by Richard A. Quadrini
After many years of “being” Santa for hundreds of children, I have come to cherish the words they have written or spoken to Santa. The stories I share reflect the emotions by which the children relate to Santa. More so, they portray the love and joy that the real Santa invokes in them for their friends, family and baby Jesus.
One of the greatest joys of our worldly journey is the experience of family. Children especially enhance this joy when we witness or share in the boundless exhilaration by which they often live their lives. For many of us, young and old, that exhilaration and belief allows us to experience the treasure of a special relationship with that magical person who we call Santa Claus.
My life has been blessed with having a special relationship with Santa for many decades. Our family was especially fortunate to have Santa in our home every Christmas Eve. When we were toddlers, Santa usually came while we were sleeping. When we were a little older, Santa came to spend time with us before we went to bed (We didn’t sleep very much on those nights). When older, my brothers and I played Santa for many years for the younger cousins.
Later as a father, I was fortunate to experience Santa through my children’s eye. About 20 years ago, I started a special journey of being one of Santa’s favorite helpers every Christmas season. Over the past two decades and many dozens of visits as Santa, I have been blessed to know the beauty of Santa residing in the spirit of the baby Jesus. To my questions, “What does Christmas mean to you?” one of two children will exclaim that we get presents; all the rest will answer with various words that it is baby Jesus’ birthday.
For my daughter Laura and granddaughter Ella Grace, I will always be Santa’s favorite helper. It was a very busy week. On Sunday evening, I walked through the front door too tired to hang up my outfit. Instead, I set a number of red, white and black garments over three or four chairs in our dining room. On an early Monday surprise visit, Ella Grace was surprised to see Santa’s outfit scattered around the room. Laura quietly explained with a God-inspired remark, “Oh! I forgot to tell you that Santa picked grandpa to be one of his favorite helpers.”
After this occurrence, I began to reflect on the many touching things that I have observed children and parents say to Santa. These poignant words to him are reflective on the love that he inspires in children even as they are reciting a list of their wants.
Consider the beauty in the following comments …
We returned to the daycare for an impromptu second visit.
When Santa (again) asked Joey what he wanted for Christmas, he responded incredulously, “you mean you don’t remember?”
Fortunately, God gives Santa a quick mind, and he responded, “Yes Joey I remember, I just wanted to see if you had any changes.”
In a louder voice with many people nearby, 6-year-old Elizabeth said, “And you know Santa, last year when we were here, Santa Claus looked at mommy and called her grandma.”
As explained by the 6-year-old girl to her mother, “Mommy, he is not the real Santa. But that is OK. Santa needs helpers because he can’t be everywhere the way God is.”
The two young sisters were competing to impress Santa.
The younger sister won hands down when she said in a strong voice, “and you know Santa, tonight I am going to go potty for the first time.”
At a quiet moment, 8-year-old Chase sat next to Santa and said with deliberation, “What do you Santas do the rest of the year?”
As my answer was delayed, she said in a stronger voice, “You know, when it is not Christmas, what do you do the rest of the year? Are you a tennis coach?” Santa told her that he was a house painter and that he told stories at schools to young children like her.
She responded disappointedly, “You never came to my school.”
The oldest of three sisters, “Oh I don’t want anything, I just want everybody to be happy and to love each other.”
The first page of her list had a cute crayon picture of Santa, on the second page she wrote, “Dear Santa Claus I’m Eleanor, this year for Christmas, I want ‘happynes’ with my family and bless those who do not have a house or any food.”
This was followed by a request for one thing, a hamster.
The older boy slowly walked back to Santa. “But you know Santa, the thing that I want most this year, is for the soldiers to come back from Iraq.”
From so many different Santa visits, you come to realize that children could be the same, and sometimes not the same in different environments. A few years back, 8-year-old James said that what he would like most for Christmas was a new laptop. In a brief lapse of materialism, Santa (Richard) said to himself, “Yea, I would like to have my first ever laptop.”
This past year, at a woman’s shelter, the boys and girls wanted basic toys like balls, dolls or a simple camera.
In all venues, there were young girls with eyes that lit up like the sun. There were a few young boys with eyes screaming fear and bodies twisting to escape from this strange creature. On a few occasions, we have asked Mommy to take Robert away as he was truly petrified of Santa.
An infrequent but beautiful experience was the little girl turnaround. While walking away from Santa, she realized that she hadn’t hugged Santa, or maybe she simply became emboldened. Then Santa would watch with delight as he saw this child turn around and run back to give Santa his biggest hug of the day.
So the question remains, who is Santa? Is he billions of dollars to the retail industry, service providers and to the Santa practitioners themselves? He is for some.
For the above children and for many of us, you know that Santa is about more than what presents we get for Christmas. For true believers, we know that Santa is a character who brings magic joys but especially, he is a Christmas symbol that helps enlighten us to better realize the love and joy that baby Jesus brings to our hearts.
The love of baby Jesus as enabled through Santa is found in …
The young girl who asks Santa to bring a special doll to the fatherless girl down the street.
The older boy who is beside himself as he struggles to make mommy happy by not teasing his younger sister.
The children who ask mommy to bring their Christmas presents to the family that lost their home to a fire.
Even in July, some children will do a good deed or avoid a bad one, as they want mommy and Santa to be proud of them at Christmas time.
This Christmas and every Christmas, let us reflect on the love and magic of the above interactions and feel blessed knowing that the real Santa Claus works for baby Jesus.