My husband and I love to watch movies, especially romantic comedies. This time of year, most of the movies are about Santa, Santa’s daughter or Santa’s son, Santa this, Santa that, Santa ad nauseam. The stories are basically the same—something’s happened to Santa and somebody has to save Christmas.
Save Christmas? Give me a break. Christmas doesn’t need saved—we do. And I’m sick of Santa—specifically what Santa has become. Christmas isn’t about Santa Claus.
Lest I be branded a Grinch, let me explain.
Growing up, I believed in Santa Claus. Christmas Eve in the Maddock home began with a supper of sauerkraut soup, bobalky (Slovak Christmas bread), and oplatky, a Christmas wafer embossed with religious Christmas images. I hated the soup and refused to eat it, but my mother made it every year because my father liked it and because it was the traditional Slovak Christmas Eve fare. So all I ate was the oplatky, which was served with honey. I didn’t like honey, either.
But I wasn’t hungry anyway. It was Christmas Eve and Santa was coming! Because we attended Mass on Christmas morning, my parents avoided the battle of prying us away from our new toys by arranging for Santa to come right after supper on Christmas Eve. So as the dishes were cleared away, we three kids took our baths and donned our pajamas. No dallying around that night. We were all nestled and snug in our beds by the time the dishes were done.
We weren’t sleeping, of course—only pretending to be. I remember listening for sleigh bells and hooves on the roof, and wondering what I got. Once my parents had put our presents under the tree, they called up the stairs, “You can come down now. Santa came.”
Looking back, I don’t remember much of what I received. One year I got a purse. Another year I got a doll—not the Barbie I wanted, but a doll nonetheless. She had black hair and blue eyes, was much bigger than Barbie, and I named her “Rebecca.” One year I got a stuffed gray squirrel that I named “Alvin”—never mind that Alvin was a chipmunk. City girl that I was, I didn’t know the difference. One year my brother got a self-propelled robot (did they have battery-operated toys in the 1950s?) that terrified me.
What I remember most, though, are hope and holiness: the hope I felt on Christmas Eve that I would get what I wanted, and the holiness of the church service on Christmas morning that reminded me of the reason for the season.
Christmas is about something far more magical than how Santa slips down and up chimneys and visits every home on the planet in one night in a sleigh powered by flying reindeer. It’s about something higher and deeper and wider and longer. Something that ignites when we are children and flares at Christmastime when we are adults.
It’s about Hope.
Dear God, as I light the first Advent candle, I am reminded of the hope You gave us through Your Son Jesus—hope for now and eternity. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read Matthew 1:18-23