(Writer’s note: With much credit — and apologies! — to newsman Francis P. Church, circa 1897)
Last Christmas brought with it the question about Santa, just as it had done three preceding times before. It made the holidays especially bittersweet, as the baby of the family took his place Christmas morn with his older siblings, four sets of eyes filled with a little less magic.
My heart heaved. The reign of believers was over. Or was it? Santa Claus or no Santa Claus?
Jack, your little friends were wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a cynical and electronically-charged age. They do not believe except [what] they see online, on television and in the movies. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.
Yes, Jack, there is a Santa Claus. Who else would sprinkle that magic dust on you, Jess, Kenny and Blake? Who but Santa would leave that same fine and twinkly silver on the hearth?
Santa exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. (No — video games and computers and balls in all shapes and sizes should not be what give you your highest joy!)
Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Jack’s. And if there were no Jack’s, there would be no childlike faith then, no Mother’s Day poetry and no random pats on my back to make this existence tolerable. With no Jack’s, we should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in the ghosts of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig! You might get dad to hire men to watch all the chimneys in town on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, or get your Marine Corps brother to stand guard in red and green cammies, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?
Nobody sees Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see Babe or Lou dancing in the outfield or by the plate at Waveny, ready to hit a homer or catch a fly ball? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not here. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.
Ah, Jack — no Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
You can Google him and think you have the proof, you can sneak around in my closets this month, you can smirk in the malls at the “Helper Claus,” but you will never discover tangible evidence of his non-existence. For he is in your heart, your memory; in the unseen, magical, December air. And he’s as close as that soft kiss upon your cheek while you sleep.
So don’t pout and please don’t shout.
Santa is so comin’ to town!
(This column originally appeared in the New Canaan Advertiser in 2006.)