Our interview with Santa was entirely accidental, at least on my part.
At the request of my editor, and feeling a little silly, I sent letters to the North Pole asking for the interview, but received no response so I’d pretty much given up.
But on a shopping excursion with my granddaughter we stopped at a mall Christmas display so she could sit on Santa’s lap and tell him what she wanted for Christmas.
Now, I should say that my granddaughter long ago figured out that the mall Santas are only helpers in costume, but she’s certain that they pass along her comments to the big guy, so she goes along with the charade. It always makes me smile to watch her on Santa’s lap.
This time, however, it was she who left the Santa enclosure with a huge smile.
“Grampa! He’s the real Santa! He got your letter and said he’ll talk to you,” she said. “He wants to meet you in the office behind customer service in 15 minutes. I said you’d be there.”
So it was that I got to sit down with Santa to talk about Christmas, believing, and magic.
Tim: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, but tell me, how do I know you’re the real Santa?
Santa: (laughing) I suppose that you really don’t, and I’m not going to prove it with any silly tricks. The truth is that you either believe or you don’t. That’s always been the case.
Tim: OK. Let’s try a different approach. It’s coming up to Christmas – a busy time of year for you, I’d think, and here you are talking to children in a shopping mall. Don’t you have better things to do?
Tim: And what do you think is more important than talking to little children?
Tim: Um …
Santa: Exactly. When you ask a question like that I can tell you’re heading down the road of making me prove I’m real. There are a thousand trick questions, and I’ve heard all of them. How do I visit every home in one night? How do I know what every child wants? How do I get into homes without fireplaces and chimneys?
Tim: Well, what about it? What’s the answer?
Santa: Let me answer by asking you some questions. Do you still get a special feeling when you watch a child’s face on Christmas morning? Have you noticed people showing a bit more caring and love at Christmas, collecting food and toys for those who have less than they do? Does everyone seem a little nicer? Do Christmas carols make you smile and hum along?
There are a thousand, no, a hundred-thousand things like that that happen at Christmas, aren’t there? It’s magic. You don’t question the Christmas Spirit.
Tim: So your saying that you’re magic?
Santa: I’m saying that Christmas lives in people’s hearts as a spirit of joy, kindness, and love; love not just for those who are closest to us, but for people you’ve never met. Yes, it’s all magic, and I’m happy to be a part of that magic.
Tim: But the chimney thing …
Santa: Look, it doesn’t matter if you believe in me. What’s important is the Christmas spirit – that faith that there are things that are real, even if you can’t hold them in your hands. If that wasn’t true, if you needed proof of everything, then would you also say that you don’t believe in love? In kindness? In hope? Some things you believe, not because you can prove them, but because they’re worth believing in. Christmas is one of those things.
SNM: So … are you saying that you got my letters?
Santa: (sighing) You started each one by saying, “I’m not sure you’re real, Santa, but if you are, I have some questions for you for my newspaper. Please respond.” I was sad for you. I remembered how happy you were when you got your Viewmaster when you were just five years old. You believed in magic then … more than anyone, and I was sorry you’d lost that belief. I thought I’d try to give you some of that back this Christmas. Take it as my gift to you … a little early.
SNM: The Viewmaster? How did you know …?
Santa: Let’s call it Christmas magic and leave it at that.