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Santa is real

| Thursday, December 8, 2016

About 10 years ago, my dad referenced “Yes, Virginia” in an email to me. I didn’t get the reference at the time, so I looked it up. In 1897 Virginia O’Hanlon, an 8-year-old girl, wrote a letter to the New York Sun newspaper asking the editors to tell her if Santa Claus is real or not. The editors responded with an editorial in which they wrote, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound to give your life its highest beauty and joy.”

This editorial has really stayed with me over the years, and, for obvious reasons, I always find myself thinking about it during the Christmas season. Spoiler alert: Santa Claus — the living, breathing man with a red suit, a sleigh and eight or nine flying reindeer (depending on whether or not you count Rudolph or you’re a purist) — is not a real person. But, as the Sun editorial eloquently points out, Santa Claus is real.

Santa exists in the love, generosity and devotion of parents who stay up until the early hours of the morning to keep their kids’ belief in Santa Claus alive for at least one more Christmas. He also exists in the love, generosity and devotion of people who donate their time, money and effort to bringing Santa Claus to kids whose parents might not be able to afford to do so. He exists in the childhood excitement and innocence that leads to kids waking up at 6 a.m. to make sure Santa Claus has visited their house in the middle of the night. He exists in the spirit of the Christmas season, which, in the end, is about giving and loving and the good in humanity that we don’t pay enough attention to throughout the year. Basically, he’s everyone who passes a belief in Santa Claus down to others, no matter how they do so.

Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, I think we all start to appreciate a universal spirit of Christmas as we grow older. Christmas isn’t about getting presents, and Santa isn’t about giving them as an incentive for little kids to behave throughout the year. Instead, Christmas is about giving and Santa Claus is the perfect symbolic representation of this ideal. There’s a reason Santa Claus has been around for so long with different incarnations in so many cultures: Without Santa, “there would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”

We’ve heard a lot lately about how divided this country is, but I ask you to set any divisions or political discontent aside for a moment this Christmas to bring some joy to the world by giving someone a reason to believe in Santa Claus again. Because “he lives, and he lives forever” to “continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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