The Red Suit Conspiracy – believing in Santa

WARNING:  THIS BLOG MAY MAKE FOR AN UNCOMFORTABLE CHAT IF LITTLE ONES READ IT.

As a kid, I was pretty gullible.  I tended to think that what anyone told me was the truth, otherwise, why would they say it?

I also spent a lot of time getting sucked in to things.  Maybe that’s why I hate gambling so much.  Not that I have a moral stance on it, but just because I’m lousy at it.

When you’re really little, like pre-school or Kindergarten aged, Santa is like God to you.  What an incredible being, who rides around at night in a sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer, leaving presents under the tree for every kid in the world. It’s no wonder kids run screaming from him at the mall.  He’s super human!

Of course, toddlers don’t think in practical terms.  We are told about Santa, we see the gifts, so therefore, Santa is real.  Simple.

As you get a bit older, you start to see some cracks in the Santa story, though.  Mostly, it’s from older kids laughing or beating up some poor sucker who blathered that they still believe.  Who wants that kind of Christmas gift?

I remember when I lost my ‘Christmas Virginity’.  It took a while, much like my rea…..never mind.  Anyway, it started out with little things like opening the gifts with Santa’s signature on them, then going to our cousins house to see similar Santa gifts with different hand writing on the presents.  That sure seemed odd.

Then there would be Christmas Eve when we were tucked not so neatly into our beds, and I’d hear what sounded like Mom and Dad stumbling down the stairs with something big.

I spent some serious time contemplating this dilemma.  I mean, on one hand, for every Christmas up to now, the manifestation of the great and powerful Santa was clearly evident.  Shopping malls had him on display, Christmas specials confirmed his existence, and our parents and older family members assured us that he was very real.  Then, as sure as the sun would come up, presents were littered around the tree.

Being the gullible kid I was, and knowing I was gullible, meant that I had to take serious stock of things.  I didn’t want to be that kid getting beat up in the school yard for believing – especially if it wasn’t true.

So, I weighed the evidence before me.  The gifts showed up as promised every year, with no trace of them in the house before I went to bed, and all the television, radio, and adult conversation said he was real.  It’s what I was raised to believe.

On the other hand, the idea that one man could circumnavigate the entire globe in one night flying around with magic reindeer, stopping at virtually every house on the planet, and little elves making cool toys like etch-a-sketch and rock-em-sock-em robots didn’t seem very likely.

So, it came down to one key factor.  Was the Santa story a magical truth or an elaborate hoax?  When faced with this at the age of 8 or 9, I decided that the only logical explanation was that he must exist, simply because I concluded that there was no way an entire adult world could support such an elaborate ruse for that long.  Not a chance!

I was happily resolved with my results until one day when I was playing at a friends house, and he said to me, “I don’t believe in Santa.  Do you?“.  Gulp!  The acid test.  Could I stand behind my conviction?

No!  Of course not.  I blurted out, unconvincingly, “No, I don’t either.

Just then, my friend’s mother walked in and scolded us for telling the secret when his little sister was just in the other room.

Wait a minute.  I was lying when I said that I didn’t believe.  Now, this lady unwittingly confirmed my worst fear.  Santa didn’t exist after all.

I was quietly heart-broken.  All those dumb adults really could keep the secret.  So much for logical deduction!

Through adolescence and early adulthood, I was wise and smug about Santa.  I would mentally criticize parents who tried to convince their kids that the jolly old elf was working hard up at the North Pole, so they’d better be nice…..or else!

That is, until I had kids of my own.

When you have children, your cynicism about things starts to soften.  You start to immerse yourself into their wonderful little fantasy worlds.  And along with that, you begin to rethink your stance on the whole Santa conspiracy.

I took a logical approach to Santa, just like I did when I was 8. Putting aside for a moment, just who Santa is, lets look at things:

  • He still comes late at night, delivering gifts to children – CHECK
  • He works all year in his ‘workshop’ so the kids will have gifts under the tree by Christmas – CHECK
  • He brings joy and amazement to little children on Christmas morning – CHECK

I think that if you put a few details aside, like the little reindeer, and the North Pole, Santa is every bit as real as us.  I think we, in our smug, all-knowing youth, had it completely wrong.  The little kids were right after all.

Santa does exist.  There is no conspiracy after all.

Great, old St. Nickolaus, the Bishop of Myra in Turkey who is said to have given gifts to children at the time, was only the first in a very long line.

Now, those honoured enough, and who have a hint of that childhood belief, work all year long in their own ‘workshops’ (office), along side the ‘elves’ (co-workers), and deliver gifts on that magical night to their little children.

What an awesome job to have.  Being Santa Claus. If all those parents slogging away all year, then standing in line at the mall don’t believe in Santa, they are as lost to the magic as any child who stops believing at an early age.

Let me stress that Christmas is NOT about giving and getting presents, or going into debt while burning through your credit limit at the mall.  Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In that spirit, however, bringing joy to children seems like a pretty nice way to celebrate God’s love for us.

Don’t give up on Santa.  He’s real, and he’s in each of us.  The sleigh and red suit may be gone, but what he did, and what he represents is as real as ever.

Merry Christmas!

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When I grow up…

There’s a commercial on TV right now, with a little boy dressed up as a pirate.  He runs around the house, chasing a turtle with his sword or doing ‘pirate things’.  He ends up in a grocery store with his mother, and sees an old man with an eye patch.  As he prepares to do battle with the unsuspecting old guy, his mother quickly rushes him out of the store.

It’s very cute.  We all love watching kids play out these fantasies in their everyday lives – little girls riding their tricycles around my neighbourhood dressed up like fairy princesses, while dad patiently walks behind them holding their wand, is adorable.

When we’re little, we dream of what we’d like to be when we grow up, and it’s usually something none of us will ever aspire to; astronaut, movie star, super hero.

You sometimes hear about famous athletes or celebrities announce during a speech or after winning a trophy of some sort, how it’s been a dream of theirs since they were a little kid.

I can kind of get that when it comes to athletes, but for actors?  Did they really lay on the grass in their backyards as little kids, daydreaming of sitting in makeup at 4am for 3 hours only to find out that the catering truck didn’t show up, so they had to wrap for the day, or taking wild swings at the paparazzi that swarm them like mosquitoes?

Something happens to us as we get older.  Belief in things like the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny disappear, and along with them, other fantasies that sit in our memories.

We learn that Superman isn’t real, and the closest thing we have to real heroes now are random strangers who happen upon an accident, running into the dangerous situation that we run away from.  No capes or tights, which is probably a good thing, but nothing obvious to tell them apart from the rest of us.

I don’t remember what I wanted to be when I grew up.  We did a lot of outdoor stuff, and had an affinity to climb things.  I recall that we had a ‘Spider Man Club’ where we’d challenge each other to complete difficult obstacle courses on playground equipment.  I don’t know that I ever thought I wanted to be Spider Man when I grew up, though.  In fact, I don’t think I know very many people who have had a life-long dream, then went out and achieved it.

There is one old friend who, after suffering a back injury as a young teenager, decided he wanted to become a chiropractor after his first treatment where the conventional medical institutions could not relieve his pain.

He committed to it back then, and the last time I saw him, a few years ago, he was running one of the most successful sports injury clinics around.  Now that is following your dream!

Being in the hunt for work, I often get asked what it is I want to do, now that I’m free to chase my dreams.  In fact, it was one of the first questions I was asked by the guy charged with getting me back to work.  I stumbled over my answer.  I’m not even sure that I gave him an answer.

Mostly, I’m only able to give a list of the things I know I DON’T want to do any more;  drive in rush-hour traffic, sit in meetings all day, that kind of stuff.  If I was completely honest with myself, I’d say that for the rest of my life, my work would look like this:

Sleep in, pour a coffee, get my daughter off to school, read the paper, walk the dog, chat with the neighbours, cut the grass, go golfing, fix something around the house, do a bit of shopping, then prepare a fabulous meal for my family – Something barbequed.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to come up with a way to get paid to do those things.

See, here’s the problem with starting over so late in your career.  All those childhood dreams are long gone; dried up in the dusty old recesses of your mind, if they were ever there in the first place.

Even if you wanted to be idealistic about the rest of your working life, you will be tasked with verbalizing your grand plan.  Astronaut or super hero are not likely in the cards any more, and you’d more likely be sitting on a chair in a psychiatrists office than working with NASA on the next space mission if you ever brought those dreams up.

Six year old dreamers are cute.  Fifty year old dreamers are on drugs…or should be…or are Richard Branson.

I don’t know if, over years of being beaten down or having dreams dashed, that you kind of throw in the towel, or if it’s something more basic than that.  Maybe you just realize that at a point in your life, you see the kind of stress your boss is under, and know you don’t want that, and the things that are important to you have changed.  Good family, good neighbours, good friends, good health.

I know that sounds really boring, and maybe it is.  But I also think you can still be a bit of that dreamer kid you once were, just on a more practical level.  Helping someone pick up dropped groceries in the parking lot, or cutting a neighbours grass when their lawn mower is kaput.

It’s never too late to be that guy or gal you dreamed of being when you were a kid, but it may look different, and be a bit less glamorous. In the end, though, we’re really here to help each other through life.  If that’s our only accomplishment, we’ve done quite well.

It may not be leaping tall buildings or swinging through sky-scrapers on a web, saving that damsel in distress, but it’s a lot safer, and you don’t have to wear tights.  Unless you want to.