At the beginning of this month I told myself I would begin writing about some of my favorite Christmas books. Clearly this has been one of my many unfulfilled hopes of 2012, but with my eye toward the New Year, let me begin…
In keeping with my last blog about Jon J Muth, I thought it would be appropriate to start here. I stumbled across this book in the library a few years ago, and was so compelled by the illustrations and sweet, simple story that I vowed to purchase it the next year–which I did. (Every Christmas I buy one new Christmas book that I think is worthy of owning.) It was my first introduction to Jon J Muth, which makes me wonder why it took me so long to come around to his Zen collection…
Anyway, I should preface this post by stating that we are “Santa people”. Among parents (many of whom are my friends) there is a growing trend in the notion that encouraging your kids to believe in Santa is “a lie”…which is true to a degree. Also true is the fact that I lie to my kids about many things–about not knowing where that full-size Three Musketeers bar they got for Halloween went, for example. I don’t know…it must have been misplaced…
I choose to think of Santa as a story–one of many that surround Christmas and every other day of the year. We have fairies and root children who come out of the ground, we have gnomes and brownies, nutcrackers and mouse-kings, characters of myths and sagas, saints, heroes… All of them carry with them a human lesson–a story of hope or betrayal, love or greed, or in the case of St. Nicholas, kindness and compassion. And in all of them magic…potential to do something beyond physical limitations, deeds that affect the lives of others. What could be more real?
That said, we are not over-the-top Santa people. We don’t climb on the roof and ring bells, or have our kids pose with a mall-Santa each year. We don’t threaten our kids with coal or willow switches (although we do joke about it now and again) nor do we buy them a million presents each year, claiming they came from the Big Man. No…
We are Santa people, but simple Santa people. That’s why this book is a perfect fit for us.
Far, far north, where the reindeer are, there is a snug little house with a bright red door. And in that house lives Santa Claus.
Every year, just when the nights are longest and the stars shine brightest, Santa feels a tingle in his whiskers. Then he knows that the Christmas magic will soon be here.
In lieu of the typical portrayal of Santa, surrounded by elves and the flurry of Christmas preparation (which translates to making toys, packaging toys, and more, more, more toys!), this Santa is a one-man show–a tender-hearted man in bunny slippers, living in a cozy house in the great north woods, who puts himself wholly into each of his tasks, which he completes slowly and with care.
First, Santa gathers the reindeer from the sparkling fields of snow. “Come along home now,” he calls to them. “The magic will be here soon.”
As Santa continues with his holiday preparation, he brings his loving, patient presence along, whether he is caring for his animals, polishing his giant sleigh, or darning his socks.
Then Santa lifts the harness from its hook and polishes the bells till they jingle together brightly.
The reindeer raise their heads when they hear the music of the bells: Is the magic here?
“No, not yet,” Santa tells them. “It’s not here yet.”
He is especially considerate when he comes to the children.
…Santa keeps a thickly bound book, and the names of all the children are written in this book.
Santa runs his fingertips down the crinkling pages. One by one, he reads each child’s name aloud and smiles. For Santa loves them all, and he knows what each child at heart wants most.
Then he chooses a certain toy and tucks it into his creased leather sack. And always the magic draws closer.
Not many toys, mind you…a “certain toy”. One.
And that is the reason I love this book so very much–because it mirrors what Christmas is about is our family. In this book, Santa’s world is not an factory-line created to fulfill our growing wants. In this book, Santa’s tasks are everyday tasks, done with care, love, and thoughtfulness. In this book, Santa isn’t superhuman–he is just a regular man, dwarfed in size by his giant barn, sleigh and sack of toys. In this book, Santa is only magic to the extent that he creates magic though his joy and intention, and it is this created magic that carries him–and all of us.
Now in the harness, the reindeer paw at the snow. They know the magic is near, very near. Santa knows, too. He gazes up at the brilliant, numberless stars, and he thinks of all the children and how he loves them so.
Suddenly, a warm tingling spreads from his whiskers to his soles. And around him, the night begins to thrum with magic, the kinds of magic that makes reindeer fly.
All of us can take part in creating this magic–whether tidying or singing, baking or helping others. We can all feel it, all share in it, and it is magic…
…whether you believe in Santa, or not.