On the nature of Santa Claus

A friend asked me if my kids still believed in Santa Claus.  I said, “Well, of course!  Don’t you?”

There’s been a wisdom for years, especially in my family, that Santa Claus is the modern “spirit” of a sense of giving and joy, especially for children, during the winter solstice celebration time.  We kinda go along with the cultural norms since it’s difficult to explain that we don’t mind working on Christmas but could we please have the 21st and 22nd off instead (experience has shown this), although this year (and possibly in years to come), we deferred “the Santa Spell” for a week and had our “Christmas morning” on January 1st.

The Santa Spell is the formal name for the process of acquiring and wrapping and tagging all of the presents for the family, putting up the final festive decorations, and preparing the family feast.  It’s a little bit of childhood magic, but it’s just as important as any other mythological figure.  For us, it invokes a kind of energy that just manifests things, sometimes seemingly out of thin air, that enable us to always have a kindly time of the holidays.  Some friends have gotten visited by the Turkey Fairy on an occasion or two, some have had their entire Christmas process provided spontaneously by charitable folks (myself included), and possibly more often, some kind of circumstance will pop up out of nowhere that will just make everything come together.

Perhaps my view of this is skewed somewhat by my deep love for Terry Pratchett’s “Hogfather”.  That is our annual Xmas Eve watching tradition, and the end of it makes a vital and important point:  Regardless of what kind of scrifical blood ritual may have started the mythology of Santa Claus (or the Hogfather, as the case may be), it is our innocent faith in the ideas of them that is the important point.  Traditions are grown one yaer at a time, and it only takes two generations to make something seem like it’s been there forever.  When we’re talking about mythological beings, there’s often a deeper foundation to it that adds an additional type of magic, and that’s why we aught to give ourselves permission to believe.

At the end of “Hogfather”, Susan asks Death what the purpose was for all of their efforts of the evening (you’ll have to watch to find out, I won’t spoil it here), and he says something to the effect that believing in things like the Hogather, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, et al, prepare the innocent child-mind to believe in things without physical material proof.  In the adult years, it’s the ideas of things like justice and mercy and compassion.  There is no particle or atom or element that can be isolated to identify these ideas, nothing that can be synthesized or produced to increase them (despite what the pharmaceutical companies would want you to think), and yet, we know they exist because we see the evidence of them every day.

The foundation of truth that Pratchett is trying to illustrate is that our power of faith, of daring to believe in the ideas, gives them power.  This ties in with another profound truth that “the way you think creates the reality in which you live.”  When you bring yourself to a place to encourage positive thoughts, positive things happen to you, and the same attraction of same-ness happens if you put yourself in a negative mindset.

Consider, then, that the magic of youth is a kind of exercise to build up our muscles of faith, of realizing that we have the power to choose what we believe and how strongly.  If we can let ourselves believe that a fat man in the red suit might possess our parents and imbue them with a kind of conjuring magic, then we can believe that people are mostly inherently good, that we are worthy by our existence far before our actions, and that love is an inalienable right of all humans.  Without that magic, we are easily torn down by the evidence that suggests the dark and cruel nature of the universe, and by that, we end up giving more power to that darkness.

So, you see, belief in something like Santa Claus or the Great Pumpkin or the Soul Cake Duck is really about arming yourself in the battle of light versus darkness.  You are giving yourself the power to be armored and defended against the onslaught of unpleasantness – outside of yourself and within – and that is the most powerful force one can conjure at all.

Especially when you’ve been taught that positivity leads to gratitude.

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