No one, it seems, believes in Santa, any more.
Kids barely into kindergarten are told that there is no such person, No magical being. No fantastic elf that crosses the world in a single night, bringing joy to hearts as young as theirs. He doesn’t exist.
It’s hard to refute. Flying reindeer and magic sleighs, are pretty hard to come by in every day life. No one seems to have one. No selfies, or instagrams on social media. Just questionable women with a single, lopsided boob dangling from their sweater, decorated in the form of Rudolph. Ho. Ho. Ho, indeed.
But for all the world-weary cynicism, and exhaustion we bring to this season every year, there is still something that happens, which no one can quite explain. Billions of people, for no real reason, respond to the call for something better, inside themselves.
The Coca-Cola Santas of bright red suits, and big black boots, aren’t responsible. Tens of thousands of false beards, and ( mostly ) padded stomachs do not represent the vanguard of a new world order of peace, and goodwill. Let’s face it; they are mostly there to sell commercial products and drive the profit lines of global business. But you don’t really have too look very far beyond that facade, to find something deeper, and more meaningful.
I see it every day, in the large commercial store in which I now work. Even though more than a hundred thousand dollars a day passes through the tills of this establishment on a regular basis; at Christmas there is more than the churning cash-registers, moving the mobs forward.
Despite the crowds, and the lines, and the crazy parking lot, I can still see the smiles, and hear the laughter, and watch the heads nod, the mouths move, and the hands reach towards one another as they say “Merry Christmas” to each other, and to total strangers standing next to them. They are not all Christians. They are people of every faith, and race, and gender, and colour that exist on this earth. And while not all of them are involved and stirred by the season; enough of them are to recognize, that Christmas is a panhuman experience.
Something is there that is absent for much of the rest of the year. Something that calls us to the better versions of the people that we are, if only for a few days. Something moves us to think of others, rather than ourselves. To give not just gifts to loved ones, but time and effort and love, and yes, money too, to people we may never see. We volunteer, and donate, and cook, and bake, and knit, and sew to make life better for those we don’t know. To show them that people are generally good, and that we do actually care. That we wish this life was a better one for everyone.
We hold doors, and shovel show, and give rides to people who need them – even though it may be out of the way.
We do inexplicable things that, for the most part, we don’t do for eleven-and-a-half months of the year. But why?
Because of the spirit of Christmas.
Santa is not a person. Santa is a spirit. A feeling. A powerful concept of the good in all of us. Santa may only come once a year; but that he comes at all, is something of a miracle. His decent, and generous ideal, inspires us to dig deep for the noble, the gentle, and kinder things within our own hearts; and more importantly to share those qualities with others.
Santa, in a sense, is a gift to us. The gift that makes us slightly better human beings, every year. But Santa is not the gift. He is only a reminder of the greatest gift, ever given, or received.
The “real” Santa; the one given to us by history, was probably the fourth century Bishop of Myra, born near the village of modern day Finike, Turkey. He was a rich man, who gave his wealth away, and who was so revered that it’s believed that only the Virgin Mary can claim more individual depictions painted by the great artists, over the course of history. He’s the guy who put the “Saint”, in St. Nicholas. But it is not this Saint, this Bishop, this physical being, this man, who is that Santa we believe in today. He is merely the font from which the eternal spring of giving, hope, and ultimately, love of our fellow human beings, continues to well. It is the ideal, the spirit, and the essence of the Santa Claus that we know in our hearts, truly does exist.
And he is coming, tonight.