I believe in Santa.

I say that with total conviction and sincerity.  Oh, I know that guy at the mall with the fake beard & plastic belt is only "pretending" to be Santa.  But I also know that the guy with the real white, fluffy beard probably has his home number on speed dial.

You know the guy I mean -- with the twinkle in his eye and the honest smile.  The one that carefully helps small children up onto his lap and looks at them with generosity and care on his face, listening to their heartfelt requests.  The one that truly enjoys visiting with them all, because he knows they're the only pure believers in the magic that is Christmas morning.

As a child, the anticipation is nearly unbearable.  After months of waiting, some friend or family member finally asks, "So, what do you want for Christmas?" and you realize the holiday season is near.  Soon homes and churches and shops and neighborhoods and entire communities surround you in bright, twinkling lights.  Your world becomes a wonderland of Christmas carols and shining stars and candy canes and angels.

At the end of this magical rainbow is Santa Claus: a portly old guy who spends the whole of Christmas Eve delivering packages.  And you know the package with your name on it will make you the happiest kid in the world - if only for a single day.

Adults have forgotten what Christmas morning was like.  They shop for toys and complain about crowds and high prices and the commercialization of Christmas and they wake up Christmas morning glad it's all over and they forget to look into the eyes of the children.  But Santa doesn't forget and that's why I believe.

The belief in Santa Claus crosses all boundaries - over rivers and mountains and oceans and religions and economic status and age.  The one thing we ALL hope for on Christmas morning is happiness.  Whether happiness for you is a doll or a train or a teddy bear or a pair of socks or a decent meal or peace on earth, it all comes down to your own private vision of happiness - and THAT is what Santa leaves under the tree.

Can you imagine the sheer joy and rapture of opening a gift on Christmas morning that brings you such immediate happiness?  I saw that joy on the face of my daughter when she was two and all she'd asked for were "colors" - she wanted a blue present and a pink present and a green one and a purple one and She was the happiest girl in the world that day.  And again when my son, at age ten, opened an envelope and realized he held in his hand the fulfillment of a promise and answers to so many questions - plane tickets to the city where he was born: San Francisco.

The red hat and coat and black shiny boots aren't really necessary, but they're things the children can relate to and recognize.  The fact that I, too, have Santa's home number on speed dial makes him all the more real for me.  Yes, I believe in Santa Claus, because if I didn't, my children would wake up Christmas morning and see only boxes. * * * I'd much rather they wake up to magic.

December 1998

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