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santa: dead or alive?

December 24, 2009

In my family, we never “believed” in Santa they way other kids “believed” in Santa.  Oh, we believed in him, but we believed in him because he was real.  Santa Claus, or St. Nick as we referred to him, was a real man, a bishop, who lived centuries ago.  This knowledge didn’t hinder our celebrations or enjoyment of the jolly old man from the North Pole, but there was never any question of whether or not St. Nick was real.  He was real, and he was in heaven with God and all the other saints.

My parents (mostly my dad) were determined that we acknowledge the truth about St. Nick.  Christmas eve was filled with excitement and anticipation, but not for Santa Claus and his sleigh.  Our anticipation was for finding baby Jesus in the crèche.  Sure we had stockings filled with goodies and there were presents under the tree, which were covered with a sheet until after brunch, but they weren’t the focal point of our day.

Fr. Richard Simon a/k/a Rev. Know-It-All wrote an amusing blog post on this subject and made some very valid points:

There is a certain danger in allowing him to believe in a large red-suited home invader who should have died years ago from clogged arteries. Eventually he will discover that he has been duped all along, and that goes for the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Appendix Elf and that whole crowd. At that point he will probably make the leap to “If my parents have been lying to me all these years about someone as important as Santa Claus, perhaps they have been lying to me about God!” The loss of innocence and parental trust can be a bit unsettling…

If little Timmy asks, “Is there is a Santa Claus,” this is what I would tell him. “Yes, Timmy, there is a Santa Claus, but his real name is St. Nicholas and he doesn’t live at the North Pole, he lives in heaven with God. He doesn’t actually bring all the toys and those wonderful new pairs of sweat sox, but he was a very kind and generous bishop a long time ago, who gave gifts and helped little children. He inspires Mommy and Daddy to give gifts, and Jesus gives Mommy and Daddy the ability to give the gifts. All that stuff about elves and the North Pole is make believe, but make believe is all right and a lot of fun, if you know the truth, so you can just keep waiting for Santa by the chimney if you want to. It’s great fun”

Read more…

That is pretty much how my parents handled things for us, and we always had great fun.  The truth about Santa Claus never inhibited our enjoyment of Christmas… except for the year my brother (Charles – age 5 or 6) told our cousin (Thing 2 – age 4 or 5) that Santa Claus was dead.  I’m sure some might attribute Charles’ lack of discretion in relaying his version of the truth to his childlike innocence, but we all know better.  He was always a little stinker and said it to be malicious!  We have been laughing at the story for years now, but it was quite the scandal when it first happened. 

Many found our belief, or lack of belief (in their eyes), rather appaling.  It didn’t matter to us.  We still enjoyed every ounce of truth, which went well with every pound of our imaginations.  Besides, while all the other kids were writing letters to Santa Claus and sending them to the North Pole, we were asking St. Nick to intercede for us at the foot of God.  We totally had an ‘in’ with the real Big Guy!

By the way, I encourage you to read the entire post – there is a great story about Corrie ten Boom and her father!

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