Saturday, December 24, 2005

So now, if the wee ones ask: "Is there really a Santa Claus?"

He is after all, a Western concoction fashioned to *cough* convince little boys and girls to behave, much like our local aswangs, tikbalangs and kapres, right? Uh huh.

Several hours ago, my wee 7-year-old nephew (also my godson) J had declared that he would stand watch by the window tonight so that he can meet Santa and claim his gift from the jolly old fellow himself. His parents had been considering revealing the awful truth about the man from the North Pole, but I argued that if they break the news to J it's as good as telling his 5-year-old brother O, too (J being worse than a desperate journalist eager to make his first scoop). 5 is too young an age to be disillusioned, is it not? But then they tell me that O, smart aleck that he is, already knows! Bah. Well that's no good reason to burst J's bubble either.

I no longer recall under what exact circumstances I had found out myself, but I do remember what an unpleasant wave of discovery it was, the whole Christmas myth crumbling down around me. What, no Santa???!!! No Santa, no reindeer, no sleigh, or elves or North Pole toy factory? I think I must have been 5 or 6 -- look at what it has done to me. Hahahaha. *cough*

Many years later I came upon this famous Frank P. Church editorial, published in The New York Sun in 1897. It has been a great comfort from then on. Maybe someday I will read this to J, perhaps when he no longer feels compelled to keep vigil, having noticed how the toys under the Christmas tree are always made in China, or how they seem so much like the ones they sell at Tiendesitas or SM, or how the wrapper resembles the ones Mommy bought a few days ago, or how strangely, even if he stays up until dawn of Christmas Day, there will be no sounds of bells, nor sleighs, nor reindeer, not a shadow of a Caucasian-looking fat man in a red suit with a white beard and pink cheeks, who will not have a chimney to climb anyway because we don't have chimneys in Manila, and why do they say he goes through the chimney anyway, that's plain stupid because how can he fit in any chimney with a belly like that???

But I digress. Here is the editorial *, nicked for your enjoyment:

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if you did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

* More background information can be found here.

As I type this, nephew J is already fast asleep, having been unable to make it even past the midnight mass. Should he wake up between now and tomorrow morning, if he asks why Santa has not come, I have my answer ready: "Weeell, it's dangerous to drive a sleigh during the winter months, see, maybe he got a bit delayed..."

Ho ho ho!!! Merry Christmas, peeps!!!

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