I’m heartsick over the events of December 14. And I almost wanted to nix this post because it seemed entirely too . . . I don’t know. But I’m keeping it because I really need my own words right now. My heart goes out to all those who are grieving. May you find comfort where you can, and if you find it here, I’ll be honored. Outside of this introduction, I’ve chosen not to edit my post to try to make it fit with the tragic events that happened since I wrote it. This post isn’t about guns or death. I can’t talk about that right now. Instead, it’s about hope. Somehow, I feel it fits while not really fitting at all.
I believe in Santa Claus. I write him a letter every year and leave cookies and milk out for him on Christmas Eve.
People usually think I’m joking if I say that, but I’m totally serious. There’s always the simple, slightly snarky answer that I do so out of spite because of the way that fundamentalism demonized the poor guy. And while that does indeed play a part, that’s not the main reason. I didn’t start believing or force myself to believe because I was pissed off. I really feel like I’ve believed in Santa my entire life.
No, I don’t think that a jolly old fat man physically flies around the world and pops down chimneys to give people presents.
But there is so much more to the world than just was is physically there, after all.
You rarely find people who try to argue that there is no such thing as time or North or mammals. There are those (me among them) that argue that those concepts are human constructs and not inherent in the universe, but even as abstract human creations that provide a structure and lens through which to view life, they are granted a form of existence, if only in our minds.
The same goes for Santa Claus.
He is the construct through which I view Christmas. It’s so much more than just a holiday. Christmas and Santa Claus are the season and the symbol of hope.
Christmas is a light holiday. We decorate our homes with twinkling candles and set our neighborhoods glowing during the darkest time of the year. There is so much freaking symbolism in that, it’s amazing that we forget it so easily! To take a season that could easily be the most desolate season of the year and turn it into one of the most joyful speaks of the inspiring resilience of humanity.
Terry Pratchet brilliantly draws out how the winter solstice was very often about the return of the sun. In The Hogfather, when an assassin attempts to kill Discworld’s version of Santa, the characters learn that his existence is necessary for the sun to rise. It’s not that there would be no light without the Hogfather, but the ability to believe in things that “don’t exist” (things like the Hogfather or, more importantly, mercy and justice) is what makes that flaming ball peaking above the horizon a “sunrise.”
In other words, our ability to hope and imagine is what makes life worthwhile.
In that manner Santa Claus is also a symbol of wonder. There’s one scene in the Polar Express that embodies this concept so well. The three children are staring out the train window at the shops going by. One sees only the presents. The other sees only the mechanics of the spinning pieces. But the little girl—she sees the magic.
So much of life is based on perspective that simply shifting your point of view can almost turn your world upside down. Santa Claus is a reminder to shift my perspective to that of a child every once in a while and see the magic that fills the world around me.
I’ve heard some Pagans try to differentiate between “magic” and “magick.” But to me, it’s all the same. There is no magick without magic, and where there is magic there’s also magick. I see magic in nearly every aspect of Christmas, to the point that I sometimes feel like a fool with the exuberance that I approach Christmas.
Even the presents hold hope for me. We live in a nation that is obsessed with getting stuff. Going to the mall, even during Christmas, is enough to make me sick. But the presents aren’t just a product of an overly materialistic society. They hold magic as well. Yes, I love getting gifts. I won’t deny that. But really it’s not about the gifts—I swear it’s not! It’s about the hope of good things to come. So often, that hope requires that we suspend our disbelief in the impossibility of something in order to allow ourselves to wish for it—and then the absolute joy that comes when, almost magically, that something comes true.
For children, perhaps that is toys because toys are the things out of reach for them. For me, I find it’s not objects for which I ask Santa but dreams and goals—the things that are still out of my reach. And I don’t wake up to discover my dreams wrapped up under the Christmas tree, but I do plant the seed in my soul that maybe, just maybe, that dream is something I can attain.
Perhaps I seem naïve for seeking out such innocent wonder, enduring hope, and impossible dreams. I’m not naïve though. I’ve experienced far too many horrors to be naïve. But in a world that is torn apart by violence and hatred, I kind of think we could all do with a little more of a belief in the impossible things. I know that a world of abuse and sorrow exists, but I also know that a world of beauty, love, and hope exists. Christmas reminds me that world is still there, no matter what the year may have brought. Santa Claus shows me how to embody that world within myself.