The Santa Question: Man of Myth or Man of Legend?

A few nights ago while tucking in my girls, I received the trifecta of tough questions. 

My youngest questioned the fairness of her bedtime, a query that always seems to lead to the “life isn’t fair” speech. 

My oldest had a situation at school, which prompted a need for one more tidbit of the “birds and the bees” talk to be unveiled. While difficult, this is a topic that I, as a high school teacher, do not shy away from. 

And finally my dear, sweet middle child, with her carefully selected manner in which she asks questions, her deep, probing eyes, and her quick wit– she asked me the toughest of all of the questions. 

“Is there really a Santa?”

At 11 years old, my daughter is navigating middle school. Apart from learning math, science, and reading, middle schoolers are trying to make heads or tales of who they are and what they believe. They often follow the crowd while they try to decide if others’ belief systems are in line with their own. Her belief in Santa doesn’t align with that of her friends right now and that has become a stormy sea to navigate.

You see, I still believe in Santa. 

Not the Father Christmases of TV or the red-suited Santas at Christmas parties. And definitely not the Kris Kringles of the mall. Those jolly men have become the Santas of the privileged, those that can afford to talk to this cheery soul because they can afford the $18.95 that it costs for the photo and a chat.

The Santa Question: Man of Myth or Man of Legend?

Instead, I  believe in St. Nicholas. St. Nick was reportedly a kind man who lived during the 4th century in what is now Turkey. His parents passed away when he was young, leaving him a lot of money. He used this money to anonymously leave gifts for those who needed them. After he died, he was deemed a Saint, as the gift-giving still continued. Maybe he planned ahead so that after his death a predetermined “elf” continued the gift-giving for him. Perhaps others gave gifts in his honor. Or maybe he inspired others to continue the gifting and it has lived on for centuries. We will never know how this Saint’s legacy has lived on so long. 

But, I know beliefs are imperative, as beliefs often determine our behaviors. 

It used to be said that it was a physical impossibility to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Yet Roger Bannister believed and trained and made the impossible happen. Following this record-breaking “impossibility” this world record lasted only 46 days as more runners completed this same task. For them, seeing was believing. Once they believed it was possible, their behavior to train for it followed suit. For Roger Bannister though, he didn’t need to see to believe.

It is much the same for my daughter. 

She doesn’t need to see Santa to believe in him. And neither do I. I believe that the spirit of Santa floods through our doors and windows. His spirit comes down our chimney and into our hearts. It pours out in song through our speakers and into our ears. The spirit of St. Nicholas can be felt by so many. 

This belief then pours out into our behaviors. We give without expectation. There is a little extra cheer. There is more emphasis on “paying it forward” during the Christmas season, keeping St. Nicholas’ spirit alive. We feel moved to ring the Salvation Army bell. We find ourselves buying gifts to fulfill angel tree tags. We bake goodies just to surprise others with a sweet treat or an extra thank you. We send cards — good ol’ fashioned snail mail — to give a greeting and wish a joy-filled holiday season.

These behaviors are from our belief in the good of the human spirit.

Saint Nicholas touched the hearts of so many and we can as well. I believe we all want to thrive and connect with something beyond ourselves. The belief in Santa has the ability to unlock the love in all of us. That is real. 

So, yes, dear-child, I do believe in Santa. Whether you call him Saint Nicholas, Santa, Papa Noel, Sinterklauss, Pere Noel, Kris Kringle, or Father Christmas, I believe that this giving man continues to set an example for all of us on how to love and share. I believe when he modeled it was possible to give without ceasing and love without expectation, others believed it as well. And those beliefs have shaped our behaviors for centuries.

Most importantly, I believe a true act of goodwill always sparks another. 

Many people will disagree in beliefs, what we call certain things, how and why we do what we do. In the end, we believe in it because we believe in the spirit of love. 

Do you still believe in Santa?

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