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  • Sean O'Leary

Santa Claus is Real!

Academics debate the science of gift-giving. Many suggest that even within a competitive world, generosity is still helpful from an evolutionary perspective by creating a climate of altruism (i.e. I help you because you or somebody else will help me). While the scientific debates are interesting, I don’t think science can fully explain the type of human generosity associated most prominently with the Spirit of Christmas. In this regard, poetry comes much closer to reality.


The atmospheric poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ is well known. It was first published anonymously in 1823 but is now widely attributed to the American biblical scholar Clement Clarke Moore. This famous poem begins with the wonderful line: ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse’.


Like all good children’s literature, the poem also contains a message for adults. Early on, the poem reveals that a parent springs from the bed to silently participate in the annual miracle. Each Christmas eve, Father Christmas and the dutiful parent share the same magical mission to bring presents to children nestled all snug in their beds.


St. Nicholas, also known as ‘Nicholas the Wonderworker’, forms a sacred bond with parents to imaginatively minister to children. This mystical union between parents and St. Nicholas brings together the visible world of the home with the invisible world of belief.


Within the family, faith is based on love and care. And so, families lovingly participate in the eternal life of the joyous saint. The universality of this communion is summed up by the blessing: ‘Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’


As a compelling symbol of truth, St. Nicholas represents the invisible forces of eternal love that positively shape our lives. This spiritual element is present throughout the whole year, often just beneath the surface of our celebrations.


Moore’s poem reminds us that when we respond to St. Nicholas, we have nothing to dread. Heavenly visitors are always welcome. They come to remind us of the Word made Flesh and how we can help the invisible to become visible within our own lives. This transforms our earthly existence to something that approaches the eternal.


The invisible world of heaven dwells joyfully amongst us. The word Christmas is a shortened form of the phrase ‘Christ’s Mass’. When we spend time contemplating the sacred accounts of the first Christmas, we open ourselves up to the Christ-spirit of peace, blessedness and true happiness.


Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads; And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap, Had just settled down for a long winter's nap, When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter, I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow, Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below, When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name: 'Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall! Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!' As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky, So up to the house-top the coursers they flew, With the sleigh full of toys - and St. Nicholas too. And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head, and was turning around, Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound. He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot, And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack. His eyes how they twinkled! his dimples how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath; He had a broad face and a little round belly That shook, when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly. He was chubby and plump - a right jolly old elf; And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head, Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread; He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, And laying his finger aside of his nose, And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose. He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle; But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight, 'Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!'