Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Truth About Santa Claus

If you're old enough, you've probably heard from other people that there's no Santa Claus. I'm 42 myself, so it's been some time since I learned it. But the truth about Santa is more amazing than you realize. Are you ready to know the whole story?

Santa Claus is one of the oldest and largest secret conspiracies which has ever existed anywhere. Countless generations throughout the centuries have worked to keep it alive and pass it on to their kids. And the result is that every year in homes around the world, on the same night, millions of parents perform a complex, coordinated ritual of laying out cookies, milk, reindeer food... of putting their kids to bed and waiting until they are sure they're asleep, even those older ones who are sharp and suspicious. Then they pull treasure from closets and attics and hidden places. They use a certain kind of wrapping paper. They throw boxes away carefully. They write notes and leave footprints in the snow.

No one has to give the signal. No one holds a rehearsal. No one has to make sure it all happens again in 12 months. Moms and dads have learned it from their parents. Aunts, uncles and friends tell stories to keep it alive. A large portion of the human race makes this happen each Christmas Eve, and all of it is like, well, magic.

You don't have to believe in elves or rooftop landings. You don't have to accept anything that isn't right in front of you. And the heart of it is this: That we are here to love one another. That our most important job is to help the people around us build a life in this world. That the best we can ever hope to accomplish in our short time here is to someday be someone's happy memory. Parents know this. And so do couples and friends and anyone holding anyone else's hand under our shared and difficult circumstances.

And so without ever meeting each other we work together in the night to make it seem like some supernatural creature is travelling miraculously fast on a dazzling, impossible errand. And as dawn breaks across the time zones a world full of children believe. And someday, each of them will ask us about it. We will, of course, tell them the truth.

"Welcome," we'll say. "You've become one of us. The secret keepers and gift givers. It starts now. It starts today. You will spend the rest of your life doing wonderful things."


  1. Then a lot of them get shit-faced drunk and heap abuse on those who they would bestow happy, warm memories on.

    I have witnessed some terrible behavior at Christmastime (in my own family and in many others).

  2. Um... yeah right. As I became one of those older ones who was getting sharp and suspicious, I sensed in my parents, especially my mother, a smug -- for the moment -- satisfaction that, at least for another year, they could look at me as someone whose relationship to reality could be manipulated by them; someone who would take an evasive, specious answer to any question at face value and not menace them with the requirement that they be honest or own their own shit. I think the word is "sucker."

    And yeah, the terrible behavior, too. After which you, the kid, are supposed to still cast a shiny, adoring face on your parents and shore up their sloppy sentimental belief in their own wonderful wholesomeness and your innocence.

    1. What do you do for your own littles, if you have?

  3. Santa is one of the best conspiracies ever! There is something special about little ones believing in Santa.
    And it is over too soon.

  4. What a beautiful post -- thanks so much for this, and for the reminder of what a marvelous gift it is to share the magic (of love, generosity, and hope) across generations.

  5. That was a nice post and I must confess I had a good chuckle at the comments too. Good stuff coming from a Goblin. So now whats this stuff about him not being real?

  6. Finding out about Santa was a ritual in our household almost more special than benefiting from Santa. The child was permitted to watch Miracle on 34th Street for the very first time, no siblings, just parents and popcorn. The child received a copy of The Polar Express on Christmas Day, together with a jingle bell. And when the youngest child had been initiated, the children got to join in and treat the parents.

    Santa is awesome. We're just trying to figure out how to handle him now that we're all thoroughly grown up and expecting the next generation any year now - the rules change each generation...

  7. This was almost exactly what my husband told my son when he stopped believing in Santa. But you put it even more beautifully.

  8. Santa Claus is a lesson about unconditional love and generous giving that requires nothing in return, no return gift, no letter of thanks, no receipt to claim a tax deduction. Just love. That's a lesson for parents as well as children and how wonderful that millions of families embrace it every year.


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