Santa Claus used to call me every single year, on Christmas Eve.
He would ask me if I'd been good, and what I was hoping for presents-wise. He usually reminded me to be kind to my parents and friends. As a child, I found the whole thing amazing, largely because we often switched the location of our Christmas Eve celebration from year to year. Sometimes we were home, while other times we visited my relatives in a nearby town. Santa Claus always knew which house to call. Unbelievable!
I know what you're thinking — but it wasn't my dad or my uncle or my grandpa making these calls. It was actually a family friend who took the initiative on his own, and was just trying to bring a little magic and joy to my Christmas experience. For years, my parents didn't even know who was calling. (That's probably why they always supervised these calls.)
Around fifth grade I finally began to accept that maybe, just maybe, my parents were the ones leaving out the presents. (Don't judge me! I went to Catholic school and was an only child — you can go on believing for quite some time under those circumstances.) And that year, the phone stopped ringing on December 24.
Fast forward to Thanksgiving this year, when my grown cousins confessed that they had always been incredibly jealous of my Santa calls. And as we laughed and rehashed the oft-told story, I happened to ask my mom if she'd ever figured out which family friend was on the other end of the receiver. She had, she said, and she would tell me who it was if I really wanted to know. I then made one of the stupider decisions of my adult life and said that yes, I wanted her to tell me.
Knowing the identity of my faux-Santa can't help but change my memories of this magical annual happening. And there's a lesson in there for all of us. Don't fact-check everything. Don't be a one-woman holiday truth squad. Put your logic and reason aside. Give in to the magic of Christmas. Believe in Santa Claus.
Of course, you can't do it completely or forever, or you will be considered nuts. As a kid, your childlike wonder is admirable and adorable. But if you're an adult, believe at your own peril. Adults who maintain too many kid-like qualities are met with derision. (Hello, silly man-child and narcissistic Millennial).
We grownups are supposed to have fun in December, drink some eggnog, go to festive parties, decorate a tree. But if we admit that we maybe, kinda, sorta still believe that Christmas is tied up in some magical quality, our peers look at us as if we said the moon was made of cheese and Neil Armstrong was never up there anyway.
That's why I feel like such an idiot for asking my mom to ID the Santa Claus caller. Without knowing, I got to keep wondering about my mysterious friend. Maybe there wasn't an actual Santa shimmying down the chimney each year, but couldn't there be something else just a little otherworldly afoot?
So this Christmas, here's my advice: Put some trust in the magic of the inexplicable. Look, I know that Santa doesn't exist in the classic sense. But I'll happily type for all our readers to see that I still believe in Santa Claus. Not the jolly fat dude in the red-and-white get-up, of course, but in what he stands for — and in how he makes us feel during the holidays. The lights, and the smell of pine in the air, and the taste of all that peppermint bark? Come on, you don't get that stuff during the other 11 months of the year. The Christmas movies and songs we indulge in are sappy and cliched — but they're also traditions I can't imagine going without. And whether you venture to your homestead for the holidays or not, I'm guessing you find yourself a little more thankful for the people who matter most in your life. Something special is at work.
You probably already believe, maybe without knowing it. Because even after being frazzled by the gifts to be bought and parties to be attended and storms to be braved, I bet this season still makes you feel a little more goodwill toward other people. I bet you say "Happy Holidays" to strangers at the store or donate money to a good cause close to your heart. I bet that this time of year, you're a little more thankful for those you love, you spend a little more time with those you like, and you're even a little more patient with those you don't.
Every Christmas, my parents and I sip eggnog and watch The Santa Clause, and there is one memorable line from Judy the Elf that always gives me the holiday feels: "Seeing isn't believing. Believing is seeing."
You don't need to see a fat man dressed up in a red suit to know Santa Claus' magic is real. You just need to look around this time of year.
See it? Believing in Santa is easy, I promise.