I have been laboring away this week on the big Christmas Party ... the 19th anniversary of the first one that Kurt and Tom and I first held in another time. I have not had the time or energy to blog, so here is an essay on Santa Claus that I wrote in 1999.
What Christmas Means to Me
Christmas for me is Santa Claus! Equal parts fantasy, joy, giving, magic, and mystery, Santa Claus entranced me when I was a boy. It certainly had a lot to do with the fact of all the presents. But Santa's presents were always sheer whimsy ... no socks or pants, but instead a toy fortress for my imaginary kingdom, a bicycle of my own, and always piles of books about long ago times and faraway places.
But now that I am an adult, Santa teaches me more about fantasy and mystery. Here is a most eccentric man who has created a magical kingdom far from the humdrum lives of all the other folks. He lives in a strange, limitless house where he labors with his elvish helpers day and night, all year round, to create whimsy by the bushelful for the children whom he teaches to believe in whimsy. His life is the polar opposite of any that has ever been lived elsewhere. Yet it is still a life which he created for himself by means of his own imagination.
Santa Claus is the greatest wizard that ever existed. His magic brings only joy and good. His being shines light into the darkest recesses of our souls.
But no magical being is single-sided. Santa carries a stick also. This side of the Santa myth doesn't sit well with thoroughly-modern-parenting, so we hear little about it. But Santa knows that some boys need a warm posterior more than they need a new truck ... and he knows that the warm posterior is itself part of the mystery, an irreducible moment of the magic. Because the naughty among us need to learn that the joy and the good demand a commitment not only to receiving, but to giving as well.
Christmas is the age-old season of the winter solstice where northern folks shiver in the cold and long for the relaxation of warmth and sun that summer will bring. The twinkling lights, the songs and good cheer, and the mountain of gifts invoke both the memory of what will come and the remembrance of who we are and what our life means. Christmas is the time of year to pause to reflect about what blessings we have received, and what good we can do for others to make the world which we share a warmer place irrespective of the dark and blustery world outside our hearth.
In this sense, again, Santa shows us a way out of the darkness of daily existence into the light of joy and good cheer. How fat and happy is Santa Claus, because his entire year has been spent in preparing for this one day in which he will spread love and joy to innocents everywhere. His prosperity and happiness derive from his giving, and so might ours if we construct for ourselves a life based both upon our labors and upon our hopes, our joy, and our own special magic and mystery.
For at Christmastime, the fantasy is reality.
And so, from me to you,
in the spirit of Santa Claus ...
Merry Christmas to all,
and to all a good night!