The upstairs hallway trembled with energy Christmas night: remote helicopters battling for aerial dominance, shiny toothbrushes awaiting their maiden voyage and Miss Mary literally bouncing off the walls. Sweet Gabriel folded himself into my lap and nestling his silky head under my chin sighed, “I love Christmas. I love Santa. I love you Mom.”
One of my older boys muttered, “Santa/Mom– one and the same.” Shooting him a fierce silencing glare, I tucked my littlest boy into bed before confronting the Spoiler.
“Gabriel has just a few more years of believing,” I implored, “one or two and then it’s over. Let him enjoy the magic.”
Surprising both of us, embarrassing tears slid down his cheeks(he is a big boy– but it was Christmas and late and a day filled with sugar and long hours of play) as he lamented, “Someone told me when I was only six. I wish they hadn’t. I wish I’d had more years of Santa.”
So I pulled his head under my chin and wiped errant tears while he promised to be a believer, to keep the magic for Gabriel and Mary.
Children want to believe. They welcome Santa and leprechauns, fairies and rabbits delivering colored eggs. And while I’m simply not responsible enough to pull off the tooth fairy and find the Easter Bunny ridiculous, I fully embrace old Kris Kringle.
Because here’s the truth: St. Nicholas lived(271-342 A.D.). He brought sweets and toys to children– and maybe he doesn’t slide down the chimney on Christmas Eve these days but our stockings are filled and the wish list of George at the rest home and the Sudanese family who prayed for socks, underwear and warm boots. Santa came.
Yes, I’ve heard the arguments that Santa represents the crass commercialization of Christ’s birth but I believe he represents the best in all of us– generous, open giving with no desire for thanks or recognition. Our city hosts a Sub-for-Santa program and what could be more Christlike? We step in for Santa just as we step in for Jesus Christ– “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
In just a few years my little ones will stop looking for signs of flower fairies and they’ll laugh at my insistence that leprechauns bear the fault for my messy pantry. And then, slowly, silently, their belief in flying reindeer, happy elves and the man in red filling their stocking will slip away.* But the spirit of Santa, of love, of hope, of magic and miracles– I pray it stays forever.
*Clearly, it’s wrong to want another baby just to keep the magic in the house, but really isn’t that as good a reason as any?