The holidays are fast approaching, and with them, a question that has haunted me each of the past few Christmases: Will this be the year my kids stop believing in Santa? If they ask, how do I tell them the truth? And how do I tell them the true meaning of Santa, and show them what holiday magic is really all about, without crushing their tender little hearts?
My girls are there. Wondering. Pondering. Is Santa real? How can he really get to that many homes with gifts in one day? How does he make all those toys?
And my heart aches. Even though I know it’s natural, I’m not ready for my wide-eyed, innocent, trusting babies to be logical, thoughtful, questioning humans. I don’t want the childhood days of their implicit trust in me to be a thing of the past.
I know the magic of being a kid can only last so long. But this year, I am trying to hold on for one more moment. But inevitably, I will have to tell them that Saint Nicholas is not really one single, human with a big belly, a white beard, flying reindeer, and an arsenal of magical tools without which Christmas would not happen.
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Fortunately, another magical tool—the internet—came to my rescue on this one. After reading this letter penned by Martha Brockenbrough written to her daughter, Lucy in 2009, I now know what to say to my kids when they ask me, “Is Santa Claus real?”
I’ll know when I see in their eyes that it’s time to tell them the true meaning of Santa. And when I have to tell them, this is what I want to say.
Martha’s letter reads:
You asked a really good question. “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?” We know that you want to know the answer and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.
The answer is no. We are not Santa. There is no one, single Santa.
We are the people who fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree—just as our parents did for us, their parents did for them and you will do for your kids someday.
This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts—not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and in God.
You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.
Now you know the secret of how he gets down all of those chimneys on Christmas Eve. He has help from all of the people whose hearts he has filled with joy.
With full hearts, people like Mommy and Daddy take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible. So no, we are not Santa. Santa is love and magic and happiness. We are on his team and now you are, too.
Are you crying? Because I am crying. How Brockenbrough came up with this I will never know, but I am forever in her debt.
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Her words beautifully evolve the tradition of Saint Nicholas into the magic that is families and friends loving each other, of a community making sure that holidays are beautiful and special for all.
So whether your kids are on the cusp of seeking out the truth about Santa, or whether you’ve got a few more years of childlike innocence to capitalize on, hold this mom’s words in your heart. You can empower your kids to spread love, joy, and peace, and the true meaning of Santa by telling them, “Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. We are on his team, and now you are, too.”