What do you believe?
Christmas is a magical time filled with cheer, good wishes and benevolent feelings toward others. We buy presents for each other and look forward to exchanging them with family and friends. We busily hustle about trying to prepare for holiday visits. We bake and cook and shop and eat. We schedule Christmas parties and buy presents to exchange, but do we ever stop to think about why?
Christmas means different things to different people. Like other holidays such as Easter and Halloween, Christmas is a Christian celebration that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ but the celebration itself has influences from pre-Christian traditions. Saturnalia was a Roman holiday in which exchanging gifts played a major role while the Yule log has Germanic origin.
Yet all of these along with Christmas carols, the Christmas tree and decorations have all merged with the festival of Christmas to create the holiday we know and love. Christmas as a national holiday was only recognized as such in 1870. Prior to that it was primarily a religious holiday which was acknowledged but not necessarily observed in the secular world.
One hallmark of Christmas is Santa Claus. Santa or St. Nicholas or Sinterklaas depending on your background is the magical elf that brings presents to the nice girls and boys on the feast of Christmas. He has a sleigh with eight reindeer (Or nine if you count Rudolph).
I believe in Santa Claus even now. I see the magic worked in the eyes of my daughter as she receives her special gifts from Santa. Not just in her eyes, but the appreciation is universal to every child who believes in Santa. As we grow though, society has this insidious desire to remove childhood dreams and imagination replacing it with cold, depressing reality. Who says we cannot believe in Santa and the meaning of Christmas.
If you have problems believing, Santa understands. We cannot get caught up in the details of Santa as an excuse to dismiss the wonder of the holiday. Everyone needs Santa. That childhood innocence he brings helps to keep us young and provides for us the opportunity to relive that joy each year.
At the very least, it is fun to sit and remember those childhood memories of visiting Santa, sitting on his lap and revealing your innermost desires. Later you find those precious gifts under the tree and marvel at how they arrived and when he brought them. I can remember the year we asked for bicycles and the excitement of waiting for Christmas to come. We eagerly went over to wake up our parents in order to get them to let us open our presents.
The magic and wonder they experienced in watching us see the tree with its gifts from Santa for the first time each years was mystical in a way, yet it is not something fully appreciated until you experience it with your own children. It's my turn now to wait with camera in hand at the bottom of the steps for Kathryn to come and see what Santa did in his annual visit. Last year was the first time Kathryn really understood what Santa does and I think this is the first year she is actually anticipating his visit to our house.
People ask where Santa is. They need to let go of adult conceptions and just look into the eyes of a child on Christmas morning. Santa is there in the love shown in living rooms throughout the country. Santa is in the twinkle of the eye of a child as they treasure the experience of the day whether it is a special present left for them or the crumbs left behind from the cookies Santa ate for a snack during his busy night.
Santa never leaves us. Some of us may leave him sometimes, but if we open our hearts to the wonder and magic of Christmas he is always there. Even though he sometimes needs the help of us parents, the jolly old elf of the North lives on forever as long as our culture exists. Santa should remind us to be kind toward others, always be on our best behavior and give from the heart as that is what counts the most.
Although the holiday is here to celebrate Jesus' birth and the start of his mission to save us from sin, Santa has a place as well to remind us to be generous and giving. They make quite a pair and I will believe in Santa as long as I live. What about you? Santa will never leave us as long as we remember the magic of Christmas and pass its joys and secrets forward. It doesn't hurt to believe in him.
Try it. Take some time and enjoy the holidays as you did when you were younger. With wonder and joy.
Til next time…