It is legit to teach children there is a Santa Claus, a saint Nicholas who blesses us with Christmas gifts? I am mildly disappointed to find that some of my nieces and nephews aren’t going to carry the Santa myth/tradition on with their children, but in their defense, who appointed me to want what they no longer see valuable? Still, let’s pursue the question and see what insights we come up with.
There is a somewhat famous editorial in the newspapers over a century ago that answered this question for an eight-year-old: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” The article submits that only skeptics reject what they cannot see :
“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be 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.”
The defense for Santa may be exaggerated, but I appreciate the philosophical point made here, that there are truths beyond our natural capacity to apprehend, sense, experience or see. To my thinking, Santa is an imaginary figure conjured up to personalize the immense gifts God freely bestows in the silence of night with an abundance of blessings. If that is the case, I will continue to wait up for him with milk and cookies.
“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! 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.”
Again, I appreciate the warmth and humor which introduces permission to imagine mightily as perhaps only children can do. One thing I have carried on from my innocent childhood into my somewhat corrupted and muddled adulthood is the sense of wonder and awe over that which I have not yet experienced, such that the goodness awaiting all of us exceeds our expectations. Of course, that goodness is not Santa, but God, and we would do well to marvel over that which He is preparing for those who love Him.
“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. 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’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”
The unmistakable mirth here is no proof or justification for carrying the Santa tradition on with modern day children, but I am warmly charmed with the personalized notion that someone somewhere might be looking out for my greater good. Charles Dickens' Great Expectations novel, for instance, cinches such feelings as worthy of respect and admiration. That orphan Pip’s kindness shown to a miserable criminal escaping justice comes back to him with bountiful blessings is a worthy thought to entertain us all. It seems the Santa clause (sic!) carries similar benefits as well, instilling expectation mingled with willful kindness in a society that has come to enjoy itself in particularly selfish ways.
“You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. 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 all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.”
I imagine this last part is penned by the likes of G.K. Chesterton, known for his marvelous turns of phrase and scintillating insights. I’ve written elsewhere on the website here about Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, recording Mole, Ratty and Badger’s adventurous encounter with the deity like figure Pan who ushers in wonderment, apprehension, admiration and astonishment: all useful feelings to value and treasure as they bring us out of ourselves into the presence of something greater...much greater than one can really imagine. Of course, that figure is ultimately the Christ child we celebrate. Whether one is willing to posit a representative like Santa to usher in positive moods and emotions is up to you; I simply concur that it is not in itself a bad thing and can lead to ever greater goods.
“No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
Lovely sentiments and a lovely response to a lovely child caught up in imagination of what might be. What’s not to love? I suppose one may agree that the surreality of Santa detracts from the greater good of Jesus Christ, but then, when are good things in contest with one another? The child dreams of happiness with parents only to grow into adulthood to empower a new generation to experience similar joys, beauties and curious splendors. Love shared compounds, not detracts from the Lord’s love for His creation. Still and all, I respect the freedom of younger generations to bring about the good they experienced with or without Santa, because theirs is the choice how best to introduce peace and joy yet to be re-imagined and recreated over the mystery of the Christ-child for generations yet to come.