Let us consider Santa Claus.
Let us consider happiness. And joy. Vivid dreams, and dreams made real.
Let us take a moment or two to meditate on St. Nick.
I do it each year. It feels warm, like visiting an old friend. Or paying respect to an elder, someone I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude.
The question that invariably bubbles up this time of year, in the minds and hushed voices of children of a certain age, is reasonable: Is Santa Claus real?
He can, to be sure, seem too fantastic to be true, with the reindeer and the gifts and the round-the-globe spreading of cheer. Skepticism from even the youngest of pragmatists is to be expected.
So it falls to adults to hear the question, to acknowledge it and to share what we know. The answer always differs—it’s as individual as fingerprints. And what each child chooses to do with that answer is, wholly and completely, unique. There isn’t a right or wrong way to feel.
But I will share with you, and any young, questioning minds around you, my answer, as a journalist and purveyor of news and facts: Yes, Santa Claus is real.
I believe that as much now as I ever did as a child. I believe it based on nearly 50 years of Christmastime experience, and on an education—first as a chemical engineer, then as a journalist—that taught me to consider evidence and draw concrete conclusions.
Evidence of Santa Claus is not firsthand, of course, as those who wish to remain unseen are often impossible to spot. But in the absence of television interviews or an Instagram account filled with #AnotherPlateOfCookies selfies, we move to secondary evidence.
What do we feel as Christmas morning approaches? Excitement. Anticipation. A sense of wonder.
What things do we share in the lead-up to this day? Fun. Laughter. Hope.
What does this holiday drive us to consider? Helping others. Reaching out. Sharing.
Those are not small things. They don’t come about because Christmas is any other day. They come about in abundance because Christmas is a day rooted deeply in faith and belief, largely spiritual but most certainly in some part whimsical.
That’s the part of Santa Claus. The whimsy. The quirky things that happen—an unexpected meeting with a long-ago friend on the street, a gift you never expected, an act of kindness out of the blue.
The parents struggling to get by who still find ways to fill the stockings. The kindness of strangers who bring trees and gifts to light up barren rooms.
Sleepless Christmas Eves. Pulse-racing flights down stairs on Christmas morning.
These are all reasons to believe. These
moments are why the legend of Santa Claus never fades. We who celebrate Christmas are told as tiny tots that St. Nicholas arrives as leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
Our feelings and hopes and the fluttering in our insides are interwoven in his narrative, so it binds us to this time of year. And that’s true for any of us who celebrate Christmas, young or old or in between.
Christmas without Santa Claus would be ahistoric, a ship of dreams with no wind in its sails. Simply put, it wouldn’t make sense. There would be a void, and Christmas is no day for voids.
So I believe. I step outside each Christmas Eve, as I’ve done since I was a white-Christmas-deprived boy in Florida, and I look up at the stars for a sleigh-like streak of light or the far-off jingle of a bell.
I have yet to see or hear anything. But as long as my legs can carry me, I won’t stop looking and listening. And I won’t stop believing.
Because the things that bind us, our hearts and our minds and the very best parts of our natures, matter. They exist so we can believe in things we cannot see, things that are pure and good and, in this case, remarkably skilled at entering homes unnoticed.
To anyone doubting Santa Claus this year, please take heart.
When I make a mistake in a column, when I misstate a fact, the newspaper runs a correction. The truth matters.
There will be no correction run for this column. For Santa Claus is as real as Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas to all who celebrate. I hope your day was one of peace and boundless, ageless whimsy.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.