Childhood Wonder: The Sustaining Power of Light and Wonder in the Christmas Season

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The other day, I mustered up my two hours of insane courage and decided to brave the crowds of Black Friday with the family in tow. As we were moving through the local mall, my children were attracted to the winter wonderland of Santa Claus’ Magical Shoppe away from the North Pole. My daughter who is old enough to start figuring things out herself made an astute observation. She said, “Mom, how is it that Santa Claus can be here at this mall and then when we go downtown to the giant mall, he’s there too and he smells different?” I was immediately reminded of Buddy the Elf’s similar observation in the 2003 movie, Elf, when he unmasked the fake Santa in front of all those children after he observed that this impostor smelled of beef and cheese.

Surprised Santa Claus

Panic set in as I abruptly realized that I wasn’t quite prepared to explain the math and the magic of St. Nick to our daughter. Luckily, my husband, who can be pretty good at thinking rather fast on his feet, had a pretty good explanation. He told her that the Santas in each mall was not the real Santa, but that they all personally knew and were chosen by the real Santa Claus and had to be able to fulfill a specific set of requirements in order to qualify as one of his esteemed representatives. Although the answer satisfied my daughter, it did leave me wondering: why do we go to such painstaking lengths to keep up this seemingly odd tradition?

Seeing as how this can be a sensitive topic for some of my readers, I wish to say this: many of my Christian friends and family have chosen to exclude Santa Claus from their holiday traditions based on the potential distraction he creates from the life and mission of Jesus Christ. This is understandable and I can certainly respect this since I also feel that it is important to recognize and respect the significance that Jesus represents during this time of year. But I also feel there is something more we can grow from as we retain an open mind to recognize why Santa Claus is still relevant and, perhaps, needed today. This leads me to my next Diamond in the Rough.

In the 2012 movie, Rise of the Guardians, the story revolves around the journey that our main character, Jack Frost, takes from being introduced as nothing more than a whisper and a by-word to becoming the 5th Guardian of Childhood, charged with protecting the innocence of childhood from the darkness and fear embodied by Pitch Black, the boogeyman. We are also introduced to 4 other Guardians embodied through the Easter Bunny, Mr. Sandman, the Tooth Fairy, and North, aka Santa Claus. Each of these Guardians come to represent distinct aspects of our childhood and the inherent natures found within each of our children.

In one early scene in the film, North invites a skeptical Jack Frost to uncover the layers of his literal and figurative Matryoshka doll and understand a bit more of who he (North) is and why he (North) is so needed as a Guardian. He then reveals to Jack that he (North) is the embodiment of the Wonder that every child experiences at Christmas time and his purpose is to do everything within his power to preserve that sense of wonder that his actions bring for each child out there. That, my friends, is where we have unearthed another one of our Diamonds in the Rough.

Without getting too preachy, I have long recognized that the central message of Christianity centers on the Wonder surrounding the empty tomb. It centers around a Man who was able to spread Wonder and Hope and Love everywhere he went.  Although I do not wish to dwell on the subject-matter of Jesus Christ, I will say that I find the concept of Santa Claus very intriguing, indeed. It seems very appropriate that the ideology behind Jolly-Ole St. Nicholas serves as the physical embodiment of the Bringer of gifts and cheer and joy and light to a dark world. We are often invited to have a little faith, but without that sense of curiosity, that sense of wonder, the motivation to trust and hope for something or someone we cannot see can be quickly lost to the encroaching darkness.

Carved Christmas NativityI came across an image of a letter from 2012 that was written from a loving mother to her young son regarding the tradition of Santa Claus and the significance of preserving the spirit of Wonder and hope that he brings into the imaginations of children all over the world. If you come across the original author of this letter, please let me know.  I want to properly recognize this person for providing such an articulate message. Especially for those who struggle with the right things to say to their children.

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Dear Ryan,

    You asked a really good question, “Are Mom and Dad really Santa?”. We know that you want to know the answer and we had to give it careful thought to know just what to say.

    The answer is no. We are not Santa. There is no one-single Santa.

    We are the people who fill your stocking and choose and wrap the presents under the tree — just as our parents did for us and their parents did for them and you will do for your kids someday.

    This could never make any of us Santa, though. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the Spirit of Christmas alive. He lives in our hearts – Not at the North Pole. Santa is the magic and love and spirit of giving to others. What he does is teach children to believe in something they cannot see or touch. Throughout your life, you will need this capacity to believe in yourself, in your family, in your friends, and in your God.

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As the holidays draw closer to us, I am pleasantly reminded through my children of the power of wonder and how influential it can be in shaping our imaginations, our memories, our hopes, and our dreams. This is one of the primary reasons why we honor the symbol of Santa Claus in our homes. Whether he is called Kris Kringle, Papa Noel, Father Christmas, or simply Santa, his purpose is the same and that is to invite Wonder and Hope in the unseen. We love the idea of anticipation and wonder in our children’s eyes as Christmas draws closer and closer. Wonder and Curiosity cannot be overstated in their capacity to propel us forward with faith. After all, it was Walt Disney who famously stated, “We Keep Moving Forward, opening new doors and trying new things because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths”.

I recognize that some of my faithful readers may differ from me in how they approach this topic. This is totally fine.  The central theme of my thought is simply to help each of us recognize the importance of preserving the Wonder of Christmas and the Wonder of childhood.  After all, it is through Wonder that the seeds of faith, hope, and love are born.  Thanks for your continued support in this endeavor. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to each of you!

— The Incredible Elastimom

9 Replies to “Childhood Wonder: The Sustaining Power of Light and Wonder in the Christmas Season”

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback. It means so much to know that! Please feel free to share this article with anyone you feel may benefit from this message.

  1. I distinctly remember how my Christmas changed as a child once I knew Santa, well, didn’t actually come down our chimney. The anticipation and wonder definitely lessened. I will protect the belief of Santa for my children as long as I can!

  2. What a great post! It is amazing how children’s imagination can change over time and as parents it is so important for us to just allow it to grow!!

  3. Movies are a great way to bring the holiday spirit. Even as parents we can be brought back to the magic through the memories movies can stir!

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