Katherine asked a question the other day and I’m not sure I handled it all that well. It has been a somewhat crazy fall for all three of us and Christmas sort of snuck up on us. When we went out to eat a couple of weeks ago, my mind wasn’t on the holidays at all when she asked, “Is Santa really real?”
There was a deafening thud as the silence hit the table and John and I scrambled to find the right words for something that is actually extremely important to us both. It wasn’t until today, when I was at a store and John’s cousin asked if Katherine was excited about Christmas that I realized how hard her question had hit me and how worried I was about my response.
When you’re staring at a child who is rapidly becoming an adult before your eyes, trying to convey the importance of both growing up, but also of keeping lifelong that part of you that believes in Christmas and Santa is really tricky. It’s a delicate balance between incredible facts like flying reindeer and belief in Good, which has less to do with fact and more to do with faith and belief in your own power to make it so.
You see, both of us still do actually believe in Santa. Maybe not specifically in a large man in a red suit, but we believe in what he symbolizes and we hold fast to the magic of Christmas, the sparkle of lights, the magic of coming out in the wee hours of the morning and seeing the tree resplendent with ornaments, lights and presents, stockings filled, and the scotch gone and only crumbs left from the cookies. What we believe in is the power of love between people who both understand the need for the other to experience joy and wonder and to be cared for and treasured.
Every year each of us has stockings filled and they appear like magic sometime late on Christmas Eve. Every year there is a real tree, an adventure to get the tree, hot chocolate and cookies after the trip into the woods, the wrestling with the lights. Every year we open boxes of ornaments together and say, “oh do you remember this one on Grandma’s tree?” or “You gave me this one the first year we were together!” or “Oh this is your ornament from when you were a baby…” And we decorate the tree into the night and stare a little amazed at how the bits and baubles gathered over many lifetimes as far back as great-grandparents congregate here in this moment, how the lights catch the colours and memories and transfix them in our minds.
I’m 42 and I believe in Christmas a little more every year because every year I have more Christmases inside me.
But how do you tell a 14 year old that Christmas as children see it is only a faint shadow of the reality? How do you tell her that it’s more than the man in the red suit, that the Christmas spirit that children see is the beginning of the story? That now her part in it has changed and will grow as she does? How do you tell her that your own Christmas grew exponentially when she became a part of it?
Katherine, this is what I know.
Every year that you get older, you will get wiser.
You will get stronger.
You will become more capable.
As you grow, your capacity for joy and love increases if you let it.
You will meet more people and they will touch your life, your heart and your mind and you will touch theirs. Every person with whom you genuinely connect with will increase you.
As you grow you have the chance and choice to use your unique gifts to spread joy and help other people. Sometimes this will be at Christmas, but much of the time it will be small things thought the year. Christmas is a time when this force is focussed and people pay attention to each other; the magic of Christmas is in its ability to focus our hearts on giving and warmth, on lights in the darkness and time spent in good company.
The magic of Santa is really in the choices you make and the way you bring your own amazingness to the world and how other people’s lives are made better by your presence.
I believe in Santa Claus because I believe in the good people close to me, what they bring to my life, and what I give to theirs.
When you’re a child you learn about the joy that giving brings from the recipient’s end when Santa comes. This is to prepare you for the greater gift; that as an adult, you’ll learn the joy that your presence in the world can bring to those whom you love and those who need you.
You get to become Santa Claus and what he represents grows because you strengthen him.
It’s real, Katherine. It’s really real.