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When you peel away the commercialism, Christmas is a magical time. I enjoy engaging youngsters on the merits of Santa Claus, and I particularly delight in watching their facial expressions when I proclaim the virtues of Santa Claus. It is all because I believe in Santa Claus. There is rejuvenation found when the human soul redeems itself during the shortest, bleakest days while darkness abounds. For adults to see Santa, you have to learn how and where to look. A strong belief of good in all people is a great start. In my world, Santa makes an appearance every time I see a communal spirit of caring. Anytime I see a selfless act of support, aid or volunteerism, Santa begins to appear. When families and friends rally around an ill person, Santa appears in the calmness that ensues. The image of the jolly old fellow going around leaving commercially made products with advertisements on the outside stopped working for me at about age four. Don't read this column out loud, and the myth will stay safe for your little one, but if your child can read this column then it is too late anyway. I was amused to see a study in my medical journal suggesting that 60% of kids fib about believing in this image, because they don't want to disappoint their parents. Besides, by acknowledging the concept, they end up with materially desirable things. I think the real message that we are trying to send to our children is that there is kindness and gratitude in the act of giving, more so than the gift itself. When I see groups of volunteers rebuilding schools, manning soup kitchens, preparing churches for Christmas celebrations, traveling afar to promote democracy, it proves that the spirit of Santa is alive and strong.
At this time of the year, I wish people "Merry Christmas", and can see nothing politically incorrect with the phrase. My intent is to invite you to share the joy of seeing Santa Claus in action from which all people can benefit. Take family gatherings for example - that's right, let's wade right into the fire. If you go beyond anticipating dysfunctional family squabbles, and look for why this event repeats itself over generations, you may discover spirits within us attempting to reconnect with primordial bonds that define time itself. People congregate for similar reasons. There are bonds that bind us and need to be celebrated. It is commercialism that brings in guilt and obligation and keeps Santa away. Fretting about who gets what for whom destroys the moment. To discover why you sit breaking communal bread, look beyond the table and not across it. Let people know about the good you see in them. What better gift is there than to have someone acknowledge that you are trying your best.
Some of the most wonderful gifts that I have received have been inadvertent ones: my daughter Lesia's passion for the piano, and her willingness to let me share in her music; the magic of Irene's never ending smile; the patience and quiet demeanor of my son Andrew while he undertakes difficult and complex mechanical problems; my daughter Lara's dedication to aiding the needy and her voracious appetite for knowledge; and my in-laws Ann and Walter, who invented unconditional love and acceptance. Santa may have hidden similar gifts in your life too.
Finally, to all my friends, readers, patients and family, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. Without you, I would never see or feel Santa. To all of you who donate your time selflessly to a good cause, I salute you, pray for you and know that you see and feel him too. And yes, Lesia, Jennifer, Lexi, Sarah, Melissa, Nicole, Tanya and Stephanie, there is a Santa Claus!
● Is There a Santa Claus? Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus - Francis Church's Answer from the Editorial Page of the New York Sun, 1897.
● Is There a Santa Claus? from the Funny Pages.
● Is There a Santa Claus? Harley Hahn's Answer, 1997.
● Santa Claus from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
● Daddy...is there really a Santa Claus? from About.com.
● The Claus That Refreshes from Urban Legends, Snopes.com - It was Coca-Cola's magazine advertisements, billboards, and store displays that exposed nearly everyone in America to the modern Santa Claus image, but Coca-Cola didn't invent him.