Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Yes, Virginia, There Is an Insanity Clause.

Santa Claus is real. There is really no argument about that. Though there was one evening when he became both unreal and then more real…

On November 31 of this year, my seven-year-old son and I decided to start a “25 Days of Christmas” tradition whereby we would watch one Christmas-themed movie or TV show on video each night until Christmas. And we were not limiting it to the typical “TV specials” of the season. As long as the program had some link to Christmas (no matter how small), and that it was age-appropriate, it was fair game.  And before you ask -- yes, this would’ve included Santa Claus Conquers the Martians… if we had “26 days of Christmas.” Maybe next year…

Anyway, on the “fourth day,” my son and I settled in to watch the Justice League episode, “Comfort and Joy,” which is a wonderful tale comprised of three interchanging stories featuring how five of the superhero "stars of the show" spent their holiday season. For Superman, it was inviting his more-alien comrade, the Martian Manhunter, to spend Christmas with him and his parents in Smallville. Drinking cocoa in the kitchen of their cozy farmhouse, Ma and Pa Kent would reminisce about past Christmases with young Clark. I still chuckle when Pa mentions how he had to wrap the presents in lead foil so the super-lad wouldn’t “peek” using his x-ray vision.

“You mean, Santa wrapped them.” Clark interrupted, showing a charmingly hokey aspect to the Superman character on this show by having him earnestly believing in Santa Claus.

“Yes, of course, dear.” Ma Kent briskly replied, which caused the Martian guest to ponder at this strange new element of the conversation.

This reply also made my son ponder as well.

“Wait, does that mean Santa isn’t real?” he asked me.

I stopped the video. I will admit that the last thing I wanted that evening was for Ma Kent to ruin the Santa Claus myth for my son at an age where Christmas is at its most magical -- as well as ruin the myth for my son’s parents that can always use the extra incentive to illicit good behavior from a mischievous seven-year-old.

But I wasn’t going to be dishonest to him either.

So after we finished Justice League, we used the Internet to research Nikolaos of Myra, a.k.a. Saint Nicholas -- a real person who served as the original inspiration for the Santa Claus we know today. We spent the rest of the evening reading about this historical Saint, who was a well-to-do well-known for his secret gift-giving, and my son was pointing out the parallels between Nikolaos and the Santa Claus currently viewed by most of the world.

And, of course, my son quickly figured out who really wrapped the “from Santa” gifts, who filled the stockings, and who ate the cookies the kids would leave by the fireplace each year on Christmas Eve. I’m sure the “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” song he recently learned in school took an entirely new meaning for him (which was, actually, the original one).

I cannot claim to know why other parents do it, but I did explain to my son that my wife and I “do the Santa routine” in respect to the original patron saint -- a way to honor Nikolaos’ life and memory -- as well as add a little bit of magic to our kids’ childhood. “Of course, we may need to stop doing that now…”

But my son would not hear of that. Because of Saint Nicholas, “Santa” had essentially become more real to him now more than ever. He actually told me that we should continue to honor Nikolaos and “keep the magic going" for his five-year-old sister, who still believes in the flying-reindeer-driver, frozen-tundra-property-owner, cookie-addic… er, loving, elven-factory-director Santa Claus. So this year there was a new “Santa’s helper” on December 24th, one who would still be surprised on Christmas morning with a special present “from Santa.”

Because Santa Claus is real. There is really no argument about that.

(That reminds me: we never did get around to figuring out where the flying reindeer and the elven factory workers came into the picture. Perhaps next year.)

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