The week before last, my eleven-year-old son asked the dreaded question, ‘Is there really a Santa Claus?’
A friend of his at school had said he didn’t believe in Father Christmas because ‘it’s just your parents bringing you presents.’
My boy looked up at me. ‘It’s not you bringing us the presents, is it?’
I stared into his eyes.
I explained I was doing my bit to uphold a tradition in our family which dated back in time. The original mythology of the big guy delivering ‘small gifts to good children’ comes from St. Nicholas or “Bishop Nicholas.” He was one of the most popular saints in all Christendom, especially in the East. He is said to have been a bishop of Myra (Lycia) in the early 4th century. He was related to doing good works.
Bishop Nicholas dropped three bags of gold down the chimney of a starving family, so the story goes, and the story of his kindness (one of many in his lifetime) spread. People everywhere grabbed onto the idea and began to hang stockings by the fire; in the hope Bishop Nicholas would visit them with his “magical gifts” in the night. Something about this idea caught hold in the human consciousness and took root.
As Brian Conway said, “A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world.”
I thought this is the key time to talk about magic and those things that are beyond our ability to explain, before his facility to grasp the ethereal, the subtle is lost. The whole magic of Christmas, to me, lies in the power of possibility thinking. Anything can happen and probably will. That’s where the magic lives, in that gap we create with our minds, by saying, ‘what if?’
I asked, ‘Have you heard of the famous letter, ‘Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus?’
There’s a famous post from the column of Francis P. Church, who wrote for The Sun, in 1897.
The story goes that a girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor. She said, “Dear Editor, I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?”
Francis Church wrote in reply ~
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be seen which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.”
“In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
“He exists as truly as love and generosity and devotion exist.
(photography, Tracey Henderson)
“How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.
“There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
“Not believe in Santa Claus? You might as well not believe in fairies! The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.
“Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.
“Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in this entire world there is nothing else more real and abiding.
“A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
My son smiled. He asked, ‘Was it you bringing our gifts all these years?’
‘I still believe.’
Talk to you later.
Yvette K. Carol
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. ~ Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
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