Choosing to believe

Originally posted December 12, 2010

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I found this note to Santa Claus taped to the refrigerator, penned by my 9 year old daughter:

Dear Santa/Saint Nick,

A lot of people I know don’t believe in you, but I do because of your jolly cheer and happiness. I wish I could let everyone have jolly cheer. I know I’ve changed, but my heart will always believe. I don’t need much, but this is my list…

My husband and I struggled with perpetuating the Santa Claus myth after our first child was born. We had many Christian friends who felt that allowing your children to believe in Santa sent the wrong message. Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, and St. Nick took away from that, not the mention the moral dilemma of knowingly lying to your children, and I completely understand and respect those who choose to forego Santa Claus. But then I remembered my childhood–believing in Santa made Christmas a magical time full of hope and promise. I wanted my own kids to experience what I had, even if just for a little while.

Besides, just like Santa Claus, there are things in life we choose to believe in that don’t always turn out to be true.

The childhood friend who promised you’d be friends forever? That may have proved untrue, but that doesn’t mean the friendship wasn’t real and true…

That special boy or girl–your first love (or your second, or your fifth)–who promised to love you forever only to break your heart? Also untrue, but that doesn’t mean you’re unworthy of love…

And just because I no longer believe a jolly fat man will be visiting our house on Christmas Eve, doesn’t mean we won’t be leaving cookies and milk for him, even if this is the last year we’ll be doing so.

I imagine that this time next year the myth will be busted and I will explain that even if her idea of Santa Claus wasn’t real, the spirit of him — of “jolly and cheer and happiness” — can remain alive in her heart as long as she chooses to believe.

Update: The myth is busted. My daughter approached me earlier this year and casually announced that she knew Santa wasn’t real. When I asked her if she still believed in the spirit of Santa and what he represents, she assured me that she always will. Win/win.

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