seems to be struggling this year.
While we were unpacking the Christmas decorations, she stumbled on a note that Santa had left for the kids a few years ago that we’d saved. “This is Dad’s handwriting,” she observed, and Mrs. Cornell was quick to spirit the letter away. I assured her that the epistle was truly written by Santa and was quick to point out that my own handwriting is almost always illegible, so she must have been mistaken.
Anyway, yesterday, as the kids were cleaning the basement and/or hurling bloodchilling invectives at each other, Chloe, consumed with fury, spat out acidic words at six-year-old Corbin, concluding with the announcement “Santa’s not real!”
My heart sank, until I saw that Corbin was completely unfazed by this. “Yes, he is,” he answered back simply, with just a touch of smugness. “How else would we get all the presents?” Before Chloe could offer an alternative hypothesis, I intervened and sent her to her room.
When Mrs. Cornell heard about this, she told Chloe that Santa doesn’t bring presents to people who don’t believe in him. So Chloe, at least nominally, is a believer once again. (To her credit, when all this was going down, skeptic Cleta didn’t say a blessed word.)
I’m a believer, too, and not just in name only. I became a believer when I became a parent, one who works furiously all night long on Christmas Eve to make sure that Santa’s visit goes perfectly. If Santa himself were there giving orders, things wouldn’t go any more according to his plan than they already do.
In every organization, the person at the top gets the credit. People talk about companies that are “saved” or “ruined” by their chief executives, or about the accomplishments or failures of any given U.S. President. The reality is that all the work – or lack thereof – is done by the people in the trenches, and the guy in charge does little more than offer direction. Parents everywhere do everything they can to ensure that Santa’s ideal for a perfect Christmas comes to life in their own home. People don’t do things like that for leaders that don’t exist. They’re only loyal to things when there’s something very real at the core of it all.
I don’t want to get into Santa theology – his corporeality, for instance, or the geography of his factory, or the aerodynamics of flying reindeer. None of that matters much. What matters is what happens on Christmas morning, when the still-believing young’uns see what Santa has brought them, along with a plate of cookies with just a few crumbs left.
Why should the parents take credit for that?
Santa Claus allows grown-ups to fulfill the injunction of Christ, when he says:
“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”
That’s a true principle. More importantly, it’s real. And that’s why I believe. I’m not interested in living in a world without Santa Claus.