DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Have you noticed a lot of people seem to get their noses
out of joint about Santa these days? Maybe it's just on the Internet, where we all feel compelled to give our unvarnished opinion as firmly as possible, but it seems like there's a cloud of disapproval over the jolly old elf. There are folks who don't like Santa elbowing infant Jesus out of the picture. There are folks who dislike Santa's tie-in to the commercial feeding frenzy. But most of the comments I've seen are from virtuous citizens who are shocked and appalled that we are LYING to CHILDREN. Won't someone think of the children?
As someone who makes a living by writing down lies and convincing others to buy them, this doesn't particularly bother me. I'm a great proponent of myths, fables, fairy tales and fiction. I've taught my kids that they should never let the truth interfere with a good story. There are many things that ought to be fixed in our society today, but an excess of fancy is not one of them.
Besides, I believe in good Saint Nick, and I'm, shall we say, considerably older than eight. When I was ten or eleven or so, my mother sat me down and had a serious talk with me. She explained that Santa was the spirit of loving and giving, and as such, could never die. The details of how that love and generosity made their way into the world were not the important part.
So how about you, Reds? What have you taught your kids or grandkids - and what did you believe when you were a little girl? What's your take on Father Christmas and his fellow travelers - fairies and angels, ghosts and golems?
DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm with you, Julia! I say, "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story--or elf!" People who won't let their kids believe in Santa are just big spoilsports, in my opinion. My parents never had the "the talk" with me. They knew by the time I was about seven that I knew they were Santa, but everyone enjoyed the tradition too much to give it up.
We still have Santa at our house--only now my daughter does my stocking. I track Santa on NORAD on Christmas Eve. Why take a little magic away from children, or grown-ups, when there is so much sadness in the world?
JULIA: Deb, as an Air Force and Army kid, I used to listen to the hourly updates on Santa's flight on the Armed Forced Radio Service. Now, like you, the kids and I follow along online.
RHYS BOWEN: I'm another who has never stopped believing. We have one daughter who told her kids from day one that there was no Santa, and another daughter whose kids still half believe at ten (she's also the one who has her daughters put out their shoes on the night of the full moon and the moon fairy leaves a treat). The plan is always to keep these two families apart at Christmas time.
I think any ounce of innocence or magic has to encouraged in this commercial world where the media is full of violence and tragedy.
HANK PHILLIPI RYAN: This is the strangest thing. Reading your question, I asked myself--did I ever truly believe in Santa? A person in a red suit who came down the chimney,etc? And I don't remember. I don't remember. Oh. Did I just get old?
I DO remember, at some point, thinking "that's pret-ty unlikely." Don't get me wrong. Omens? Yes. ESP? Yes. Alien life on other planets? Possible.
JULIA: And thus, an investigative reporter was born.
HANK: I believe in secret gifts, and secret good deeds, and anonymous charity and outrageous tips for the holiday season. But, did I ever believe in Santa? Let me think about that.
HALLIE EPHRON: I don't remember ever believing in Santa Claus, either. I remember thinking Santa was like the Wizard of Oz, a character in a story. Which was wonderful enough. I just asked my kids and they don't remember believing in SC either, though my younger remembers being terrified of him (she had a very bad feeling about the Easter Bunny, too.)
For me Christmas wasn't about religion or Santa Claus, it was about gifts and traditions passed down. And of course, food. Christmas morning: buttery scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and Wolferman's jams... growing up, it was the ONLY morning my mother ever cooked and the only breakfast we all sat down to together.
LUCY BURDETTE: Oh yeah, I believed in Santa. But when my sister (who is eleven months older than me) asked my parents how come the poor kids didn't get as much stuff as we did for Christmas, they sat us both down and told us the truth. I was shocked, I tell you, shocked. The curtain yanked away from the wizard at the age of seven.
But after that it was kind of fun to help spin the story for my two younger siblings. We made up a tradition called an "elf tree", which involved elves leaving a big branch decorated with ribbons and little presents on the front porch on Christmas eve. The whole family is still very attached to stuffing stockings with good loot--not too heavy on the tangerines and nuts, thank you very much:). Here's a joke I played on my family the year after someone complained that my stocking seemed to have more in it than theirs...
(Bobbie is Lucy/Roberta's family nickname)
JULIA: I'm sure they were very pleased to see what Santa had brought them, Lucy!
I'm going to leave the final word to my favorite author, Lois McMaster Bujold. From her book, MIRROR DANCE:
“It’s like trying to give a Winterfair gift to Father Frost himself."
“Yes, I’ve been puzzling over that one.”
“Sometimes you can’t give back. You just have to give on. Did you, ah … sign those credit chits to the clones?”
“Sort of. Actually, I signed them ’Father Frost.’ ” Mark cleared his throat. “That’s the purpose of Winterfair, I think. To teach you how to … give on. Being Father Frost is the end-game, isn’t it?"
"I think so.”
“I’m getting it figured out,” Mark nodded in determination.How about you, dear readers? Will you be leaving milk and cookies out tonight?