Recently, a friend told me that her fourth grade daughter was sad that this would be the first year without Santa. Later I thought about this and it made me sad. Just because you grow older doesn't mean that you have to lose your belief in the magic of Santa Claus. I am an adult and still believe in that magic.
Even though that was Avery's first ride in a ferris wheel, it is the same look that I see in her eyes when we talk about Santa. This year we have talked more about the nativity and the history of Saint Nicholas and the joy of giving. This has only added to the wonder of it all. I find myself amazed at how Christmas traditions have endured hundreds and hundreds of years all over the world. Christmas is a time to cherish each other and to embrace the spirit of giving.
I feel saddened by people who spend the holidays over-stressed. I feel even more sad by people who spend the holiday season yelling at their children for being "too excited"or complaining about the realities of life in the world we live in front of their children. Children need to be protected from the cynical, harshness of adult life. As an elementary teacher, my second and third graders always debated the "realness" of Santa Claus each year. It was inevitable that they would always eventually ask me if I believed in Santa Claus, since the teacher's word is golden. My response was always the same, "Of course." Of course, I believe in the magic and goodness of Santa. That doesn't have to end, even when you know the logistics of how it all works. That isn't the point. You will never hear me tell a child, or anyone for that matter, that Santa "doesn't exist." He certainly lives in my heart.
So, this is for Claire. Don't lose the magic. It's still there. You just have to believe in the power of it all. The power of innocence. The power of joy. The power of faith. Now you, Claire, have to help continue the spirit of St. Nicholas. This brings me to one of my favorite historical newspaper clippings. These words were originally written in 1897. Yet, they still ring true in 2009. If you have never taken the time to read this clipping, please take the time. This newspaper editorial was printed in The Sun and written by Francis Pharcellus Church in response to a young girl's question, "Is there a Santa Claus?"
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had Claire in my class in both second and third grade. She is blessed to have a wonderful, loving family. As her former teacher, I would like to tell her: Yes, CLAIRE, there is a Santa Claus!