Every Christmas season I wonder, Is this going to be the year?
No, not the year my wife says in all sincerity, “OMG, it’s just what I wanted!” Not the year I’ll look out the window and see one of those enormous bows sitting in my driveway.
Is this going to be the year that no daughter of mine asks, Is Santa real?
Now my daughters are 11 and 8, so the days of sitting on Santa’s lap in a mall are long gone, and so are their tears of terror and our promises to ourselves to never do that again. But I’ve been blessed with daughters who are holding on to innocence, whose nod to growing older is a zippy little, “Best wishes to you and the missus!” at the close of her Santa note.
Every year we lay out the cookies, a glass of milk, and a few small carrots for the reindeer. We assume that reindeer do in fact eat carrots, because the plate is clean when we come down in the morning. Every year we spend Christmas eve on noradsanta.org, tracking St. Nick as he goes on his rounds. And every year, one of them asks, Is Santa real?
I love this question. I hate lying to my kids, so I don’t. I look them square in the eyes and say, Yes, Santa is real.
Right now, both of you who read this blog are splitting your verdict. One of you thinks, That man just lied to his children one sentence after he said he doesn’t. He’s a horrible, horrible man. The other one just nods knowingly, with that look on his face.
I’m not sure if Christopher Hitchens would have agreed with my logic, but the way I see it, how can Santa not be real? What other explanation is there for the generosity of spirit and pocketbook that takes residence in so many people all over the world at winter solstice time?
I used to wonder myself if Santa was real. Research told me that Nicholas, patron saint of pickpockets and pawnbrokers, among other folks, was beloved for the gifts he dropped into the windows of the needy. And I knew that there were some concerns about the casual morality associated with some solstice celebrations when December 25 was identified as the day of Jesus’ birth.
These details made me feel wise once. How foolish.
After I realized that Santa was in fact real, I was able to clearly explain to Emma and Kate that relatives and friends, and even Mommy and Daddy, give them Christmas presents, inspired by the gifts that Santa gives to them. Last year, they were happiest with the one gift that kept on giving.
That gift was a Donors Choose card, which Mommy got for them at donorschoose.org. On Christmas Day, they went onto the computer and scrolled through the different projects they could support. Both chose to give money to inner city teachers to support projects they were trying to fund for the kids in their classes. They made their donation, wrote a note of moral support, and followed the projects online as they developed.
When I was a kid, my baseball mitt could fall apart in August and I knew I’d have to wait until Christmas to get a new one. My kids, well, let’s just say that last month Kate wanted the Mario Kart steering wheel and driving game for the Wii, and she’s already an expert on it.
So yeah, we do live in a time when we tend to buy stuff without waiting for the big day, and maybe we’re nervous that such a habit will cultivate consumerism rather than the virtues of patience and piety. But when the enthusiasm for giving to children they don’t know oozes from my children, when the work of giving takes such firm foothold in the actions of so many students I teach, I know that there’s something good in all of us that wants to give maybe even more than it wants to receive.
It’s Santa Claus. He’s real.
As for me, all I want for Christmas is a happy, healthy family.
And maybe an iPad.
Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah to both my readers. See you next week.