After the Fact--About Santa Claus


After the Fact--About Santa Claus

I loved this note at Minute Particulars, so reasoned and quietly stated. Until I had children I swore that I would have nothing of the Santa-thing in my house. And still, we do not decorate with Santa or encourage him overtly in our Christmastime musings. But having a child really does put a different spin on matters, and my present spin is not so much to discourage Samuel from believing, but to try to see what he sees and believe what he is actually believing. That is to say, in some remote way, I think the story of Santa taps into the understanding that the world is not the mundane place empiricists would have us believe. The sheer joy of expectation from beyond is a lesson we could all do well to internalize.

I suppose this is a way of saying that living with a little one helps put one in touch once again with those hopes, fears, and simple joys that come when the world is not all flat and decided, all sharp edges, corners, and spiny areas. For me, I have come to believe once again in Santa Claus, who is, after all, merely a personification of the virtues of generosity and gratitude. Thus, in a very real way, Santa Claus is real and promotes real values long after reality intrudes. Yes, eventually children will understand that there is no "physical Santa Claus" but at that time they are ready for the news that nevertheless he exists in hearts and minds attuned to God's Holy Spirit. Generosity, gratitude, self-sacrifice, and benevolence exist in all who call upon the name of Jesus and in that name they will grow.

No, I've chosen my battles, and it is the Easter Bunny whom I adamantly oppose. In my household we do have Peter Cottontail, harbinger of spring who arrives along about the vernal equinox to announce the change of seasons (although here in Florida, Mr. Cottontail can be seen at just about any time you care to name). This year he may even arrive with a basket of goodies, but he has nothing whatsoever to do with Easter.

I guess I believe that these old stories, even after exposed as "untrue," helped to put me in touch with the realities that lie behind the physical world. I have been able to put aside the empiricism demanded of the intellect and engage in the understanding that things lie beyond, behind, and beneath what is seen on the surface. The belief in the supernatural is an absolute essential for those who will learn to love Jesus Christ.

I understand that many will disagree, but I will point out that several, perhaps many generations of children have been raised with the belief in Father Christmas, Santa Claus, or some other Christmastime entity, and the vast majority of these children have come to no harm through these simple beliefs. If they had, they would have eschewed them themselves in subsequent generations. There is something that speaks to all of us in these stories, and when we tell them, we are transformed. They are no more lies than the tales of Odysseus or the Märchen of the Brother's Grimm. They embody a necessary and salutary truth, a joy and an exuberance that as adults we tend to have had pounded out of us. That joyful expectation of a visit is indeed what we should all be experiencing as we go to Mass throughout the season of Christmas--remembering the incarnation and looking forward to the time when Christ will return. A child's view and love of Santa Claus is a window into this mystery for us. (Or so I have found for myself.)

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on December 26, 2002 10:26 AM.

Intercalary Days I see many was the previous entry in this blog.

On Aquinas as Spiritual Reading is the next entry in this blog.

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