Reprinted, first published in 2007
When it comes to the delicate matter of belief, there are creative ways to answer our children’s questions without taking the magic out of life.
When my oldest child was about five, she asked whether Santa Claus was real. Her dad and I told her that Santa is real — to those who believe.
Is love real? Is hope real? Is magic real? Is faith real? We can’t touch or see any of these things, but most of us believe in at least a few of them. In some cases, we can feel them. In others, we may see proof of them appearing in the physical world.
I believe in Christmas miracles. I believe that Mystics speak with God. I believe that Tibetan lamas reincarnate with full recall of their previous lives. I believe in our ability to do good in the world, with each conscious choice we make. I believe in faeries, and faerie tales, pookas, ghosts, saints, and goblins. I believe in a power omnipresent and indivisible.
And, I still believe in Santa Claus. I always will. Just like I believe in God, with Its ineffability, and the many faces It wears.
Jitterbug Perfume by Tim Robbins has one of the best descriptions I’ve seen of the human relationship with deity. The premise is this: the gods depend upon our belief in them to survive. Our belief in the gods makes them real.
The power of belief is an important gift we must instruct and safeguard in our children. Belief is what we build our lives upon. Without belief, we may be cast adrift on an endless, meaningless sea. Belief offers a rudder when nothing else can help us find our way.
At 12, my oldest started the Christmas season by saying she no longer believed in Santa. And then complained when she didn’t feel the Christmas Spirit flooding her as we trimmed the tree.
I talked to her about faith.
The fact is, sometimes it’s hard to have faith that Santa will come. I’ll admit it; even I have been known to test The Spirit from time to time. My first Christmas post-divorce I made such a test.
That year it was hard to find my belief in the Spirit of Christmas. I had no one to give my Christmas list to. No one to tell what I hoped to find under the tree. I prayed to the universe to enforce my faith. I wanted proof that Santa was still real.
I wanted indoor/outdoor, “Ugg” knock-off slippers. I know, it’s kind of petty. Slippers? But it was what I wanted. Sometimes, especially in the midst of doubt, fear, and sadness, it’s the little things that matter. Cozy feet on a lonely morning. A small gift out of nowhere.
It was a deal between me and The Spirit, and since I had asked, The Spirit knew exactly what was required to validate my faith.
Come Christmas day, I was gifted a pair of slippers.
That Christmas, Santa showed up as my sister. She didn’t get the slippers for me, but for one of our nieces. When the slippers didn’t fit the quickly growing girl, my sister asked me to take them instead; she didn’t want to go to the trouble of carrying them home on the plane and exchanging them.
I whispered a thank you to Santa, and reminded myself that sometimes He works in mysterious ways; I didn’t know that my sister was bringing slippers for the nieces. She didn’t know I wanted them, either. But Santa did. And He delivered.
Throughout my life I’ve seen innumerable miracles of Christmas faith occur, large and small.
I was 14 when my father left the family. That year Christmas looked bleak. There were five mouths to feed, and no “extra”money to be found. We had a “Charlie Brown tree” cut from a stand of fir trees on our own land, and bedecked with ornaments from Christmases past. We were fortunate enough to have food in the cupboard. But my mother was devastated knowing there was no way she would be able to provide Christmas gifts for all of us.
As the oldest at home, I was privy to the goings-on of the adult world. But to this day, I don’t have any idea who brought Santa that year. All I know is that on Christmas Eve a jolly, bespectacled man with a beard of white and suit of red pulled into our very remote, country driveway in his sleigh — or rather, his worn, old, white pick-up truck — with bags filled with festively wrapped gifts. There was a name on each one.
Santa left the bags on our porch. With a jolly smile he offered a “Merry Christmas!”, and was on his way.
In 2007 my Christmas Miracle was the grandest The Spirit of Christmas has yet conspired to deliver for me; the man I’ve been waiting my whole life to find crossed mountain and river that stormy December to be by my side and spend the holidays with me and the children.
That Christmas I felt like both Doris and little Susan in Miracle on 34th Street; the home, the family, the life that I had been nearly afraid to desire became my greatest Christmas miracle. Now every holiday season is a celebration of that most profound of miracles; the emergence of deep love and partnership.
For me, the holidays will continue for the rest of our lives. My faith in the Miracle of Christmas is no longer shakable. No more tests required – I finally got my ultimate proof. The man of my dreams, now my husband, is here to stay.
Some would say it was just a fluke of timing. And there’s something to that; finding The One is a miracle whenever it happens. But to me, it was more than just a twist of circumstance that this relationship arrived wrapped in a Christmas ribbon. For me, it’s further proof that when we open ourselves to the possibility that magic exists, magic proves itself to be real.
Movies are built on the theme of The Christmas Miracle. In this case, art imitates life. Christmas stories with their grand, sweeping, soaring themes serve as a reminder of what’s possible when we allow ourselves to invest in love and faith. And as believing becomes more effortless, the miracles grow larger. Through our agency, miracles are made manifest.
Off the screen, food banks fill for at least one day with more than enough to feed the local hungry. People open their homes to strangers so they will have somewhere to be on Christmas morning. Communities pull together and provide gifts for children who would otherwise be without.
To quote the words of song writer Red West, popularized by Elvis, “if every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be.”
As a Mystic mama, I don’t feel like a hypocrite or a liar, or as though I’m misleading my children by allowing them to believe in a power that makes their child-lives a little more happy, a little more bountiful, a little more hopeful, a little more magical.
And as they grow older, The Spirit need not disappear. Instead of losing heart at the news that Santa is a myth, faith can continue to flourish. Given the chance to become part of the spirit of Saint Nick, children become an active part of that energy of selfless giving. They become the ones who enact the miracles of the season. They grow to be the hearts and bodies that offer those miracles up.
It’s been proven to me again and again through personal experience that the Holiday Spirit does exist. I have been both the one who receives and the one who delivers on the promise of hope that the season offers.
The Spirit is palpable. It acts in the world. Call it the power of faith, or Jesus, or Santa Claus, or generosity — it’s a reminder of a bond of love for our fellow human beings.
Regardless of the name we give it, it sustains. If we allow it to, if we believe it will, it acts through and for each of us, bringing miracles to bear.