When I was 8 or 9 years old, I remember lying in bed on Christmas Eve thinking about Santa. The funny thing was, I wasn't really envisioning gifts or the way he would get into my house. I was just feeling good. Everything seemed magical.
I always think about that when I think of Santa. Of course, I loved Santa's presents, but that's not really what Santa gave me. Santa made me feel like everything was right in the world, things were on track, and at least for Christmas Eve, I could forget about being anxious or concerned about situations and just fall into the goodness of it all.
That's why I believe in Santa. He's a symbol of goodness and fairness, and he reminds me of what I fail to notice a lot of the time. Though he happens to pop up in December, his message is for every day of the year.
I know that many are frustrated by the whole Santa thing, largely because of the overwhelming expectations and the overdoing of "stuff" for the kids. But that's not Santa's fault. It's what we created in our own minds.
Unfortunately, it's this overdone approach to Santa that we often share with our kids. I don't recall any book or movie in which Santa says, "The more stuff, and the more expensive, the better!" That was our creation, our misinterpretation of what it means to give.
The Santa I know is a lot more similar to Kris Kringle in A Miracle on 34th Street, the Santa who advocates sharing, connecting, laughing, blowing big bubbles with bubblegum, being a kid at heart and above all continuing to believe.
What does he want us to believe? He wants us to believe in the spirit of the season, in the joy of living from the center of our being instead of buying into the trappings of the world around us, and in the power of love and relationships.
Receiving toys and opening presents is great, but it's fleeting and only a small piece of the big picture. Santa reminds us to reconnect to our childlike awareness so that we notice the love and magic in our everyday lives.
At the end of the season, I put my decorations away and move toward the next big thing. But I keep a few Santa books out year-round. December may come and go, but Santa's message is always relevant.
What I remember feeling on Christmas Eve when I was 8 or 9 is one of those deeply ingrained experiences, a feeling of pure joy. I often find myself chasing those old feelings, though I'm beginning to recognize that certain types of joy are reserved for children.
Nevertheless, whenever I see Santa or hear the bells, I'm reminded of the possibilities. I remember the true meaning of this time of year -- or really, any time of year.
I'm comforted that my children can have a relationship with Santa way beyond their childhood. They can anticipate and have faith in the excitement and emotions that always reemerge at this time of year. They can appreciate that Santa reminds us to view the world in a more heart-centered and magical way.
Then, hopefully it will always be easy to believe.