Santa's Special Fireplace

12/03/2011 06:55 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2012

It was difficult to explain to my 5-year-old nephew how Santa Claus accessed our house when we had a roaring fire burning in the fireplace on Christmas Eve. It was a legitimate question, and one we as adults had not considered. Then it hit us. We had a second fireplace that was seldom used, and so we decided to tell him that this was Santa's very own special fireplace.

This was great news for Justin, who then became so filled with hope and excitement that I thought we were going to have to sedate him if he was ever going to go to sleep. Telling him that Santa wouldn't come if he was awake didn't seem to have any impact at all, and he suddenly became very concerned about how we would know whether or not Santa had been there, and wouldn't his grandfather be upset if Santa got chimney soot on the nice carpet, etc. I had no idea kids could be so worried about logistics. We assured him that Santa always removed his boots and left them on the hearth while he placed the presents under the tree. This satisfied his concern, and the thought of Santa in his stocking feet tickled him a great deal. Eventually he drifted off... a Christmas miracle.

I decided it would be fun to create proof that Santa had indeed come that night, so I asked my dad for a pair of his snow boots and took them over to Santa's special fireplace. I noticed there was a very thin layer of dust on the hearth, so I took a wet towel and moistened the bottoms of the boots, pressed the boots onto the hearth just hard enough to leave an outline, and then used the towel to create nice complete prints. The effect was perfect!

Sure enough, bright and early Christmas morning, Justin tore down the stairs like he was shot from a cannon, and made a beeline to Santa's fireplace. Seeing the perfect boot prints on the hearth, he squealed with absolute joy as he exclaimed, "He was HERE! He was HERE!" over and over as he made his way into the family room to behold the Christmas tree. Happily, in spite of his remarkable attention to detail, he didn't sniff the carpet for traces of Santa's stinky socks. And I fully expected him to.

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Justin is 30-years-old now, and I often wonder if he's ever used this technique on his own kids, or if by some Christmas miracle, he never knew it was a trick at all.

This is my fondest Christmas memory, for it demonstrates how something so ridiculously simple can make such an extraordinary difference. We all have the capacity to create a little Christmas magic, all we really have to do is use our imagination.