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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Believing in Santa

 Every year as we approach the holidays I start to see a flurry of anti-Santa sentiment. Particularly as a parent I see people advocating no Santa for children, because they believe we should not lie to our kids. Santa, they say, is a fraud, a fiction perpetrated on kids by adults who are doing some great disservice, some lasting psychological harm, by convincing kids that he exists. These people advocate a Santa-less holiday and a cold reality for kids as a better option; I don’t begrudge them their worldview or beliefs, truly, but I think that perspective is overlooking the value of Santa.

I have a confession to make: I still believe in Santa. I never stopped believing, actually. Not in a physical man in a red suit who lands on my roof and delivers tangible gifts made by elves, no, but in a seasonal spirit that moves this time of year, inspiring joy and generosity. I think that the mistake that is sometimes made is to portray – and expect – Santa to be a physical person, when we generally understand other spirits as having a more ethereal nature. Of course the expectation of Santa Claus as a real flesh-and-blood person disappoints, but an understanding of him as a holiday spirit that transcends physical boundaries doesn’t.
Santa is a spirit with many guises and many names. He appears around the world in ways that resonate most strongly with the culture he is in, but always with a similar message. The people who are stingy, mean, and cold-hearted are punished in some way, while the generous, kind, and good hearted are rewarded. Usually offerings are made, either to Santa directly or of food to his reindeer, horse, or other pack animal (depending on what that tradition says he travels with). In return Santa brings gifts and spreads holiday spirit, a feeling of generosity and joy that can live in all our hearts.
Santa is the spirit of the season: he is the joy of the lights and the decorated tree, the warm feeling of giving and receiving, the magic of believing in the goodness of people. As long as any of us believe in Santa he will exist. As long as we believe that it is possible for people to give without looking for reward he will exist. As long as there is some part of us that still feels joy at seeing lights dancing in the darkness, and the hope that is promised by a new year, he will exist. I cannot imagine a world without Santa, and I believe our world would be a poorer place without his yearly visit.

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