Friday, December 22, 2006

We Believe in Santa Claus

Christmas is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the festive decorations, I love the spirit of good will, I love Santa Claus … and I love that this holiday exists to celebrate the birth of Christ.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Christmas was always cold. Usually there was snow – always there were hats and mittens. In San Diego, there is never snow. Usually there are temperatures in the low 70’s and typically, short sleeve shirts.

In Massachusetts, I remember my parents having a bright red spotlight on top of our 100-year old colonial house that would be the beacon for Santa to land his sleigh. In San Diego, we have a bright red spotlight shining on our new Spanish-style casa so that Santa doesn’t miss us when he flies past.

In many ways, Christmas is so different now than when I was a child. But the magic of Christmas is still there. Just like when I was a kid.

Ever year Charlie and I celebrate Christmas with absolute reckless abandon. We decorate our home inside and out, we bake cookies, we sing carols, we attend the Christmas Eve church service where we hold white candles and listen to “Silent Night.” For as long as we have been married, the first words out of our mouths Christmas morning are “Did Santa come?!” Once we get out of bed, there are mimosas with champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice … homemade Pillsbury cinnamon rolls … luscious juicy pears … lox and bagels … all served up on our finest china and crystal. We begin opening our stockings at 7 AM and quite often; we are not yet finished by noon. Sometimes, it is late in the day before we finish opening the remainder of our presents. It’s not because there are a huge number of gifts, but because we savor each gift that we give and receive.

We savor Christmas day.

The struggles that we experienced with infertility were always the most painful during Christmastime. Every year for Christmas, we receive over 100 cards and I remember, just a few years ago, sitting on the couch in our living room with a bottle glass of wine in my hand and sobbing as I opened more and more cards with pictures of newborn babies … happy toddlers … and families that were announcing “one more on the way!” For a couple who had longed for children for years, this was the worst form of torture imaginable. It was salt in a wound, but it was also hope that one day, we too would have “one” of our own. Little did we know they would come in such large numbers, over such a short period of time…

We learned on Christmas Eve, 2003, that our second round of IVF was not successful. I hadn’t gone in to the second cycle too optimistically, so I wasn’t terribly surprised – like I had been when our first cycle was a bust in October of 2003 - and I couldn’t get out of bed for two days. Still, I remember wrapping presents with tears streaming down my face – splashing in my egg nog – and listening to Bing Crosby. For the first time in our married life, we had all but given up on celebrating the most wonderful day of the year.

Yet, low and behold, the Spirit struck us. My mother and her good friend, Lea, who at the time, were both staying in San Diego at the OHI, came to celebrate Christmas with us. Lea had just recently lost her husband Bill a few months earlier, and this was her first Christmas without him. Suddenly, our entire focus shifted from the sadness we were feeling, to helping Lea get through her first Christmas without Bill, the husband she had loved for 30+ years. Although it certainly didn’t start out that way, the Christmas of 2003 turned out to be one of the most incredible yet, because it was full of love and kindness that warmed each one of us, heart and soul. The present that Santa brought to us that year ... was the gift of friendship and compassion. God obviously knew that was what we needed more than anything else.

This will be our third Christmas as parents. But this is the first year that our children have the slightest inkling what’s in store. The fact that we can now share our excitement about this most glorious of holidays with our children, is the most incredible gift I could have ever given to Charlie … or received for myself.

Santa Claus will most definitely be coming to our house this Sunday, Christmas Eve. Our stockings will be hung by the chimney with care and before our children are tucked in to their cribs, which they will undoubtedly jump out of 20 times before they go to sleep for the night, we will read to them “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Charlie’s family has a lot of traditions, but reading this famous poem by Clement Clarke Moore every Christmas Eve is ranked high among my favorites. Another of my favorite Christmas traditions is to read the letter that appeared in the New York Sun on September 21, 1897. I appreciate that there is justification that Santa Claus exists.

Even though I knew it in my heart, already.

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 what 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.

Francis P. Church
The New York Sun

September 21, 1897

Yes, Santa Claus exists.

Although, it looks like the man deserves a raise.


  1. OK... thanks for making me cry - AGAIN! This years Santa picture is AWESOME! Priceless!

  2. Charlie and Jen:
    I remember every Christmas we would recite "The Night Before Christmas." One year when Susan was about 4, she memorized it and her grandfather, Man, was proud of her, he gave her a 5 dollar bill!
    Family traditions are important and we are very, very pleased with the ones you are building.
    Maybe Santa should dress up as Winnie the Pooh
    next year.....less trauma.
    Love and Merry Christmas:
    Dad and Kathleen

  3. I'm sure you are going to have a wonderful Christmas this year!!!

  4. Merry Christmas Jen!

  5. Merry Christmas!

  6. this picture makes me laugh!

    Hope your christmas morning is wonderful!