FEATURE – My name is Hollie and I have a confession to make: I believe in Santa. Not the Santa we know – the man of largesse in a red suit who commands a team of reindeer and impossibly flies around the world in a single night – not him, not exactly. But I believe in what Santa represents, which to me is the spirit of Christmas, good people and, yes, a little magic.
I was about 9 or 10 years old when I found out who Santa really was. Times were tough and though I don’t know for sure, I have a suspicion my mom wanted to spare me the disappointment of a meager Christmas. I learned about the whole parent thing, and I don’t really know if my illusions were shattered or not, but I do recall remaining curious as to where all the presents were hidden … I may have lost Santa but I also learned parents are magic.
One Christmas after my parents divorced – it may have been the first – there was a knock on our door, which we opened to find sacks full of presents of the most wonderful kind. I don’t remember ever telling anyone other than my mother my holiday desires but someone knew and delivered. This was to be the first of many experiences when I discovered people were good.
My children’s favorite Christmas story is “The Polar Express.” I love it too. To me, it is the embodiment of what it means to believe.
Now I don’t think we are meant to believe a young boy really did catch an express train to the North Pole. All my kids now know who the real Santa is and understand it isn’t a true story, but the thing is, it doesn’t really matter if it is real or not.
What “The Polar Express” does so well is create a world of wonder where you can go racing along freezing tracks aboard a train bound northward to see Santa. You can rejoice in the simple request of a young boy to hear Santa’s sleigh bells and be completely filled with the spirit of Christmas.
In the story Chris Van Allsburg writes of the bell:
At one time most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.
In the news business, we see sadness and ugliness all too often and a belief in goodness and merriment becomes suspended – and that, I think, is why believing is so important.
My kids once made up a new word. After a long hour trying to set up a chain of dominoes which kept toppling before the last piece was in place, my then my young son said we just needed to believe we could do it and not give up no matter how frustrating it became.
“I am faithing so hard,” he said. Faithing, I love that.
Belief doesn’t make the bad go away or only good come but what it does do is bolster our spirits for the darker times and makes them soar in good times. It helps us love our neighbors a little more, trusting that they are good and kind. It brings a sense of magic in an otherwise dreary world. And if we do believe, maybe, just maybe, we too will hear those ringing bells.
It may seem naïve to so boldly declare my belief in a magical man who happily lives in subarctic temperatures directing a horde of tiny elves in the building of toys, but to me, it isn’t so much naïve as it is hopeful.
Author update, Dec. 23, 2020: I wrote this story several years ago. I could never have foreseen a global pandemic, an economic recession or that I would go through my own divorce this year. When my editor asked if he could rerun the story I said “sure” before I had the chance to read it again.
Like many, hope has hung on a thread for me this year, but there is one thing that hasn’t changed: I still want to live my life faithing so hard. Merry Christmas.
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