Last year, St Nicholas forgot to come. Sophie couldn’t believe it. Her face fell as she peered into her shoes…nothing. They were as empty as they’d been the previous evening. There was nothing in any of the shoes, from the giant black boots at the head of the line to the small buckle-ups at the end.

‘You’re up much too earlier,” I said hastily. “Back to bed. St Nicholas probably hasn’t got here yet.” The girls dived back under their blankets.

Rustle! Rustle! Rustle! Rustle!

Some time later: “Is it time to get up yet?...Wow! Look! Two sorts of chocolate coins!”

We never intended the children to believe that St Nicholas really fills children’s shoes with gold coins. It all started off as a bit of fun. I thought we were all aware that it was a pretence. But somewhere along the way, the younger girls grew up thinking the chocolate coins were actually delivered by the patron saint of children. I suspect their older brothers are to blame. They couldn’t resist bringing a bit of magic into their sisters’ lives.

We all want to create a bit of magic for others. When I was growing up, my mother provided many magical moments for me and my sisters. She was good at playing the Santa game. She could always come up with answers to such tricky questions as, “Why is Santa wearing glasses? He could see perfectly well when he was in that other shop.”

A few weeks before Christmas, my mother would take us to the department store in the city to visit Santa. We’d whiz up to the top floor in a special rocket elevator complete with flashing lights and buttons of all descriptions. “Next stop Santa’s grotto!” announced the pilot. The doors slid open and with eyes wide, we emerged into a wondrous, snowy land. Pixies and elves were waiting to greet us. Where was Santa? He couldn’t be seen. He was deep inside his fairy tale grotto. My sisters and I joined the queue of other excited children. Soon we on our way down a sparkling, twinkling, magical tunnel that led to Santa’s enormous chair. Finally it was our turn to climb up onto Santa’s huge lap. We told the very plump old man what we wanted for Christmas. He told us to make sure we were good girls before giving us each a little gift. Of course, we were all very determined to be as good as possible, at least until Christmas Day.

On Christmas Eve my mother would help us pour a glass of milk for Santa. We’d add a plate of biscuits in case he felt hungry. And a bunch of carrots for the reindeer. We put everything on a tray where Santa would be sure to see it. Then it was off to bed early because everyone knows Santa doesn’t come until all the children are asleep. How difficult it was to settle down! But finally our eyes would close and we’d be dreaming of pillow cases bulging with presents. One year I woke in the middle of the night and I was certain I saw Santa’s black boots disappearing through the doorway. At the end of my bed was a huge stack of gifts.

Yes, I have some very magical memories of Christmas because of the efforts of my mother and father.

When Andy and I had our own family we wanted to provide an exciting and magical Christmas for our children too. We started off trying to celebrate in the same way I’d known as a child. But, unlike my mother, I wasn’t very good at pretending games. I felt sure I’d forget something and then my children would be so disappointed. I didn’t want them to become disillusioned when they realised everything was not really true. I wondered if we could have an exciting and magical Christmas without keeping up the myth of Santa.

When our first children were very young, I became a Catholic. A whole new world opened up for me. I discovered something far better than the magic of Santa. It is the miracle of Jesus. The thought of God, the Creator of the World becoming a little baby and being born on Christmas Day is just beyond comprehension. The myth of Santa just pales into insignificance. We didn’t need to pretend to believe in a myth. We could believe in the Truth.

So we swapped all the Santa traditions for the traditions of Advent and I hope our children will treasure their Christmas memories just as much as I treasure mine.

I think that Santa can have a place in a Catholic celebration of Christmas. We all know the myth has its roots in a real saint. And there are so many aspects of a Santa Christmas that find an echo in the Catholic celebration: the anticipation, the waiting, the hope, the gifts, the love, the charity, the excitement, the work and sacrifice involved…If I’d had my mother’s skills at pretending…

But I can’t even remember to fill a few shoes with chocolate coins on St Nicholas’ Eve. What if I forget to do this task before I go to bed tonight? What will I say if, once again, my girls discover empty shoes on St Nicholas’ Day? Well, I could come clean and confess my forgetfulness and admit I don’t make a very good saint. How will my girls cope? Will they feel as empty as their shoes when they discover they believed in a myth? Of course not. They have something much better to believe in: the Truth. And that is all they need to have a truly magical Christmas.

Thank you Leanne for your post, Do You Believe? As you can see, it got me thinking.
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  1. My Pleasure... to get you thinking. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Happy Feast Day,

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  2. The story you told about your childhood Santa memory *is* magical. I wish we had anything that cool.

    I struggled for a long time with Santa, but finally came to realize that, as you said, Santa and Catholicism can coexist. It's been a big topic for me lately. :)

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  3. I am so pleased you stopped by and made a comment, Kathleen. Thank you! I think Santa was more magical in those far off days of my childhood. All the shops used to put so much more effort into creating Christmas atmosphere. It seems to me that every year the amount of decorations, the special window displays etc becomes less and less. Santa is no longer down a twinkling tunnel. He is out in the open having his photo taken with all the children. It's just not the same. I am sure my mother, even today, could create those magical feelings anyway! God bless.

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