The Real Santa Claus
As a young child Santa Claus is very important. The magic that comes once a year during the holidays brings a new life to the world that is not felt otherwise. Santa embodies wonder and awe. He fills hearts with joy and anticipation. Imagining how he accomplishes his magic and believing in him is one of the greatest experiences of life. If only it could be carried all the way through. Upon the realization that Santa is not what he is made out to be a great disappointment sets in. Life is not what you thought it was. Magic disappears too soon.
There are three types of kids when it comes to Santa Claus. Those that believe, those that don’t, and those that are trying to understand. What is the story of these three groups of kids?
A young boy lived in this area twenty years ago. He changed how the world understands magic. Here is his story.
The Christmas season was upon everyone once again. Decorations were hung and Christmas music filled the air. Songs were sung of old Saint Nick and how he was watching to see if children were being naughty or nice. Everyone seemed to walk with a skip in their step and more smiles could be seen than at any other time of the year.
Tom loved the holidays. He loved the celebration of life. He loved the chatter of what was to come and most of all he loved the anticipation of what the magical man from the north might bring. He could feel magic in the air, it seemed to dance on his skin. He tingled at the very thought of it floating mysteriously around him. He loved knowing there was more in this world than he could see. He loved the idea of someone flying through the skies delivering presents to the world. He wanted to join jolly old Saint Nick in his sleigh. He wanted to be a part of the adventure. He dreamed of traveling the world to give out presents to children everywhere.
But not all was well this year. Grumbling could be heard through cracks in doors. Faint whispers carried on the breeze. Whispers that not all was well. Some of the older kids at school were speaking against Santa Claus. They were saying he didn’t exist, that he was only a story, a lie made up to fool children into obedience. Tom wondered about what was being said. He wondered why these kids would say Santa Claus wasn’t real. Wasn’t there proof that he was real? Didn’t everyone get presents under the tree every Christmas morning? Didn’t they see him at the mall every year? How could they doubt what was right in front of their faces? Santa was real because the proof was there. How could the whole world conspire to mislead all the children into believing something that wasn’t true? He knew his parents would never do something like that.
He knew Santa was real and nothing they said could change his mind. Tom didn’t like what the older kids were saying so he decided to stay away from them. From then on, he only played with kids who believed as he did. He found comfort and joy in sharing the excitement of Christmas with them, just like in the songs. All was well, and magic continued to brighten his life. Then, one day in school, his teacher was talking about how big the world was and how many people lived in it. He learned that not everyone in the world celebrated Christmas like he did. He learned that when it was winter where he lived it was summer where other children lived. He wondered about this and started to question how Santa could visit everyone in one night.
A few weeks later he and his family went shopping for presents at the mall. Great displays and decorations hung all around him. In the middle of the mall a magnificent winter setting surrounded a seat that sat high above everything else. On the seat he could see Santa himself, talking to children standing in a long line to sit on his lap one at a time. Tom and his brother begged to go sit on his lap and so their mother allowed. He knew he was going to see the real Santa, he knew it with his whole heart. When it was his turn he excitedly sat on the king of Christmas’s lap and was asked what he would like for Christmas. As he answered he looked into Santa’s face and saw a strange thing. At the edge of his beard were stitches. Stitches? Tom wondered why there would be stitches, he thought it very strange. Why would Santa have stitches on his beard like Tom had stitches on his clothes? Tom asked his mom and she said that so many children needed to talk to Santa that he needed help and that he could not possibly visit them all himself, and so he had helpers, who wore Santa beards, to go to all the children in all the cities.
Tom had been wrong. He did not see the real Santa like he knew he would. He wondered at what his mom had said, that Santa could not visit all the children himself. A couple weeks passed and Tom forgot his thoughts and enjoyed the spirit that was in the air. He enjoyed saying Merry Christmas to all he passed. He enjoyed exchanging gifts at family parties, and he enjoyed the celebrations at church and school. He continued to ignore the older children but, he wondered, maybe there was a hint of truth to what they said? It did seem impossible that Santa could visit every house in the world in one night. After all, it wasn’t the real Santa at the mall like he thought. He was so sure before, but now he doubted. Not everything was what he thought. Why would his mom say it was Santa but then change her story when Tom saw the stitching?
Tom didn’t like the questions. He didn’t like doubting that Santa was real, and so he decided that he would believe. With that decision his unrest was gone and joy returned. The holiday season was magical again and joy filled his heart. Christmas soon came. It was wonderful and just as magical as ever. He and his brother woke up to dozens of beautifully wrapped presents laid neatly under the tree. The cookies had been eaten and the milk drunk. See, he said to himself, Santa is real. They played with their new toys all day and that night he took his favorite one to bed. He fell asleep with a smile on his face and joy in his heart.
When the holidays were over and all the children went back to school they told each other about all the wonderful toys they had received from Santa. As he talked with his friends Tom noticed that some of the other children didn’t get very many toys, and some got a lot. After thinking about it he wondered if the children were either poorly behaved or extremely well behaved. That is what the songs said. If you behaved well, you received gifts. If you behaved poorly you received coal. But he had never known anyone to receive coal and thought it must just be a saying. Coal must represent the idea of bad behavior, and the reality must be that kids who behave badly get fewer toys, but some of his friends who received fewer toys were the kindest and most well-behaved kids he knew, while some of the kids that received more toys were the bad-behaved ones.
This seemed strange to Tom. Why would Santa give some children more and others less? Why were the songs and stories wrong about the coal? Time went on and he forgot about his questions and enjoyed school, church, and home.
Spring passed and school let out for summer break. Tom enjoyed each day of summer and was seldom bored. Before he knew it, it was time to go back to school. More time passed and the Christmas season soon returned. He was a little older now and he remembered how all the older kids from last year had talked about Santa not being real. He remembered his old questions and knew it was time to find out for himself. He payed close attention to everything that was said about Santa. He listened to all the songs and all the stories. He thought and thought about everything he knew, and about everything he had seen. He thought about how Santa might be able to get into all the homes in the world, and realized he didn’t believe he could. Everyone said Santa used magic, but Tom wasn’t sure he believed in magic anymore. He thought about how Santa didn’t visit children in every country. He thought about how many of the stories about Santa were different, and how what he was being told kept changing. About how Santa knew if you were good or naughty, or that parents only told him. About hoe he used magic but that he needed help. About how elves made the toys in the North Pole but his presents were from the store. He thought about all this and more.
He looked at all the pictures of Santa Clause and noticed little differences between them. He noticed how his friend’s families all celebrated Christmas in their own way. He asked his older brother if he believed in Santa and that when he said he did his eyes told a different story. The confidence in his voice was gone and had been replaced by something he would not share. When his brother answered he seemed to be saying he was in on a big secret that Tom was not a part of. That, more than anything, made Tom start to question if Santa really was real.
He paid attention to words like joy, giving, and love. He noticed how they were used more during the holidays than ever before. He noticed that families spent more time together, that there was more giving. He saw how the little children played as if nothing else in the world mattered. He saw how much joy filled them in everything they did and how they gave no thought to anything other than what they were doing. He thought about how wonderful life was and how great the holidays were. He thought about how it brought people together and how it was different from the rest of the year. He thought about the idea of Santa Clause, and wondered if he wasn’t real why everyone would say he was.
Finally, he sat down with his dad and told him that he didn’t believe in Santa any more. His father admitted that Santa was not real and asked Tom if he wanted to be a part of the tradition of setting out presents for his younger brother. He was surprised that his father admitted so readily that Santa wasn’t real. He was surprised that his father would let him be a part of the tradition. But he accepted and that night he helped set presents under the tree. His mom and dad pulled the presents out of a large bag and handed them to him as he took great care in his new responsibility to lay them in neat rows. Soon it was time for his presents and so his parents sent him to bed while they finished.
That night he lay there thinking about the experience and noticed his joy had changed. He thought about the excitement of opening his presents the next morning, but noticed he was more excited to see his brother open his presents. Since he had helped place his brothers presents under the tree he found more excitement in the idea of giving than he did in the idea of receiving.
Christmas had changed for him. The magic he had known was gone, but it had been replaced by a new magic, the magic of a long-held family tradition and the sharing of joy through giving presents. Christmas morning came and went. All the children opened their presents and spent the day playing with them. Tom loved watching his little brother more than he enjoyed playing with his own toys.
Later that day he went to his father and said, “Dad, you’re wrong, Santa is real. He’s just not what I thought he was.” His father asked him what he meant and he told him that everyone that gives a gift becomes Santa, and that Santa isn’t a person but an idea. He told his father how Santa is a symbol of charity and love. He realized, as he told his father, that these ideas are sometimes difficult to understand, and to help children a symbol that communicates the idea of love and charity must be created. The symbol is Santa Claus. Just because the man Santa Claus wasn’t real didn’t mean that charity and love weren’t real. It meant that Santa was real in the expression of giving. Every time one person gave to another the magic of kindness and love spread a little more.
His father was surprised to hear his son talk like this and realized how profound his insights were. He realized that he had been wrong, and that Santa Claus really did exist. He realized that just because something wasn’t what he thought it was didn’t make it less real, only different than he imagined. He thanked his son and hugged him long and hard.
Tom experienced life differently from then on. He knew that not everything was as it seemed, and that all things required him to look beyond his first beliefs. He remembered how he felt when he was going to sit on the real Santa’s lap the year before. He remembered how he believed he knew it was going to be the real Santa, and how he had been so disappointed. But, now he knew that he had sat on the real Santa’s lap, because the real Santa is anywhere kindness is.
Tom has never stopped believing, though he now knows Santa by a different name, Love and Charity. Now that he is older, every year Tom puts on a red suite and a stitched beard. Dressed as Santa he visits the children in his community and gives them gifts, but most of all he gives them his time and his heart.
When the older children tell him that he’s not the real Santa he winks and agrees. He then shares the story of the real Santa and how he needs help to give to all the children of the world, and that it is only through the caring of others that he can give presents to everyone. He tells them that Santa’s magic is in them, and that he only exists when they reach out their hands to serve those around them.