Do You Believe in Santa Claus?

Every parent or teacher has wondered at least once what to say to a child about the existence of Santa Claus.

Children believe that Santa lives at the North Pole, is married to a Mrs. Claus, and has a contingent of elves who make toys for Christmas. On Christmas night he spans the globe in his sleigh with help from Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen, and of course Rudolph with his bright red nose.

I remember in third grade that one day in December my class was divided on the question of whether Santa is real. It got to the point that our teacher took matters into her own hands. She told everyone who doesn’t think Santa is real to leave the room.

After they went into the hall, she gave Hershey bars to everyone who stayed. Those who got rewarded were thrilled for two reasons. The ones who came back into the room and saw classmates eating Hershey bars thought they got jipped.

When they complained, our teacher told everyone in tactful words about the history of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children. She also talked about the spirit of the holidays; a time of family gatherings, gift giving, caroling, concerts, church services, and many other traditions.

It helped everyone. Those who left understood the complete question. It also enlightened a few of us who stayed in the room just to see what would happen, to be where the action was. It promised to be more interesting than standing out in the hall.

I remember it as a “teachable moment”, one in which a teacher can take a situation that stood in the way of learning and turn it into a valuable life lesson.

She improvised in a way that made students think. I’m sure I’m not the only one from the class who still remembers it.

The classic movie “Miracle on 34th Street” also got it right with its interpretation of Santa. The movie begins with New York City’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as a young girl watches the Macy’s Santa usher in the holidays.

Her mother and her mother’s boyfriend (suitor in those days) talked to her in at least several scenes about Santa Claus. Meanwhile, the Macy’s Santa was fired from the department store for telling parents that toys not available at Macy’s could be found at a competitor’s establishment.

The Santa, who went by the name Kris Kringle, pressed on with his crusade to promote the meaning of Christmas. It reached a point that a court hearing was held to determine if he misrepresented himself. To find out how it ends, watch it on TV or through 21st century media formats. It’s one of my favorite depictions of the Christmas season.

Along with other members of the Marshall Jaycees chapter, I took part in a Call-In Santa event that allowed households to make phone calls to Santa on Christmas Eve.

We competed to see who had the best Santa voice. It was great to hear the excited voices of every child who called us. They were just like we had been at their age. They couldn’t wait to wake up on Christmas morning.

I guess it all comes down to the fact that Santa Claus is in the eye of the beholder. It’s important not to completely dismiss the many good things he embodies.

Santa is a long learning process that develops as someone goes through the stages of life. At any step in the process, everyone should enjoy his greeting “ho ho ho”. In one way or another, the night of Christmas Eve is when “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”.

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