“The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”
Well, now I’ve done it. I went and told my kids about Krampus. Of course, I thought it was funny. And the oldest one did, too. We share the same love for all things scary and weird. But my middle kid got freaked out. And when I tried to tell her that Krampus was “just pretend,” well, that didn’t work at all. Duh. What was I thinking?
Later, I overheard her whispering to her older brother, “Do you think Krampus is real?”
His reply: “Well, if Santa is real, so is Krampus.”
That makes so much sense. And I can’t really undo what Krampus-fear I’ve put into her heart. But it made me wonder…does the older one still believe in Santa? He’s nine and he’s never asked. Seems a little old. But then again, I never asked my parents either. Because I didn’t want to stop believing.
But questioning, challenging, testing, reasoning…those are all parts of growing up. And for those of us who celebrate Christmas, the challenging of Santa Claus is a metaphor for some of the crueler lessons of childhood. It teaches us that to grow up, we have to give up something we love. Comfort is sacrificed for wisdom. Perhaps for my nine-year-old, Santa is a transitional object, in the Winnicott sense of the word…a belief that helps him bridge the gap from young childhood to the tween years.
Here’s the letter he wrote this year:
I don’t want you to have too much work to do, so I’ll just tell you three things I want for Christmas. I would like…..a Harry Potter ™ Hogwarts lego game, a Harry Potter lego set, and a nutcracker.
P.S. If you don’t have the parts to make these, that’s fine.
In contrast to my kid’s desire to hold onto youthful things, a friend of mine told me that her six-year-old daughter asked if Santa was real this morning. And she struggled. And stalled. But her daughter insisted, and she was honest. Because maybe the magic that little girl needs to hold onto is believing that mommies always tell the truth…and that her mommy trusts she can handle the responsibility of knowing the truth.
And what is that truth?
The truth is that this is the time of year to once again read newsman Francis Pharcellus Church’s famous words to the little girl who wrote to the New York Sun, back in 1897:
I am 8 years old.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may 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. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.