Do you believe in Father Christmas?
Unless you’re aged under six or your name is Greg Lake the answer is probably no.
But although I don’t believe that a fat man dressed in red breaks into my house once a year (a scenario not covered by my insurance policy) I do believe in believing in Father Christmas.
Whether you call him Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Saint Nick or Kris Kringle the legend of the jolly gift giver is a persistent one.
I won’t go into the origin story because you can Google that but in his current incarnation, Santa has been around for almost 200 years.
He does go in and out of fashion and for a while in the cynical 2000s I thought the impossibility of avoiding Santa story spoilers due to the collision of young children and the internet would finish him off for good.
However, since having my own children I’ve realised that you can tell them any amount of bullshit and they accept it with wide-eyed wonder.
Is this cruel? Is making children ‘believe’ in a ‘lie’ causing them childhood trauma. In a word, no. I don’t buy that theory.
What I have come to love about the early years, truly the wonder years, of being a human is that you exist in a magical land under the radar of grown-ups.
Billy is three and a half and for the past year his imagination has been like a meerkat on a diet of energy drinks.
There are characters from stories and his own head (“Daddy how do the monsters get into my brain?”) running around all over the house and the streets we walk down. It’s like a constant technology free game of Pokemon Go.
So, while last Christmas he kind of grasped some elements of the fantasy, and we did go to see Father Christmas THREE TIMES in different locations (a bit confusing), this year he is totally on board and he also gets the present thing.
HE REALLY GETS THE PRESENT THING.
He even seems to be remarkably relaxed about the breaking and entering part of the story, despite going through a phase of worrying about burglars recently. All he was concerned about was how Father Christmas would get past all the decorative logs piled up in our non-functioning fireplace. I’ve been quickly changing the subject.
Writing To Father Christmas
So Billy has written to Father Christmas. He can’t write yet so he had to dictate it to me but I was impressed nevertheless. Here is his letter:
How are you? I am really excited and looking forward to Christmas. I’ve been good at nursery the whole time. Frankie, my brother, plays in my room. Please can I have:
- a transformer,
- a toy digger,
- a torch,
- some new gloves to keep my hands warm when it’s windy,
- the batmacar,
- and the batcave,
- Brother Bear on DVD.
I am very happy about this as I remember sending letters to the North Pole (no one told me there was no actual land there) from when I was five until I was aged seven or eight. I know I did this not only because I have a vague memory but because I kept the replies!
Yes, I know they weren’t actually from Father Christmas and now realise they were standard letters issued from a trading estate outside Milton Keynes (probably).
But at the time getting a letter back that seemed to respond to some of the things I’d mentioned, such as whether the reindeer were getting excited about their big adventure, was amazing. Imagine your favourite celebrity liking your Christmas tree on Instagram; that’s how cool it was.
What I like about Billy’s letter, and yes he really did say all those things without prompting, is that alongside the commercialism of asking for presents (although I love how one of them is gloves, like he’s middle-aged already) is the polite enquiry as to Santa’s wellbeing and the random line about Frankie, although I think this is wrapped up in the ‘being good all the time’ theme, that he lets his brother play in his hallowed room.
Asking for Brother Bear is sweet as it is quite an old film now, but the trailer is on our copy of The Lion King and Billy loves singing along to On My Way. I have seen this trailer around twenty times in the last few weeks so watching the actual film will be a relief even if turns out to be rubbish.
We have of course paid for a reply from Father Christmas because we want the magic to continue. It won’t be for long, I realise we won’t get to play this game year after year. I think six is probably the last age at which the game may not have been rumbled. And as for his little brother, well, how long after that before he simply tells Frankie that Father Christmas isn’t real?
Why I Believe In Father Christmas
You might have noticed it can be a pretty shitty world. In amongst the everyday loveliness is a lot of crime, illness, war, and death.
Should children get to live in a safe fantasy world of magic and wonder? Too fucking right they should. At least until they’re halfway through junior school and some older kids start showing them nasty videos on their iPhone.
I’ve seen a lot of Christmases and the last time I remember feeling this happy about it all was when I was a child. Having your own children opens your eyes to a lot of things and one of them is the positive psychological effect of allowing yourself to shake off the burden of reality now and then.
Anyway, Christmas magic isn’t all fantasy. You simply have to know where to look.
We were walking down the street this week and Billy stopped and stared up at the sky. It was already dark and cold and I was about to say:
“Come on Billy stop dawdling!”
But I decided to ask him what he was looking at. He pointed up above his head.
“Look at the tree Daddy! Isn’t it lovely?”
I looked up and the tree was covered in a light frost; all the branches and what few leaves were left were glowing and sparkling in the streetlight.
“Yes, it is,” I said.
We stopped and stared for a moment and then he was running off up the street shouting about pasta. It must be brilliant to go through the world noticing things like that, but it only happens if your mind is open and sadly, as we get older, our antennae become blunted by experience.
So put all your worries about work, bills, the state of the Brexit negotiations, and Donald Trump to one side. Shut out the world, stick some carols or Disney tunes on, and let the winter magic weave a cocoon around your frayed heart.
If nothing else, children believing in Father Christmas means us parents get a glass of whisky and a mince pie on Christmas Eve right?
Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!
We chose a Father Christmas letter from Paperchase this year but you can, of course, choose one of the many charity versions, which we have done previously. To assuage my guilt here are some links to some of them:
Categories: Being Dad