My Thoughts Exactly
Santa Claus part of the magic of childhood
If this looks the least bit familiar, it’s because it is a repeat Qf a favorite column of mine orginally published Dec. 13, 1991. I thought it was worth another run.
By LEIGH ANN WHIDDON
A little Irish immigrant girl wrote a letter to Frank P. Church, the editor The New York Sun many years ago. It went like this:
Dear Editor: I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus? Virginia O’Hanlon
Mr. Church wrote a very famous editorial from this letter. In it, he told Miss O’Hanlon that her friends were wrong. He said, “Yes. Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Today, there are lots of people who would like to dispel the myth of Santa Claus. Next, they’ll be attacking the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, also.
Psychologists say that Santa Claus is a lie and that children trust their parents to always tell the truth.
You may have seen the movie “Miracle on 34th Street.” It is about a little girl, about seven years old, who is the daughter of a business executive who works for Macy’s Department Store. Her mother always told her the truth. This little girl did not believe in Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy (or any other kind of fairy.
Fairy tales held no magic for her. She had no friends because she never learned to develop her imagination, and as a result she could not relate to children her own age. When the other children in the apartment building played zoo, she saw no point in pretending to be a monkey or an elephant. She didn’t know how.
She was seven going on 45. Only when she came to believe in the magic of Santa Claus, did her childhood have any hope.
I’m no psychologist or psychiatrist, but I was a kid once.
I have never yet met, or heard of, anyone who became an axe-murderer because he believed in Santa Claus as a child. I was probably the world’s most gullible kid and when my parents gave me the line about Santa Claus, I bought it — hook, line and sinker. I will never forget Christmas when VI was six. We had moved to Singapore in October and it was a fore- most concern of mine that Santa Claus would ﬂy all across Texas looking for us and we wouldn’t be there. My daddy told me not to worry; it didn’t matter if Santa found us or not, because he was going to lock the door so Santa couldn’t get in. That was obviously my daddy’s idea of a joke, but mother and I didn’t think it was too funny. Mother got mad a daddy for making a kid cry on Christmas Eve. After my mother repeatedly assured me that Santa would ﬁnd us —and bring plenty of toys– she probably gave my daddy a lecture he wasn’t likely to forget.
Now I’m the adult. Last summer, my 10-year-old cousin Evan who also happens to be one of my most favorite people in the world, asked me to “tell me the truth, please, do you believe in Santa Claus?” I turned the conversation around and asked him why he wanted to know.
He said he wanted to know because sometimes grown-ups tell kids there is, when in fact there probably isn’t. He was insinuating that it was, in fact, the grown-ups who had their facts mixed up, and not the kids. I asked if he believed, and he said he wasn’t going to say. He has ﬁgured out that there isn’t a Santa Claus, but he doesn’t want to say, because if he does he might not get all those toys.
The kid is not dumb, he knows which side his bread is buttered on.
I don’t know if I’m ready for Evan to quit believing. It’s been fun these last 10 years to hear all of his fantasies about Santa Claus. It’s fun to hear him talk about how good he’s going to be, so San- ta will visit him.
I do have one consolation, though. Evan has a nine- month-old brother. I get to spend the next 10 years watching Chase believe in Santa Claus.
Even though I quit believing in Santa when I was 10, I think he will always be a big part of my life. And my memories. I remember coming down the stairs on Christmas morning and seeing a full stocking and a new baby doll under the tree. There was just something magical about what happened in the still of the night.
So, let Santa bring all the presents he wants. Just try not to think about the fact that in the middle of January, Santa is going to send a bill
Epilogue: Evan is now 14 and well out of his Santa stage. Chase in now four and just really beginning to enjoy his. It’s going to be aﬁm Christmas.