For me the most endearing and enduring symbols of Christmas have been the Christmas tree, the stockings, Rudolph, and most of all, dear old Santa – plump and jovial, generous and kind. As a child, I enjoyed letting my imagination get the better of me and therefore readily believed in everything that seemed to make the world a more exotic place. So there was no doubt in my mind that Santa existed, as did fairies and elves, gnomes and witches. The only glitch was that he rarely visited our part of the world – we only read about him in books and got a glimpse of him on TV. That was another era – growing up in the seventies in India was quite different from what it is like today when Santa visits every mall, school and club carrying that huge bag of his, bursting with gifts.
As childhood gave way to teenage and then adulthood, logic and reason outpaced innocence. But the diehard romantic that I was, I never left my imagination far behind. I always knew that I would keep the legend of Santa Claus alive when I became a parent. And sure enough, I regaled both my little girls with heartwarming tales of fairies with their magic wands, of a fantastic world where nothing was impossible and of course – of good old Santa who came all the way from the North Pole with a special gift for every child in every home.
For as long as the magic of imagination and innocence worked, they would wake up every Christmas morning and excitedly look for Santa’s present. And I would be as excited as they were, delighted in their delight, warmed by their belief. As the years passed that conviction changed to a willing suspension of disbelief – my elder one had probably guessed the truth about who left the gifts there for them but she still played along for the sake of her younger sister. The years flew by and Santa eventually stopped visiting our home too.
Fast forward to modern times. I read about how some children were heartbroken and inconsolable upon suddenly learning one fine day that there really was no Santa. Wanting to spare their kids from this heartbreak, many parents were increasingly preferring to steer clear of the Santa myth altogether. My elder daughter, just out of her teens told me that most of her friends had never believed in Santa anyway, not even when they were little. When I quizzed my younger one (now a teenager) about it, she said she too hadn’t been taken in for too long. The truth had dawned on her even earlier than it had for her elder sister and that she too had kept playing along for a few years after that – for my sake. That was rather sweet of her, I think.
Sometime between now and when I was a little girl, the world has drastically changed. Reality has become virtual and we totally thrive in that deception, yet why are we no longer able to willingly suspend disbelief especially if it means adding an innocent joy to our life? Why is it all about being precise and accurate to the point of missing the point altogether? Why should the greeting switch from Merry Christmas to Happy Holidays depending on who you are saying it to?
Christmas to me will forever mean a special warmth in the cold December air, and Santa – the harbinger of joy and cheer. Reason, logic, faith and belief notwithstanding! I guess a part of me has never grown up – and am I glad about that!