I used to feel Christmas as a kid a lot. I’m not talking about the happiness of receiving gifts and phrases like “we’re all nicer to each other and merrier today”. Even then I felt that there was something special, something that I still like today. My son now keeps saying that Santa Claus doesn’t exist and that we put the presents under the tree. He’s “exposed” us a while ago, that’s normal. But my wife insists on the Santa story, she wants to keep some magic in him. And I agree, also because the “magic” of Christmas has always existed and despite the consumerism and the stereotypes, it continues to exist.
Many of you will already know that the ancient Romans celebrated the Natalis Solis, the rebirth of the Sun: a few days after the winter solstice of 21 December (or 22 as for this year) you begin to notice that the days have stopped shortening and start to lengthen again. The solstice has been celebrated by humans since prehistoric times. The “magic” lies in the fact that the long period of darkness is over and, even if winter begins, there will be more light to count on during the day and this was once very important, it was worthy of celebration! It is no coincidence that after a few days a new year still begins and the full celebrations explode in the Carnival (which like Easter is linked to the spring equinox, the awakening of nature after the end of the great cold: another reason for celebration). When I learned all this, I understood why I have always perceived something magical in this period: I began to see that Christmas is for everyone, not only for Christians; it has always been so; Christianity has been added recently. Whatever the reasons, I still find it beautiful that we send each other greetings, exchange gifts and meet with families around the table to celebrate. Then everyone can celebrate what they want, no one has the exclusive, it’s a celebration for all humanity.
But what about Santa Claus? Here too there is a historical reference, St. Nikolaus, the bishop of Myra, in the Anatolian peninsula, who lived in the first century, known for taking care of poor children to whom he brought gifts and for having also cured some of them from illnesses, if not even resurrected some – hence the beatification for the Church (St. Nicholas, the famous patron saint of Russia and other places) but perhaps also became St. Nicholas, patron saint of children = St. Klaus. In northern Europe, particularly in Holland, Sinterklaas was celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas’ day, the day of the saint’s death, by giving presents to children; later the Protestant Reformation moved the date to Christmas Eve and initially the Baby Jesus became the bearer of gifts. St. Nicholas probably became St. Klaus, Santa Claus in North America, when in New York, originally the Dutch colony New Amsterdam, they began to celebrate the tradition of Sinterklaas, still alive along the banks of the Hudson.
The meaning of Santa Claus fulfilling the wishes of the children who write him the letter has, in my opinion, a deeper meaning that we adults should think about more often. Children are capable of desire. We adults have lost this ability. I read somewhere that desires are actually premonitions, it would then be a matter of being able to read the signs that show us the way to achieve them – often, very often we don’t do it and that’s only why they don’t come true. It also happens because we do not know how to wish and we should learn from children, who from birth try to explain to us that we can wish for anything. Perhaps it would be good to point out that “anything” is a realistic statement only if it is about our true and deep desires (not influenced by culture, society, fashion, etc.). And even here it is not easy to understand it, as atrophied as we are by everyday life. To give an example, maybe it happens to us that one day we lose the job we believe we have always dreamed of but unconsciously “knew” that it wasn’t for us, it wasn’t what we really wanted to be and our real deep desire, the real one, not what made us feel cool doing that job, came true: we lost the job and we are desperate, but actually we unconsciously desired it (unconsciously means that we can’t know it but it is a very powerful desire precisely because it can’t be influenced by our conscious thought).
Making the little ones believe in Santa Claus should remind us of this, we can make our wishes come true, we can do it, just believe it for real and be really authentic. But, I repeat, it’s not easy. The realization of our desires should be our normal ability, a kind of purpose of our life. It seems that the original meaning of the word “sin” is precisely the failure to realize ourselves. In fact, the original message of every religion (let’s forget what they are today as institutions or how they have always been used by the powerful to control people) was aimed at the good of humanity and contained, among other things, clear (at the origin) references to these aspects: “ask and you will be given” is an example; but you have to know how to ask well and, above all, well understand the signs to follow the right path.
Do you know the joke about the guy who takes refuge on a rooftop after a flood and prays to the Lord to save him? Everything comes through, raft, boat, dinghy, helicopter but he refuses convinced that the Lord will answer his prayers and save him. But then he drowns, because he was unable to read the many signs that “the Lord” had immediately sent him: raft, boat, dinghy, helicopter… well, we are all a bit like that and the children should remind us how to do it when, believing in Santa Claus, they write the letter and the wish comes true. I want to win the lottery but the wish doesn’t come true – what are we talking about? Well, this is an example of wrong wish, it’s not deep, it’s not authentic, it’s influenced by everyday problems that would seem to disappear if we suddenly had a lot of money. But money doesn’t bring happiness; as I always say, it only greatly reduces stress…
I’m not here to give you the solution, but if we want something in a pure way, as children know how to do before we take away the magic of Santa Claus, things can come true. We just need to know how to catch the train when it passes. It’s happened to me several times, but many more times, who knows what I’ve done. I will explain this to my son who insists that Santa Claus does not exist. Yes, there is, buddy…