By Tom Quiner
Christmas Eve: it’s the greatest feeling in the world.
The Christmas pageants … family gatherings … the anticipation of gifts … the Baby Jesus … and the glorious, starry skies on a cold winter night that would soon reveal a flying sled powered by reindeer with a Jolly ol’ man at the helm … well, the joy of that night was almost too much for a kid to take.
One year, my sister and I concocted a scheme to catch Santa when he brought gifts to our house. We tied a string to his glass of milk (next to the plate of cookies we left for him) and strung it all the way to the upstairs where we slept and put a bell on the end. When Santa took a gulp of milk, the bell would ring and we would run down the stairs and confront our friend.
Sadly, we were deep sleepers and didn’t hear the bell when it inevitably rang.
I am now a grandpa. Do I still believe in Mr. S. Claus (as I like to call him)?
The writer G.K. Chesterton captures the adult sense of Santa Claus better than I:
“What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the
experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.
It happened this way …
As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good — far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me …
And as I say, I believe it still.
I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea.
Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Clause gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.”
Makes me think of that majestic passage from the Gospel of St. Luke 2:14:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
Christmas is about the goodwill of man, beginning with the “peculiarly fantastical goodwill” of you and me.
As a grandfather, I can hardly wait for Christmas Eve again this year as I hold my little grandson close to my chest in one arm and my new little granddaughter in the other as we feast our eyes on our glorious Christmas tree and sing songs about the Baby Jesus who shall breathe love into our lives.
The Giver of Gifts just keeps on giving.
That’s why I believe in Santa Claus.