Vail Daily column: Is Santa real? | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily column: Is Santa real?

Jacqueline Cartier
Valley Voices

Jackie Cartier

Who is Santa? Some would say he is a cheerful person who visits once a year and doesn't overstay his welcome. He leaves his pets outside, and always comes with presents. In short, a welcomed annual visitor.

A version of Santa has survived the test of time in nearly every culture across the globe. U.K.: Father Christmas, Italy: Babbo Natale, France: Pere Noel, Russia: Ded Moroz, Chile: Viejo Pascuero; there are as many names as there are countries, yet, they have much in common.

Some align the tradition with the religious aspect of Christmas Day, for others it is a more secular mid-winter holiday, and for some it is merely a day off work recovering from a month-long spending spree. Every year, parents are faced with the challenge of trying to explain the existence of Santa. It is never an easy task. Why? What does the idea of no Santa mean to children? Why is it such a sad conversation? The presents would still come. The tree and lights would remain. Why then, is it so upsetting? And, is it true? No Santa, really?

Who is Santa? Why is the story so relatively consistent around the world? What is the common thread? Why does the image of Santa continue from generation to generation?

Thoughts of hope, compassion, generosity, happiness, tradition, recognition for good deeds, inspiration for the future … Santa sees it all. Don't we each want acknowledgment for the good things we do all year? Isn't it nice to think that those acts of kindness won't go unnoticed? Isn't it great to know that family and friends are spending their days thinking of something special to do for us, just because they love and care.

The knowledge that even during the darkest, coldest time of year, there is a bright spot, a warm sense of security that everything will be OK … that all of the family squabbles are temporarily set aside, replaced by love, appreciation and giving. Of course, they love you all year, and the gift of time and presents are always valued, but how often do we intend to do something nice for someone and time slips away and it never gets done. The holidays grant a very specific time for doing those things, a deadline of sorts, which allows us to show our appreciation for all that we have, and to share with those we know and others who have so little. One day a year, dedicated to giving.

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Why does Santa live on? Because hope lives on. When we tell a child there is no Santa, for many it means there is no hope, there are no dreams come true, no miracles. Why does a child of age 9, who clearly knows that a fat man in a red suit doesn't really come down the chimney every year, still look so brokenhearted at the thought that Santa might not exist? Maybe it's because in every child's heart, they know that the spirit of Santa lives eternal.

It's not about the bearded man sliding down the chimney, or flying deer or elves making toys … what Christmas is truly about, whether religious or secular, is love shared with family, friends and those in need; and faith that wishes really can come true. The actions of generations before you have proven that Santa is real.

Santa is a hero to millions of people because he represents the good we strive for; the desire to help those less fortunate; the opportunity to show our appreciation to those we love. Santa exists to remind us of our better selves. Santa lives in each and every one of us. And, the next time you hear someone state that there is no Santa, just smile, and remember that they simply haven't recognized the hero within themselves, the Santa that lives in us all.

Jacqueline Cartier lives in Eagle-Vail. She is the author of "Is Santa Real: A Secret Adventure."