Tonight, while all the family was gathered around the table for dinner, we started discussing when children make the dreaded discovery that Santa isn't real.
I can remember it like it was yesterday. I had found three sleds in the back of my mom's van a few days before Christmas. There was a purple one, a yellow round one, and a red long one, that could fit two or three people. They were covered by blankets. On Christmas morning, to my dismay, I found the three sleds for my sister and I as our gift from Santa. My heart sank. The magic of Santa and the childlike innocence I experienced with Santa, his elves, and the presents they make seemed to vanish in an instant.
So, I knew discussing the fact that my oldest nephew, Kason, could discover any time that Santa wasn't real, was no light matter. He would remember that moment in time forever. Answering the question would be even more difficult. How do you tell a child that Santa isn't real?
Then I remembered a story that I had read a while ago and printed off so that one day, when I have kids of my own, who question the validity of Santa, I could answer him with this answer.
As her young daughter questioned Santa, Martha Brockenbrough, answered her in a letter. She wrote
"You asked a very good question. Are you Santa?
I know you've wanted the answer to this question for a long time, and I've had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.
The answer is no. I am not Santa. There is no one Santa.
I am the person who fills your stockings with presents, though. I also choose and wrap the presents under the tree, the same way my mom did for me, and the same way her mom did for her. (And yes, daddy helps, too.)
I imagine you will someday do this for your children, and I know you will love seeing them run down the stairs on Christmas morning. You will love seeing them sit under the tree, their small faces lit with Christmas lights.
This won't make you Santa, though.
Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to have belief in something they cannot see or touch.
It's a big job, and it's an important one. Throughout your life, you will need the capacity to believe: in yourself, in your friends in your talents and your family. You'll also need to believe in things you can't measure or even hold in your hand. Here, I am talking about love, that great power that will light your life from the inside out, even during the darkest, coldest moment.
Santa is a teacher, and I have been his student, and now you know the secret of how he gets down all those chimneys on Christmas Eve: he has help from all the people whose hearts he's filled with joy.
With full hearts, people like Daddy and me take our turns helping Santa do a job that would otherwise be impossible.
So, no, I am not Santa. Santa is love and magic and hope and happiness. I'm on his team, and now you are, too."
I love this answer and hope that in the years to come, my children, my nieces and nephews, and my grandchildren can understand that Santa is so much more than a person who brings presents.
He teaches us to believe, and, that is truly, one of the greatest gifts we could ever receive.