And so I found myself in a parental nightmare scenario: having to explain Santa Claus, or no Santa Claus, to other people’s children.
The girl was in Grade 2 at the time, and she was my daughter’s best friend. It was a minute or two after the final bell rang on the last day of school before Christmas. The children, bursting with excitement, had just charged through the doors to start a two-week break. I don’t remember what prompted my daughter’s friend to make her pronouncement. I just know that when she did, she planted her feet and looked squarely at me, her chin set in challenge, eyes alight, daring me to react.
Every child running past us stopped. They looked at her and then at me to see what I would say. I was in one of those 360º movie pans where the audio dips to a hum while the audience watches to see what the character will do.
I was aware that many of the children around me believed, or wanted to; I was not going to shred their dreams. I also knew that if I didn’t answer truthfully, I would lose all credibility with my daughter’s friend.
Here’s what I said:
I believe in Santa Claus. Santa Claus is the spirit of giving. If I see someone in need and want to help them out, then I’m the spirit of giving. When you really like someone and want to give them a gift, you’re the spirit of giving. When presents appear in your stocking on Christmas morning, it means that someone loves you enough to be filled with the spirit of giving. That’s Santa Claus.
The spirit of living
Over the years I have read many times the “Santa Claus” argument against a belief in God. Atheists routinely trot that one out. They say that someone’s belief in God is as childish and delusional as a belief in Santa Claus.
I don’t have to believe in a man in a red suit to believe in what is the very best about Christmas—the spirit of giving. I don’t have to believe in a man in the sky to believe in what is the very best about our universe—the spirit of living.
Oh, yes. I believe in Santa Claus. That spirit of giving and living moves and breathes through this holiday season, no matter what faith people have. That is why so many atheists still celebrate Christmas. They feel it, too.
May you find the spirit of giving and living, now and the whole year through.