I have a favor to ask. Maybe I’m presumptuous to imagine that all 60,000 or so of you will pitch in to help, but it’s the season for surprises.
For a few weeks, could you all believe in Santa? And—more importantly– Santa’s elves? I know that’s asking a lot from some of you, the Grinches and the Srcoges especially, but it’s important. My daughter is a second grader, so this is likely to be the last year she approaches Christmas with an openhearted conviction that magic lurks in hidden corners of our world. I know that “the truth about Santa” is knocking on the door, but we can wait till after Christmas to answer.
Until then, could you be careful about the comments you make about the Jolly Old Elf when you’re in the line at the store? And could you maybe wait until you’re in the privacy of your own home before watching movies like “The Santa Clause” and “Prancer,” where disbelief is assumed as normal, especailly if you happen to keep movies running in the background, like at the local video store?
See, my daughter Bethany still believes in Santa. In fact, she regularly gets email from two of his elves, 9 year old twins named Sparkle and Twinkle. My daughter has heard stories about the elf twins since she was three years old. She still sometimes asks for Sparkle and Twinkle stories at bedtime, but when Sparkle and Twinkle started learning to read, they began sending her email full of details about daily life in Santa’s Village.
Sparkle and Twinkle attend school in Santa’s village. They learned to read by helping in the mailroom, and their math lessons involve helping in Mrs. Claus’ cookie bakery. In fact, they can count by dozens as fast as most children count by five’s since Mrs. Claus’ cookies are shipped by the dozen. Just as some families raise German Shepherds to be trained as guide dogs, Sparkle and Twinkle’s family has a polar bear cub they are training to help around Santa’s Village—polar bears are better for some of the heavy work than reindeer, of course.
Bethany knows the whole extended Elf family through bedtime stories and emails, including little cousin Joy, big sister Merry (who is currently an apprentice in the doll clothes division of the workshop), and the rambunctious neighbor boy elf who messes up the twins’ games. Many people spend hours trying to find ways to entice their children to practice reading and writing; Bethany rushes to check her email to see if the elf twins have written, and she is amazingly diligent as she composes answers to their letters.
Probably some of you are worried about the effects of this…deception. As a high school teacher, I have a front row seat for talking with kids about their loss of innocence, Christmas version. I’ve discovered that many kids know for at least a year before they let on to their parents. They instinctively understand that part of the fun is believing, and they don’t want to spoil the fun either for themselves or their parents. The fact is, very few students have ever been outraged at the Great Santa Hoax.
My older children passed through this phase of development with no obvious scars on their psyche—at least Santa-related ones—and I suspect that Bethany, the Princess of Pretend, will adjust equally well. And even my son, who is by nature somewhat Grinch-like, tolerates Bethany’s friendship with Sparkle and Twinkle with only the occasional sigh.
For those of you who are concerned about the real meaning of Christmas getting lost among the glitter and elven magic, fear not. Bethany excels in knowing what’s pretend and what’s real; her Sunday school lessons have reinforced the birth of Jesus as the reason for the season. In our family, the secular and the sacred complement each other, and the joy, wonder and generosity of Santa is seen almost as an extension of the Good News—St. Nicholas’ response to God’s gift, in a way.
So, I haven’t asked much of Lima before, knowing how busy we’ve all been with pressing issues and daily concerns. I know that Sparkle and Twinkle are living on borrowed time–as much as mythical, imaginary beings can—but I have faith in Lima’s holiday spirit. Thank you from the toe of my pointed slipper for helping keep Santa alive one more season.
Published in the Lima News, 2005 (approx)