How is it even an issue? If anything, it should be a non-issue. And I’m not even talking about the actual existence of the guy. I’m talking about convincing children of his active role in their lives and how this should effect their behavior.

Of course character in question is Santa Claus. Whether you once believed, or you still believe to this day, allow me to take this opportunity to set the record straight: The popular cultural icon recognized the world over and celebrated during the holiday season is in fact an amalgamation of multiple figures, historical and mythical, borrowing from several ancient religions and folklores, and ultimately polished and perpetrated by clever and talented artists, writers, and musicians for commercial and entertainment purposes. Any significant attachment one might place on him in relation to “the spirit of Christmas” or “the joy of giving” or “childhood wonder and innocence” is largely a product of introduced tradition, encouraged by mass media and commerce.

That is to say, he only exists in the present day as far as our imaginations will allow him to wander.

I am a big supporter of imagination, so don’t misunderstand, I like the idea of Santa. I am not opposed to having images of him in our house, or watching him portrayed in movies, or even letting my kids sit on his lap at the mall. And “no”, I don’t have a sad childhood story of being disenchanted with Father Christmas when I didn’t get the toy I wanted. In fact, I don’t ever remember even entertaining the idea that he existed.

I have many childhood memories, a lot of them pertaining to the holidays, but that is one thing I don’t recall. I remember decorating trees, setting up  Nativity scenes, singing in pageants at church, decorating cookies, hanging lights, and opening lots of presents, but I don’t remember thinking that any of those presents came from an Arctic workshop. I have an extensive catalog of carols and songs stored in my mind, and I’m sure I could have told you the story of Jesus’s birth at an early age, but I’m never reminded of a time when I sent a letter to the North Pole.

Would you believe me if I said that I wish he was real? What a wonderful thought! An immortal, incorruptible man, wielding magic and mystery, selfless and generous to no end! It inspires and delights and will continue to do so for an age.

But the fact still remains that he isn’t real. So why do we think we need him? Why do people earnestly and effortlessly lie to their children about him?

The speculation runs rampant every twelve months or so. The arguments, for and against, are as hot a topic as presidential platforms. “Children transition between fantasy and reality constantly.”; “When I found out, I questioned everything my parents ever told me was true.”; “Children need to hold onto a sense of wonder and hope for as long as possible.”; “Santa is an anagram for Satan!”; “Why would I want someone else getting credit for all the presents I give my kids?” ; “Secularism and c0mmercialism are detracting from the true meaning of Christmas!” and the list goes on.

But you know what? This life is short and filled with contradictions. We constantly tell our kids things that aren’t true: The Easter Bunny; the Tooth Fairy; the Boogeyman; “If you hold your face like that, it will stay that way!”;  “If you pick your nose, your brains will fall out.”; “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

If you want your kids to believe that a fat, jolly elf breaks into your house once a year and leaves candy and gifts as long as they are nice and not naughty, then by all means. Deal with the fallout when/if it ever comes. They will need to learn to live with disappointment eventually anyway.

As for me, I will never tell my children that Santa Claus is alive and well, keeping tabs on their every move. Not because I want to stifle their already overactive imaginations. Not because I am a “Scrooge” or a “Grinch”. Not because I am a fanatical religious purist. The reason is simply this:

The story, the true story, of God becoming man and dwelling among men from infancy to adulthood is so much more miraculous. The tale of a young woman, pure and ordinary, but created for a unique purpose, is beautiful. The dangerous journey during perilous times under the reign of a wicked tyrant, is captivating. The unconscious world, waiting with bated breath for the first infant sound from the creator of the universe after so much silence, is intense. The filthy herdsmen completely caught off guard by a divine announcement from a glorious heavenly host, is awe-inspiring. The cross-continental quest by pagan soothsayers with precious gifts, is powerful.

It’s not a new story. We are all familiar with it. No flying reindeer with sleigh. No elves with toys. No snow with jingle bells. Just a baby in a dirty barn, destined to die on a bloody cross. Simple. Old news.

Except it isn’t. At all. It’s magic. Magic that we can’t begin to explain or understand. It’s extraordinary. And we are a part of it. Even now. Today. The story goes on with us involved. Us. Ordinary, wicked, filthy, unbelieving us.

Sure, if you want to say that Saint Nicholas was an actual person who lived long ago and led by a generous, positive example, then go right ahead. But he died. And not even for our sins either. And I can’t help be convinced, were he to observe, that he would be horrified and appalled by the way he is represented today.

So what if Jesus wasn’t born on December 25, 0000 A.D.? Who cares if we recognize a holiday that is a pine-scented potpourri of bygone seasonal celebrations? Remember Jesus’s sacrifice EVERYDAY and look forward to His promised return.

And while you’re doing that, enjoy the festivities. Take advantage of a worldwide party. Have a cookie. Hum a tune. Hang out under some mistletoe.  Make new memories. Love generously.

Happy Holidays.