"[Santa Claus] 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. ... There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. ... There is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond..." -- New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897, page 6.
I believe in Santa Claus. I can say this because I have had personal experience with him. Now some people don't seem to understand me when I say it. They think I'm kidding or speaking of some obscure philosophical statement about giving and being nice, or some (including a relative who pulled a Kanye West VMA-style response when I declared this on Facebook) suggest Santa is a type and shadow of Jesus Christ.
That's not what I'm talking about. Santa is not Jesus Christ. He isn't trying to be Jesus Christ. He's not in competition for holiday attention from Jesus Christ. The Savior of the World is a different person from the Saint some call Nicholas, who others call Kris Kringle, while others call Babbo Natale.
I'm talking about the true love and generosity that epitomizes Santa himself. Santa knows whether we've been naughty or nice -- which gives him the unique ability to know our hearts in ways that a traditional Christmas gift giver just never approaches understanding. The kind of insight and knowledge Santa has cannot be found by looking at circled items in a Sears Roebuck catalog 100 years ago or clicking on an Amazon wishlist today. If you have to ask, "What do you want for Christmas?" you're not doing Santa's work. To do Santa's work, you have to love selflessly; you have to truly know the gift recipient.
Unfortunately, the truth about Santa has been corrupted by commercial and social perceptions. The fake beards, cheap red suits, and insincere jolly demeanor make Santa nothing more than a bad actor in social theater. The theater is perpetuated in shopping malls, city parks, by NORAD, and in homes where the gift tags identify givers by name (how self-centered!), where children are forced by often hypocritical parents to write thank you notes. At a certain age children, whether through parents or siblings or schoolmates, learn "the truth" that Santa isn't real.
Instead, I believe, children should be taught the real truth about Santa. He's not an anagram of materiality and greed. He's not a trick we play on youngsters. He's real and living. He's as real as my sister Barbara, who died in 2003, or my great-great-grandfather Josiah who died in 1827. He's as real as I am. As long as I bring honor to my sister or my GGG, as long as I respect the gifts and values they taught (and continue to teach me), I continue to keep them alive.
The real Santa Claus' gifts are poetic, masterpieces of thought and consideration, expressions of heartfelt love, not duty or social obligation, not driven by budgets. Such gifts are romantic in that they are completely selfless. What greater gift can be given than one where the giver seeks no acknowledgment or recognition, where thank yous are not desired nor expected, where the receiver may or may not recognize the poetry, the romance, the insight of the giver -- but it's there in the giving?
I have experienced that kind of gift, where the veil between the giver and myself was torn apart and my heart was touched in such sacred ways that can never be fully expressed in words. Gifts that caused tears of gratitude, a great internal joy, a transcendent bliss that comes from another person's consubstantiality with me. I've known Santa personally in those moments. (I'm sure I've received many other gifts at Christmas time that should have touched my soul if not for my own selfishness.)
We should teach our children to give Santa's gifts of love, poetry, romance, in selfless ways. That is Santa Claus. That is the "truth" about Santa. We should all be Santa.