Parental thoughts on Santa Claus.

There are a series of questions that make parents share a collective cringe. “Where do babies come from?” “Did you ever try {insert questionable/illegal/poor choice here}?" And often the first in the series: “Is there really a Santa Claus?”

My suggestion is to answer your children’s Santa Claus questions with hard-hitting evidence.

So when they ask the questions, here are some answers…

Is there a Santa Claus? Well, look around… can you see him? Well, yes, he is everywhere. He is smiling from cards and TV shows. You can mail him a letter. He has multiple websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts. These are very “real” things.

The U.S. Postal service, a government agency, collects mail for him. The Marines, our most elite military force, assists Santa with the collection and delivery of toys. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) mission taken straight from their website is "a United States and Canada bi-national organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. Aerospace warning includes the monitoring of man-made objects in space, and the detection, validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles, through mutual support arrangements with other commands.” This agency tracks Santa Claus every Christmas Eve. You can watch him as he spans the globe from Australia to your hometown.

Santa certainly has some very important government agencies vouching for him and his existence.

Your child may press further; “I know but is he REALLY real?”

Again, let’s examine the question.

The alleged myth of Santa is that he is a jolly, benevolent fellow who dispenses good will in the form of toys, video games, and clothing to good boys and girls. He apparently does all of this on Christmas Eve. It seems impossible.

However, during the Christmas season, gifts do appear as if by magic. Every Christmas morning there is a global phenomenon. Millions, possibly billions of children wake up, and there are toys waiting for them. On a single eve, billions of toys are distributed to billions of children. That is real. Every year, for hundreds of years. Real, but pretty magical at the same time.

Your kids may argue: “Yes, but that is regular people, not “Santa!’”

Regular people? “Regular” seems to be suspended during the month of December. How does it happen that there are cookies in the fruit bowl, and twinkling lights on all the trees? What happened to the strict parents who complain about money and gas bills? Why are they at the mall and shooing kids away from the computer? Why do parents who moan about clutter and messes take boxes filled with decorations down from the attic and decorate every possible inch of the house? What is happening to everybody? Where have all the regular people gone? What is making everybody act this way… or maybe I should ask “who” is making everybody act this way? Who is allegedly in command of Christmas cheer? Who allegedly has a legion of “elves” that are part of the Christmas Operation? Check your parents' ears… they look a little pointy lately.

The kids may press: “That is just your family!”  “And nobody has ever even met Santa Claus!”

I think I met him once… a long time ago, when Ben and Max were only five and three years old, we wanted to walk downtown to meet my best friend, Kate. Our plan was to get a hot chocolate and a gingerbread cookie at Perks, and then look at the Christmas lights. A simple, and relatively inexpensive plan. After we met I went to the bank next door to take money out of the ATM. I can’t remember if the machine was out of order, or the account of a newly single Mom was out of money, but I had to descend the stairs and tell the boys and Kate that there was no money for hot chocolate. 

As I said this, a man walked up to me and said, “Oh no Mom! There is always money for hot chocolate.” He winked and placed a folded bill in my hand. I tried to refuse, and said, “Oh, sir, thank you, but I can’t…” He smiled at me, and winked again. As he (in his red coat) turned the corner, I opened my hand and saw a fifty-dollar bill.

Kate said, "Oh my… did you know that guy?"

I replied, “I have no idea who he was…”

Max looked up and matter-of-factly said, “Santa.”

That is a one hundred percent true story. And after hot chocolate there was money left over for some Legos.

Maybe that is something to believe, that there is somebody good, and kind, and generous, and we should believe in that person. We should believe in goodness all year long, and most especially at Christmas. Santa reminds us of this.

One of my nieces, who recently reached the age of “non-believer,” said it was just “the science” of the whole myth. She couldn’t bring herself to believe in flying reindeer and the simultaneous, worldwide arrival of a single person. 

There do seem to be some holes in the story. I can’t vouch for flying reindeer, but I bring it back to the observational and anecdotal evidence.

The gifts appear. The houses sparkle. Strangers buy gifts for people they will never meet. We gather our families. We slow down. We make cookies. We smile more. We give more.

Maybe it is a man in red. Maybe it is a tiny baby in a manger; maybe it is celebrating the passing of another year. Maybe we’ll never know for sure. Because it is magic, and sometimes with magic, you just never know for sure. The illusion is the best part. Falling for the trick, believing in something you can’t exactly see or figure out. That’s what makes it special. 

If there is a collective “trick” that makes us all better, that makes us love more, and give more, and appreciate more, then why on earth would we ever stop believing?

So, I just smile and don’t say much about Santa Claus. Each year the evidence presents itself. Each year magic arrives, and lingers all December long. When your children ask, let them discover what they will about Santa Claus. Eat a brownie for breakfast with your kids. Put a Christmas tree in your living room. Buy a goofy inflatable snowman and put it on your front lawn. Buy a gift and donate it to Toys for Tots, and maybe your children will begin to believe again, but in something slightly different.

Shannon Macdonald December 12, 2011 at 10:35 PM
This is so beautifully written and so well done. You are truly gifted, Colleen.
Eileen Kennedy December 13, 2011 at 12:09 AM
Colleen you always make me smile!!! Thank you for another great article. Ps- Any chance that the "Santa" handing out $50's can make his way to Scituate?? :)
Kiersten Barry December 13, 2011 at 03:28 AM
I think I read this three or four times today and still at a loss for words, still getting chills. You captured the magic and the truth perfectly. It is times like this I wish there was a way to hear an audio of the story. More than well done my friend. Thank you, I will read this over, and over...and over.
Tim Davis December 13, 2011 at 08:50 AM
Wonderful Column!
Delia Bartucca December 13, 2011 at 01:50 PM
always a great story, you are a great mom. If I don't see you have a Merry Christmas with your beautiful family. Love, Mimi


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