When I was 8 years old I heard something in the living room after everyone had gone to bed, and for one more year I believed in him.
I spent a good portion of today wrapping presents: gifts for nephews and nieces, siblings, parents, and fiancées. When it was all done, and I had cleaned up the extra paper, I looked at the gifts all stacked together. In that moment I remembered a time when I truly believed that not all gifts came from Mom and Dad, but also from a magical old man who wished for me and the other children of the world to have extra happiness on Christmas. I recall the sense of wonder on Christmas Eve as I imagined Santa flying all over that strange world I knew so little about, and feeling that tingle of joy at the thought of him stopping at my house. Every Christmas morning I found evidence of his fantastic visitation. Always there were a few presents from Santa – the real Santa.
I was never told directly that Santa wasn’t a real person. That fact came gradually as I came to understand the world in which I inhabited. For sure, it didn’t help that my siblings were significantly older and far beyond their child-like belief. Perhaps they did little to reinforce the story or assure me that my doubts were unfounded. My young peers would discuss whether or not the jolly old elf actually existed, and it became increasingly difficult to believe.
How could he do it all in one night?
What about poor children?
What about kids who don’t celebrate Christmas?
What about houses that don’t have chimneys?
The questions mounted, and belief gave way to reason. At the tender age of 7, Santa ceased to exist. That is, until Christmas Eve the following year.
When I was 8 years old I heard something in the living room after everyone had gone to bed, and for one more year I believed in him. I opened my door to see if my parents were out there, but they seemed to be fast asleep. The living room was filled with presents along with that special joy found only on Christmas. Perhaps Santa did exist. At that moment I decided that I would believe in the man once again. It wasn’t the kind of evidence that would hold up in court, but for an 8 year old longing to believe, it was all the proof I needed. The real Santa was alive.
Now I buy the gifts, and I see behind the scenes. Santa is me, and he is you. He is a symbol for giving and kindness. To some he is a mere secular distraction— a myth perpetuated by corporations and parents looking for another way to keep their kids in line. To others he is a harmless holiday icon. But who cares what we think? Santa isn’t real to us.
We would do well to ask the children who the real Santa is.