Over the past month or so, I’ve read The Night Before Christmas to Lucia and Greta probably a hundred times. Both of them took to the story, and it was a relief to me to have this framework—the descriptions, the illustrations—to help me explain the whole idea of Santa. I’d been talking about Santa for a while, and Lucia watched a Dora episode about Santa a bunch of times, so she definitely understood the concept. But I felt like every time I brought it up, I had to add a new, perplexing detail—he flies in a sleigh pulled by reindeer; he visits when you’re sleeping; he lands on the roof; he comes down the chimney. It is bizarre to piece it apart this way, each element more incredible than the last. But somehow it all added up coherently for Lucia, who, throughout December, eagerly talked about what she wanted Santa to bring her (a wand and a pillow).
On Christmas Eve, we went to the annual Orlando Christmas Eve party, the climax of which is “Santa’s” appearance to dole out joke gifts to the adults and small but genuine gifts to the kids. This isn’t done half way—this year it was a friend of the hosts’ who donned the full Santa suit and jingled sleigh bells as he came through the door. I was certain Lucia would be scared, and she was definitely put off—for about ten seconds. Then she shouted “Santa!” and asked me where his reindeer were. Then she gazed on in what can only be described as wonder. When it was her turn to sit on Santa’s lap, she did it, even telling him the things she wanted. She was beyond thrilled.
Christmas was lovely but overwhelming for the little ones—it took us all day to make our way through the kids’ gifts; they would have been happy with any one of the things we got them. But it was clear to Lucia that Santa had visited, and this is how she describes her new things: the pillow Santa brought; the toys Santa brought.
Santa is real. We’ve made him real for her. And next year he’ll be real for Greta, too. A fabrication, from beginning to end—but what a beautiful, magical fiction.