In 1995, I wrote the poem Believe in Santa Claus as a gift to my children. It was at the point in their lives where many children question the belief in Santa Claus and feel betrayed that Santa Claus is just a joke that adults play upon children.
As children grow up, it is also a time when adults reject the concept of Santa Claus because they claim it conflicts with their beliefs.
Some folks would have you think that to believe in Santa Claus is counter to the true meaning of Christmas.
But what is the true meaning of Christmas?
St. Nicholas: a truth that ages over time
Known as Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna, Nicholas of Myra, Bishop of Myra, Hagios Nikolaos, he lived in the 4th century A.D. in what is now Turkey. He was very generous, and loving toward children. Often he gave joy to poor children by throwing gifts in through their windows.
His fame spread rapidly in the Middle Ages and thousands of churches are dedicated to him. The Orthodox Church proclaimed St. Nicholas a miracle worker. The Roman Catholic Church honored Nicholas as one who helped children and the poor. He has been the patron saint of Russia, Moscow, Greece, children, sailors, prisoners, bakers, pawnbrokers, shopkeepers and wolves. Historically, prior to the modern celebration of Christmas, his day of honor has been December 6th.
St. Nicholas became a popular figure by the 11th century, known for his great generosity and healing powers. With the rise of the Protestant Church, he was nearly forgotten, except in the Netherlands, where they called him Sinterklaas.
Dutch colonists settling in New Amsterdam, now called New York City, brought the story of St. Nicholas with them. Added to the legend of this kind old man were old Nordic folk tales of a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good children with presents.
Christmas American Style
It wasn't until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas, to reinvent Christmas, and change it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family centered day of peace and nostalgia.
Many works such as A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens written in 1843, depicted Christmas as a family event held in the home.
The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" written in the early 1800s tells the story of a plump bearded man. Thomas Nast, a newspaper artist, know mostly for political cartoons, published works of Santa Claus and Christmas Traditions appearing in Harper's Weekly newspapers in the 1860s contributed to American ideas of Christmas and Santa Claus.
Miracle on 34th Street
Every religious belief, every personal philosophy, at some point in time comes down to faith. One of my favorite movies of the Christmas season is Miracle on 34th Street. The one line from the movie that is forever etched in my brain is, "Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to."
The original version of Miracle on 34th Street was released in 1947. The movie does not delve deeply into the legends of Santa perClaus, but takes the approach of what if Santa Claus really exists. The questions it raises, and the way it spins them are just as relevant today, as they were then.
The movie challenges us to question our beliefs. What if a man claimed to be Santa Claus, would we lock him up as a lunatic? Would we see him as just another crazy person in need of an asylum?
I Believe in Santa Claus
I am at peace with how I feel, and believe in the true spirit of St. Nicholas. To believe in Santa Claus is to believe in the simplicity of love and the complexity of human nature.
Whether you choose to make Christmas a celebration of the birth of Jesus, to believe in the true spirit of St. Nicholas, or simply to celebrate and reflect upon another year, it can best be summed up by this quote from President Calvin Coolidge: "Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Photo: Laura Jane visits with Santa Claus - taken by Tom Peracchio
The spirit of Santa Claus lives on thanks in part to this exchange in a 1897 newpaper between a young reader and an editor.
Virginia O'Hanlon will go down in history for having asked the following question to the editor of the New York Sun in 1897:
I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it in The Sun, it’s so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Francis P. Church
Francis P. Church, a veteran editor who had covered the civil war for the New York Times, was the editor on the New York Sun in 1897 who answered Virginia with this proclamation:
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of our, man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect as compared with the boundless
world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this
existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. You might get your papa to hiremen to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas eve to catch Santa Claus, but that is no sign there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.
Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Ah, Virginia. in all this world there in nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Graphic: Thomas Nast “Merry Christmas to All”
Harper’s Weekly, December 29, 1865
Edited by Tom Peracchio - Questy.us
Believe in Santa Claus !!!
The tradition of giving gifts in the winter feast began in ancient Rome.
Saint Nicholas lived many centuries ago.
Because of his deeds Saint Nicholas became the patron saint of children.
The spirit of Saint Nicholas, and the tradition of the winter feast
were handed down to Santa Claus.
You say that Santa Claus is just a joke,
You say that Santa Claus conflicts with your beliefs.
Santa Claus has nothing to do with capitalism and marketing.
Santa Claus has nothing to do with shopping malls and parking.
You see the man in the bright red suit and say he isn't real.
If you take the time to learn who Santa was, and believe in who he is,
You'll understand it's not the man you see that counts,
but the feelings that you feel.
Santa Claus is real,
as real as a warm fireplace on a cold winter night.
as real as a smile that turns darkness into light.
Santa Claus is real,
as real as the spirit to give rather than to receive,
as real as human nature and the Will to Believe.
To believe in Santa Claus is to believe in childhood and charity.
To believe in Santa Claus is to be at peace with how you feel.
To believe in Santa Claus is to believe in the simplicity of love
and the complexity of human nature.
So if you do not believe in Santa,
then I guess you just don't understand,
The spirit of giving and the warmth of a child's smile,
is what makes us real.
Believe in Santa Claus is the copyrighted property of Questy (Tom Peracchio) any reproduction or redistribution without consent is prohibited.
I am flattered by how many times this poem, Believe in Santa Claus, has been stolen and re-posted over the years, I guess that is a commentary to its meaning. In 1995, I wrote the poem Believe in Santa Claus as a gift to my children. This is a very personal piece for me, please do not reuse it with out permission!
Every year around the Christmas holidays the question comes up, "What is a sugar plum?"
The simple response would be a small fruit confection rolled in sugar. While there are actual fruits known as sugar plums, most references to sugar plums are relating to various types of candied fruits.
The basic concept of the sugar plum is preserving fruits with sugar allowing them to be enjoyed all year round, much like canning vegetables, or salting meats is used to preserve foods for year round consumption.
Sugar Plums and Their Connection to the Christmas Holiday Season
The mention of sugar plums in recipes starts around the 17th century, which coincided with the increased popularity of sugar in Europe and the New World. This also fits the time line for the mention of sugar plums as Christmas treats in two holiday classics.
The famous Christmas poem written in the early 1800s, "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" includes the line, "The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads."
Tchaikovsky's 1882 ballet The Nutcracker Suite included "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" which would forever associate the sugar plum with the holiday season as well.
Clement Clarke Moore and Sugar Plums
According to legend, on Christmas Eve 1822, Clement Moore's wife was roasting turkeys for the poor, when she sent the Reverend off to the market to buy an extra turkey. His trip to the market, into what is now the Bowery section of New York City, inspired him to write a poem that created the American image of Santa Claus, and detailed the typical household of the era at Christmas time. The poem was published anonymously on December 23, 1823, under the editor's title "A Visit from St. Nicholas".
The poem became one of the most widely read in the world, and the line, "while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads" was sure to give a boost to the legend of sugar plums as well for years to come.
In Search of the Real Author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas"
While the poem describes the vision of sugar plums, there is reason to believe the sugar plums were not those of Clement Clarke Moore.
Don Foster, an English professor at Vassar College, and a forensic linguist used by the FBI in many famous cases such as the "Unabomber manifesto" sites evidence to conclude that the poem's spirit and style are starkly at odds with the body of Clement Clarke Moore's other writings and that Major Henry Livingston, Jr. is the true author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas."
Since the release of his book Author Unknown in 2000, many institutions, such as the University of Toronto, support Foster's claim, listing Major Henry Livingston, Jr. as the author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas."
Tchaikovsky's "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy"
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was a Russian composer best known for the 1812 Overture, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.
The Nutcracker is a celebration of Christmas in a two act ballet. The twenty minute suite from Act II of the ballet written by Tchaikovsky is known as "The Land of Sweets."
Tchaikovsky's depiction of the Sugar Plum Fairy as the ruler of "The Land of Sweets" would support the conclusion that he saw sugar plums as a very special Christmas treat.
Christmas Classics and Sugar Plums
"A Visit from St. Nicholas" written by Englishman from New England, and "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" written by a Russian Composer both connect sugar plums to the Christmas holiday season.
Two very famous people forever linked together in history by Christmas and sugar plums, seem to be totally unrelated.
During his lifetime Tchaikovsky wandered around Europe and rural Russia, there is no mention of him having any connection to America.
Clement Clarke Moore, a wealthy Manhattan biblical scholar, was long dead before the writing of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. Without the internet, communications between Russia and America, between two unrelated individuals was highly unlikely in the 19th century.
Even if you believe that Major Henry Livingston, Jr. is the true author of "A Visit from St. Nicholas, " that does not change things as far as a connection to the Russian Composer. Livingston, like Moore, was a life long resident of New England, and died before Tchaikovsky was born. So even if arguably Livingston is the author of the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", it is just as unlikely Tchaikovsky would have ever known of Livingston.
No conspiracy theories to be found
With nothing in common, other than the era in which they both lived, the 19th century, perhaps two totally unrelated events are related by a more simpler truth, sweet treats are commonly associated with the Christmas holiday.
People laugh at me when I tell them that I believe in Santa Claus.
Calvin Coolidge said that "Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind."
I wrote the poem "Believe in Santa Claus" for my kids back in 1995 to show them that Christmas is my state of mind, and the spirit of Santa Claus is in my heart.
After first publishing "Believe in Santa Claus" on the internet I received some colorful email accusing me of being an anti-capitalist communist, among other things.
I guess my social-political views are a bit too complex for some to understand?
I fully understand that the true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. My exploration and celebration of the myths and legends of Santa Claus are not meant, in any way, to demean the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
I also understand that what the current crazy world does at this time of year, and associates it to Christmas, is something simply insane. Black Friday fights at Walmart have nothing at all to do with celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, or believing in Santa Claus.
In my world, to believe in Santa Claus is to believe in childhood and charity. That does not interfere with my ability to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
In my world, Santa Claus has nothing to do with capitalism and marketing. If avoiding shopping malls on Black Friday makes you think I am an anti-capitalist communist, I'm cool with that.
In my world, the spirit of giving and the warmth of a child's smile, is what makes us real. If you can deal with that, welcome to my world.
Don't get caught up in someone else's world. Create your own world, and believe.
Santa Claus 2013 with Olivia Jane
Santa Claus 2001 with Laura Jane
Photos property of Tom Peracchio
Please do not re-use elsewhere!
I used to enjoy going to the local Halloween parade. My kids are grown up and on their own, so I have not attended the parade in recent years. One of the largest Halloween parade's on Delmarva is now simply called a "Community Parade." Other community centers no longer celebrate Halloween, instead they have a "Fall Festival." I am told the celebration of Halloween is a sensitive subject. Some families are choosing not to participate in Halloween activities of any kind because of religious convictions.
As a child in school, and later as an employee of a school district, I anxiously awaited the Christmas break every year. That week off from Christmas Eve until the start of the new year, was a special time of year to celebrate with family and friends. Searching for the Christmas Break on many school calendars I find that it is now officially the Winter Break. I am surprised that my official state list of holidays hasn't changed Christmas to "Recycled Pagan Celebration of the Winter Season."
Now the world is angry and fighting over the meaning of red Starbucks coffee cups. According to those drawing attention to Starbucks, the company is taking part in a so-called "war on Christmas" because the red coffee cups no longer acknowledge the Christmas holiday. According to Starbucks the company tries to embrace diversity. Does our world now define diversity as not showing any references to history or culture? Let's forget about all traditions that have any possible connections to anything someone claims is against their beliefs?
People are getting murdered all over the world because of what they believe in and others are wasting time hating people for the color of their coffee cups. Instead of fighting over decorations on coffee cups, shouldn't everyone be promoting peace on earth, goodwill toward men? If I call that Christmas and you call it Kwanzaa, but we both are promoting peace on earth, goodwill toward men, isn't that the true meaning of diversity?
The neurotic world is enough to drive you crazy. Does the world feel any friendlier thanks to all the political correctness? Are we a kinder, gentler nation, because we want to eliminate all references to the civil war?
Those who refuse to acknowledge Christmas will tell me that Christmas is driven by commercialism, and oh by the way, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25. In my pre-Christmas message from a few years I quoted Calvin Coolidge, who said that "Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind." I wrote a poem many years ago when my children were young, and told them why I will always "Believe in Santa Claus."
If the urge strikes me to get my annual over priced Gingerbread Latte at Starbucks, I will be sure to wish them a Merry Christmas. As long as I am alive, I will celebrate Halloween and wish everyone I know a Merry Christmas.
Don't let the neurotic world drive you crazy and always Believe in Santa Claus!