The word screamed over the entrance of Macy’s department store in New York for the annual parade and the arrival of Santa.
Which brings us to the deeply theological or philosophical question: Does Santa exist?
The best answer came more than 100 years ago when 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the now defunct New York Sun.
“I am 8-years-old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says if you see it in the Sun, it’s true. Please tell me.”
“Yes, Virginia,” the Sun answered in an editorial. “There is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainty as love and generosity and devotion exist.”
Ah, year’s end finds shrouds of uncertainty at a time of annual accounting. We ask ourselves this earthshaking question as the fog and chill settle in and a gloomy blanket draws over the valley.
A holiday season fast approaches and we look forward to seeing the face of Scrooge defeated by the forces of belief and the spirit of Christmas. I watch “A Christmas Carol,” in three versions, never tiring, and the original “Miracle on 34th Street,” God bless us, everyone!”
I’ve watched the re-enactment of that epic struggle for many years, ever since I woke and discovered there would be no toys under the tree that year, that there was no Santa Claus, and I better get used to it.
I’m not sure I ever did get used to it and that’s why I would lavish presents on the children, at least till they could cope with our stock answer that Santa was really a spirit that infects us during the holiday season. No one blamed global warming at the North Pole or said “Santa’s too big to come down the chimney” or that the “elves were on strike.”
Well, here I am, past middle age, still hearing the deep theological /philosophical question being asked, “Is there or isn’t there?” For me, the best Christmas stories were polls taken by the Washington Post and New York Times. “Poll Sees Landslide for Santa.” Hundreds of children across the United States were interviewed. One poll had 87% of children between ages 3 and 10 believing in Santa, the other had 85 %. “Santa loves children and he never dies,” said one child. “He’s kind and loving,” said another. “He likes living at the North Pole and he has a heart,” from still another.
Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your view, belief declines as children grow older. From ages 3 to 5, the belief level is 96 percent. By the time children are 9 or 10, belief drops to 10 percent.
While some parents decry lying to children, saying it’s bad, many psychologists say believing in Santa is a normal part of development.
A man who flies around the world with a sled full of toys in a single night? A rotund guy entering homes by sliding down a chimney? Are you kidding?
But Live Science magazine says this:
“The Santa Claus myth is a long standing and powerful tradition for many families and may reinforce good values.”
“Do you suppose the level of belief really picks up again when you really get older?” a friend asks.
I’m beginning to think it does. After all, what does it matter who he is and whether he’s fat or thin, black, white or yellow or whether he wears a red suit and has a white beard?
Santa Claus lives in the Valley this Christmas. He lives in the music from churches, the charities such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, who answer letters to Santa, Make a Christmas Wish, and so many others.
How could you not believe in Santa when you learn of the newspaper volunteers who answer letters to Santa?
I think the children know better than we, those who haven’t been influenced by the forces of cynicism and those who haven’t been exposed to the uglier side of society. Yet, as we grow older, after we experience life’s travails, we learn and attempt to simplify our lives.
Just like the artist or writer experimenting with the complex, who returns to the simple, our answers can be found with our children.
So, if we have the option of believing or not believing I side with the believers.