Season and Spirit: Magickal Adventures Around the Wheel of the Year

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The Magic of Christmas

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

In the weeks leading up to December 24, my 8-year-old kept asking the same question. She asked it in as many different ways as she could, trying to tease out the information she was convinced I was withholding. She asked it after her choir's holiday concert, she asked it when she and her sister came shopping with me for gifts. She asked it as we made cookies, as we planned menus, even as we drove up to Boulder for a children's Solstice celebration. However she put it, the question remained the same:

“Mom, is Santa Claus real?”

She's eight and in the third grade, so this question is right on time. Evidently it was the subject of much controversy during recess, as kids with older siblings emphatically stated that No, Santa is NOT real, the gifts are all bought by parents or other relatives. Those oldest or only children for whom the myth was still being kept alive, were just as emphatic that this was not true, but there is a quaver of doubt. It is an age when the enchantment of childhood, the deliberate longing to believe in magic, in the extraordinary and the mysterious, is coming into conflict with reason and critical thought. This is when kids generally begin to really leave behind the irrationalities and fantasies of being kids, and step into the primary obligation of adulthood: to be responsible for one's actions. They let go of certain fictional heroes, as well as fairies and elves and ghosts, fairly easy these days, but they cling to Santa Claus as a touchstone of all the magic they are compelled to STOP believing in. Santa is probably the most deeply weighted cultural and secular mythic figure we have in this disenchanted age, and his connection to very modern customs of commercial consumption and acquisitiveness just embeds him into the popular imagination.

So my daughter most definitely wanted to believe in Santa, you could tell she was desperate wanted to be told that yes Santa is real. But this was competing with her rational understanding that the story could not be physically, objectively true, that there was no way an obese German man would materialize in her house late at night, and leave behind gifts, and do the same for every child on earth. So that was her conflict, and she wanted a definitive answer from me. She was not satisfied with my talking about Saint Nicholas the real person, or about the rites of the Saturnalia in ancient Rome. She was not satisfied with tales of Odin or La Befana or Los Tres Reyes Magos (that's who brought a portion of my gifts as a kid, a nod to my Cuban heritage). She got impatient when I compared Santa to angels, to a universal good feeling of charity and generosity. She liked the idea that our toy purchases for the Giving Tree at my office meant that we were playing Santa for some other child, but she didn’t buy that we all play Santa for each other, that being that kind and forgiving to others is what creates “Christmas Spirit.”

She did not want nuance. Santa Claus is a zero-sum game: either he is or he is not.

So, I told her the truth: that there was no jolly fat guy in a red suit who would fly over our heads in a magical sleigh and deliver gifts to our house. She nodded, as if confirming what she had suspected for some time, but she wasn't happy about the news. It was actually her older sister who managed to put it in perspective. When she complained to her about my final, flat declaration pronouncing the Santa myth debunked, her sister shrugged.

“Yeah, Mom told me that in third grade too. But who cares? Just because he isn't real doesn’t mean you can't believe in him. I still believe in Santa.”


It was one of those brilliant moments where the older kid reaches the younger kid in a way that neither parent is able to do. Once her sister gave her 'permission' to believe in Santa, regardless, my youngest appears overjoyed to embrace it all: the popular myths of this time of year both religious and secular, the traditions of our blended families, the call to generosity and forgiveness. She sees how, even though the gifts are bought from stores and not made by elves, there is more than a little magic in the night, there is always some moment of grace and beauty that is not bought or even expected. There is always a drop of magic in every Christmas.

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Leni Hester is a Witch and writer from Denver, Colorado. Her work appears in the Immanion anthologies "Pop Culture Grimoire," "Women's Voices in Magick" and "Manifesting Prosperity". She is a frequent contributor to Witches and Pagans and Sagewoman Magazines.


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