Friday, December 7, 2018

My First Letter to Santa

By Unknown - Illustrated London News, Public Domain
I still believe in Santa.

Yes, you read that correctly. I never had that horrible childhood moment that so many people speak of when they learn that Santa is not a real person.

Like many of us Santa was a part of my childhood. We went through the rituals of pictures with Santa at the mall and leaving cookies and milk out on Christmas Eve (plus carrots for the reindeer). But there were some differences.

Our presents always came from people in our lives. They were from Mom & Dad, or Gramps, or my aunt, cousins, or friends. Our gifts did not appear on Christmas but were under the tree as soon as they were wrapped. At home we opened our gifts on Christmas Eve and went to my Grampy’s house on Christmas Day for a big dinner. We also never received over the top extravagant gifts, but what gifts were given were carefully chosen for each recipient. There was even one year that we were not going to do gifts at all because we were saving for a down payment on a house. That year my brother and I, thinking that our parents would be sad without presents, pooled our allowances to buy them each some gifts anyway.

I also don’t recall ever writing a letter to Santa, though I thought of him often.

For me Santa was this benevolent presence that permeated the season. Santa was the quiet hours in the living room, when the only light was from the fireplace and the Christmas tree lights. Santa was the pretty ice pictures that appeared on my window on cold mornings. Santa was the sound of the wind creaking the trees when I tromped alone through knee high snow in the woods behind the house, and he was the hot chocolate and the feeling of my tingling cold toes returning to life when I came back inside. Santa was there when I would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night to plug in the tree lights, pressing my face against the window so the reflection of the room would disappear, and I could see the snow sparkle with the soft lights of our tree.

As I became older Santa became the moment of joy on a friend’s face when a perfectly chosen gift was given. Santa was there for every middle of the night, snowy walk, when I had the luck to find streets not yet plowed, and the smile shared when my eyes would meet those of another bundled up adult out walking just because it was so beautiful. Santa was icicles in my cocktail when staying at a friend’s house and we found ourselves out of ice. Santa was the feeling of warmth inside my heart as I wrote out Christmas cards to far away friends, and the excited feeling in my belly each time I opened the mailbox and a card was inside.

When I imagine Santa, I see an old man who lives in a simple, though slightly cluttered, cottage deep in the woods. He looks like a typical Santa with a full head of bright white hair and a long beard. He is usually wearing a red plaid shirt, and you can see the collar of his long johns peeking up from where the top button is undone. My Santa wears jeans with suspenders and warm wool socks. He is sitting in a comfortable chair by a fire. He is sometimes reading a book, and there is always an orange tabby cat curled up on his lap. A steaming mug of something is nearby. He has everything he needs, and he is content.

At some point he looks up. He cocks his head to listen. The cat’s ears twitch. She looks up at him with a long slow blink before she rises, stretches, and jumps from his lap. He closes his book, setting it on the small table next to his chair, then makes his way to the door where he takes a heavy long coat from the rack on the wall. He puts it on followed by a fur lined cap, soft leather boots, and mittens. The cat winds around his feet purring.

In my Santa vision there is always snow piled high, and the light that spills out as he opens the door sparkles on the snow like the lights from my childhood Christmas tree. His boots crunch down the cottage steps and his breath makes clouds in the air. The cat stands in the doorway, preferring to keep her paws dry.

As he emerges snow begins to gently fall. He walks down the path a bit, just a few steps. He closes his eyes. In my mind he is taking a measurement of how much comfort the world needs. I imagine that because he is content, and has all he needs, his greatest desire is to give some of that comfort away.

He pauses and while taking a breath he opens his arms wide. And somehow, though he is still an old man standing alone in the snow, witnessed only by my mind and the eyes of his imagined cat, part of him begins to grow. It grows, and grows, beyond the wooded glen in which his cottage sits. It grows high above the trees. It grows high enough the lights from other houses, and nearby towns appear. It grows until the curve of the earth can be seen, and then like two great arms spreading wide it expands to all horizons until the whole world is covered. And with another breath, this great, expansive part of him settles over the earth, gently and almost unnoticed.

And as he nods his head and turns to make his way back to his cozy home, somewhere a little girl is sitting in a living room gazing at the magical light of her family’s tree; some stranger catches the eye of another and takes a moment to smile; a young man out walking in the middle of the night sheds a bit of a happy tear when the crunch of snow beneath his boots turns his mind to a childhood memory; a friend gives another friend the gift of a listening ear and a hug; and maybe somewhere else a few more people decide to reach out to forgotten friends, or give a little more of themselves to help another person in need, or takes a moment to sit in the quiet of nature.

For me Santa has never been about the things that surround the season. He is instead about those very small, almost unnoticeable moments that we recognize the humanity of another person. He is the essence of those times when we stand in awe of the world around us and find that we feel both small, and deeply connected at the same time. For me he is in the small comforts that cost us almost nothing to give but help another person to feel seen.

And this year I feel like we need him more than we ever have, at least in my lifetime. So, for the first time in my life I’m penning him a letter…maybe it is more of a prayer.

Dear Santa,

I don’t think I’ve ever written a letter to you before. Perhaps I have but so much time has passed that I’ve forgotten. I do think of you every year though.

But if you are there, if you are listening, I’m asking that you help each of us bring a little more love into the world. Please help us to remember that we are all in this together.

And if you do live only in my imagination, if your cozy cottage in the woods exists only in my mind, then I ask that whatever part of me is you, to help me to be a little more forgiving, a little more generous, and a little more loving towards myself and others. The world needs that right now.

That is all I need this year, or ever really.

Thank you,


PS. Please give your beautiful kitty a few scritches behind the ears from me.

Happy Holidays to all of you. May Santa touch all our hearts this year.



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  1. Joie, just lovely! You write so well, and from your heart. Thank you for sharing this. It warms my heart.

    1. Thank you for reading and for your comment <3 I do love this time of year so much.