The spirit of Santa Claus

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 22, 2006

“Is there a Santa Claus or not?”

Just like all children, it was a question I used to nag my mom with when I was a child.

And like a good mother she would never give me a straight answer. Instead she would cryptically say, “I believe in the spirit of Santa.”

Of course, when she said that in my six year old mind I would think Santa was six feet under. The idea of Santa skulking around like the ghost of Christmas past, chains and all, freaked me out a little bit.

Santa for many children is elusive. As sleepless as Christmas Eve nights are with the sounds on the roof and the creaks on the floors; Santa is never seen. No matter how long they stay up they never seem to catch the jolly old elf leaving his gifts.

They’re never quite sure how he does it. Does he come through the chimney? The door? The window?

There was a time when I was little that I thought Santa some how picked the locks of the houses. He was some sort of weird reverse career criminal and the law would some how catch up with him.

There he would sit in a penitentiary for years charged, with breaking and entering.

Santa is often a moral compass for children. When I would act up my mom would always tell me Santa was watching, even if it was in the middle of August.

Seeing a Santa look-a-like would send me into fits of paranoia for days. Just the sight of a random stranger in a parking lot with a long gray beard and a half bald head would make me look twice.

All those tales from my mom about how Santa had helpers everywhere had worked.

Some how Santa had known I was being terrible and now he had set up a reconnaissance.

Then, of course, there was the issue of where Santa lives. Is his house really in the North Pole? How does he keep warm up there? What does he feed the reindeers?

My mom told me the other day about how my three year old cousin had marched into her house swearing he had seen one of Santa’s reindeers. He told her all about how his father nearly hit the reindeer with their van.

That’s the great thing about children, they have the innocence and imagination to believe everything is true and anything is possible.

Some might argue that Santa is just a symbol that big corporate America utilizes on children to get their parents to buy toys. But we’ll leave that debate for another time because that isn’t the mind frame were supposed to be in this time of year.

I tend to believe children see through the theatrics that Christmas has become. They don’t see the manic crowds at stores or the sales or the traffic. They don’t see the tired parent over a hot oven or the crazy relatives that pack the house.

Yes, they do know what toys they want and how big of a tree they would like. And you had better take them to see Santa or the sky will fall.

But when it comes down to it, they see the holiday perhaps how we all should, as a day to believe in someone or something we have no proof exists.

To believe that even with all the bad in this world there can be good and even when things get tough there is some one who can fix it.

It took me until I was about ten to find out that there really wasn’t a Santa Claus. And it took me about ten more years after that to realize what my mom meant by the spirit of Santa.

It’s just the sheer belief that there could be a Santa Claus.