When it comes to the delicate matter of belief, there are creative ways to answer our children’s questions without taking magic – and magick – out of equation. The winter holiday season provides ample opportunities to build magick up, or to tear it down.
When my oldest child was about five years old, she asked whether Santa Claus was real. Her dad and I told her that Santa is real, to those who believe. We talked about faith, and spirit, and magic. About myth and story, and the truth behind them. (Yes. We actually did. Our kid was super smart at five. She still is at 18!)
In turning toward an answer to the eternal question of Santa Claus, I ask you these questions: Is love real? Is hope real? Is magic real? Is faith real? Obviously we can’t touch or see any of these things, but most of us believe in at least a few of them. In some cases, we can feel them. In others, we may see proof of them appearing in the physical world.
I believe in Christmas miracles. Just like I believe that mystics speak with God and the gods, and that Tibetan lamas reincarnate with full recall of their previous lives. I believe in faeries, and faerie tales, pookas, ghosts, saints, and goblins. I believe in a power omnipresent and indivisible, and I believe in powers moving within the undifferentiated mass of timeless, spaceless being.
I believe in our ability to do good in the world with each conscious choice we make.
And, I still believe in Santa Claus. I always will. Just like I believe in what some call God, with Its ineffability, and the many faces It wears. Just as I believe in Persephone, and Demeter, and Hades. And love, and magick, and faith.
As Witches we understand that to some extent belief is what we build our lives upon. At the very least, belief offers a rudder when nothing else can help us find our way. The power of belief is an important gift that we may offer to our children. This time of year, with the questions about the realness – or lack thereof – of Santa Claus offers us opportunity to instruct and safeguard this tool in our children, while reinforcing the same in ourselves.
At twelve, my oldest started the Christmas season by saying she no longer believed in Santa. And then complained when she didn’t feel the Christmas Spirit flooding her as we trimmed the tree.
Again, I talked to her about faith.
The fact is, sometimes it’s hard to have faith that Santa will come. I’ll admit it; I have been known to test The Spirit from time to time. In 2006, the father of my kids and I separated. During my first Christmas season post-divorce I was having some problems with faith. It was hard to find my belief in the Spirit of Christmas when I had no one to give my Christmas list to, no one to tell what I hoped to find under the tree.
I prayed to the universe to reinforce my faith. I needed proof that year that Santa was still real. Still going to show up for me.
That year I desperately wanted some indoor/outdoor, Ugg-style slippers. Nothing lofty. Not a house like in Miracle on 34th Street. Not world peace. Not proof of some greater justice. (I mean, some things truly do lie outside the provenance of the Spirit of Christmas. As the Dali Lama said recently, some of those things humanity is just going to need to work on and not pray about quite so much.)
I just wanted slippers. Sometimes, especially in the midst of doubt, fear, and sadness, it’s the little things that matter. Cozy feet on a lonely morning. Some small gift, out of nowhere. It was a deal between me and The Spirit. Since I had clearly asked, The Spirit knew exactly what was required to validate my faith. Come Christmas day, I was gifted a pair of slippers.
That Christmas, Santa showed up as my sister. She didn’t get the slippers for me but for one of our nieces. When the slippers didn’t fit the quickly growing girl, my sister asked me to take them instead; she didn’t want to go to the trouble of carrying them home on the plane and exchanging them.
I whispered a thank you to Santa, and reminded myself that sometimes He works in mysterious ways; I didn’t know that my sister was bringing slippers for the nieces. She didn’t know I wanted them either. But Santa did. And He delivered.
Throughout my life I’ve seen innumerable miracles of Christmas faith occur, both large and small. It’s been proven to me time and time again that the Holiday Spirit does exist. I have been both the one who receives and the one who delivers on the promise of hope that the season offers.I was 14 when my father left the family. That year Christmas looked bleak. There were five mouths to feed, and no money to be found. We had a Charlie Brown tree cut from a stand of fir trees on our rural acreage, and bedecked with ornaments from Christmases past. We were fortunate to have some food in the cupboard, thanks to the local food bank.
As the oldest at home at that time I was privy to the goings-on of the adult world, but to this day I don’t have any idea who brought Santa that year. All I know is that on Christmas Eve a jolly, bespectacled man with a beard of white and suit of red pulled into our very remote, country driveway in his sleigh — or rather, his worn, old, white pick-up truck — with bags filled with festively wrapped gifts. There was a name on each gift. Santa left the bags on our porch. With a jolly smile he offered a robust “Merry Christmas!” and was on his way.
It didn’t make everything better, but for a moment it actually did. We were seen. We were not forgotten. The Spirit knew how to find us, offer us hope in the darkest of times.
In 2007 my miracle was the grandest The Spirit had yet conspired to deliver for me. The man I’d would spend the rest of my life with crossed mountain and river that stormy December to be by my side and share the holidays with me, the kids, and my larger family. That Christmas I felt like both Doris and little Susan in Miracle on 34th Street; the home, the family, the life that I had been nearly afraid to desire became my greatest Christmas gift. Now every holiday season is for us a celebration of the emergence of deep love and partnership.
Some would say it was just a fluke of timing. And there’s something to that; finding one who you may commit your love to is a miracle of sorts whenever it happens. But to me it was more than just a twist of circumstance that this relationship arrived wrapped in a Christmas ribbon: for me it’s further proof that when we open ourselves to the possibility that magic exists, magic proves itself to be real.
Movies are built on the theme of The Christmas Miracle. In my opinion, in this case art imitates life. Christmas stories with their grand, sweeping, soaring themes serve as a reminder of what’s possible when we allow ourselves to invest in love and faith. Through our agency, miracles are made manifest.
Off the screen, food banks fill for at least one day with more than enough to feed our community members who are hungry. People open their homes to strangers so they’ll have somewhere to be on Christmas morning. Communities pull together and provide gifts for children who would otherwise be without. I know these things first hand: I have been a person in need of a home, of food, of gifts. Other years I have been an agent of the Christmas Spirit, delivering same to those who have less then I do.
To quote the words of song-writer Red West, popularized by Elvis, “If every day could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world this would be.”
As a Witchy, mystic mama, I never felt like a hypocrite or a liar or as though I were misleading my children by allowing them to believe in a power that made their child-lives a little more happy, a little more bountiful, a little more hopeful, a little more magical.
And as they grow older, The Spirit needs not disappear. Instead of losing heart at the news that Santa is a myth, a legend, an energy, or perhaps even a god, faith can continue to flourish. Given the chance to become part of the spirit of The Spirit, children become an active part of that energy of selfless giving. They become agents – or Christmas elves – who enact the miracles of the season. They grow to be the hearts and bodies that offer those miracles up.
The Spirit of this season is palpable. It acts in the world. Whether you recognize it as the power of faith, or as Jesus, the Christmas Spirit, the Holly King, Saturnus, or Santa Claus, the Spirit is a reminder of light in darkness, generosity in lean times, and a bond of love between human beings. Regardless of the name we give it, it sustains. If we allow it to, if we believe it will, it acts through and for each of us, bringing miracles to bear.
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