A friend of mine told me recently that she thinks her Elf on the Shelf is going to retire. Her kids are 10 and 8 and aren’t enthralled by the Elf anymore, so Peppermint is going to bring a note explaining that she has enjoyed coming to their house every year, but she is done now.
My first thought was “That is an AWESOME way to get rid of the Elf” but then I remembered that I can’t do that yet. While my older kids have been less excited about our own Elf, Daniel, this year and the idea of retiring our Elf and the associated task of moving him every night was very appealing, I still have Autumn. At two years old, she took no notice of the Elf this year, but next Christmas she will be three. Theo was that age when our Elf first arrived and he was enchanted.
There are many things that have been hard to accept about having my children’s ages more spaced out than we had planned. Going to museums or the zoo and having to plan around a toddler’s nap. How far apart they will be in school. Unable to really play games together as an entire family. I thought that my daughter Nelle would be four years old this year, but instead, my daughter Autumn is two years old.
I love Christmas. I have many storage totes filled with decorations and transform our house every year. I love baking cookies, picking out presents, watching Christmas movies, and outings every year that have become our family traditions, like going to the museum and zoo for their holiday festivities. And as much as I am annoyed by having to move Daniel every night, I love the looks on my kids’ faces when they race around the house each morning, trying to find him.
Having a two-year-old in the house means that the magic will continue for many, many years to come.
On the other end of the spectrum, my 10-year-old, Theo, still believes in Santa.
I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book Talking to Strangers. In it, he talks about a concept of “defaulting to truth.” As humans, we are inclined by nature to accept the information that is presented to us – and to some extent, it has to be this way in order for society to function. We believe that we are presented with the truth until the evidence becomes so overwhelming that we can no longer explain it away.
We had never reached that point with Theo and Santa. He had probably heard other people in his class talk about no Santa, or hints of it in movies. But this is the kid who loves the world of Harry Potter and other fantasy novels. We talked about how in some cultures and religions, Santa is not a part of their tradition, and that’s ok for them not to believe.
It came to a point this year though, now in 4th grade, where I became concerned that some kid at school would tell him, and not in a nice way. Ger and I decided that this would be the year to tell him, once the bustle of the holidays had died down.
Today, a Monday, is the last day of Christmas break. His brother went outside to play. Usually Theo would be with him, but for some reason, this morning he was just wandering around the living room. I made a quick decision that this was the right time, and I asked him to follow me to the master bedroom. I read him two letters, that I already had prepared for this moment:
I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see.
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 eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
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.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
–THE NEW YORK SUN, 1897
The question may have crossed your mind: “Is Santa real?” Your friends may have told you otherwise. They may have even told you that it is your mom and dad that put presents under the tree. We know that it is time to tell you.
The answer is YES – Santa does exist. Just not in the way you have always believed. We are not Santa and there is no one single Santa either. Santa is bigger than any person and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive. He doesn’t live at the North Pole, but he lives in our hearts. Santa is the magic, love, and spirit of giving to others. Santa teaches us to believe in things we cannot see or touch.
We – Mommy and Daddy – have read your letters, picked out your presents and left them for you on Christmas morning. We did this just like our parents did for us, and like you will do for your own children one day. I promise that your heart will be filled with joy when you see the happiness and joy that come with Christmas, just like we have been with you.
We know that this might make you a little sad to lose some of the magic that you once believed now that you know the secret – but the truth is that now that you know, you just know a different kind of secret, and we hope that you never forget that Santa is love, magic, and happiness.
We ask that you help us keep Santa alive for Quentin, Autumn, and any other kids that still believe in him as a person. A child has to be ready to understand this kind of secret and now that you know, you can continue the tradition in our family. Just as you found joy in believing in Santa, we can assure you that you will have the same feeling watching others who believe in that magic.
We love you so much and we hope that you enjoyed your Christmas.
Mommy and Daddy