In September 1897, the edi- tor of the "New York Sun" received a letter from an eight year old girl saying "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?"
The following extracts fron his classic editorial in reply will prove my point. "Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, whether they be men's or children's are little ...... yes, Virginia, there is a Santa. 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 were there no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no child-like faith, no poetry, no romance, to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies. Nobody sees Santa Claus - but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are there that neither children nor men can see .... Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world... only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virgina, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."
And again this from Jacob Riis, "No Santa Claus! The world will indeed be poor without one. It is true he does not always wear a white beard and drive a reindeer team - but what does it matter.? These are only his disguises. The steps of the real Santa Claus you can trace all through the world, and when you stand in the last of his tracks, you will find the Blessed Babe of Bethlehem smiling a welcome to you. For then you will be home."
A child can never know the ecstasy of Christmas unless he knows its meaning and is prepared for it properly during Advent. Christmas is above all for children, and there is a little child in everyone, especially in those we love. In fact, I would go so far as to say, Christmas is not Christmas without children.
But this year when you decorate your Christmas tree with coloured lights and ornaments, stop and ponder awhile on its meaning, and explain it to those of your children who can understand. The tree symbolizes Christ who is the Tree of Life (Jesus saved us by hanging on the Tree of the cross) and the lights symbolize Christ as the light of the world.
Christmas is a time of light. Christ who is the light was born into the darkness of a waiting world. Christ will be born in our hearts through grace, in a special way, on every Christmas. It is an ideal time to turn our homes into a church in miniature, restoring our families to Christ with family customs and practices.
We must learn to turn our thoughts from presents wrapped in gay crinkly paper to that gift of God wrapped in swaddling clothes. From glittering shop windows to a cold, lonely cave. This does not mean that all the holiday trimmings must be rudely ripped away. But they must be seen only as trimmings. We cannot see the wood or the trees. Christmas trees, that is.
As Mary Perkins puts it in one of her works, "All this business of Christmas giving and keeping in touch with our friends all over the world by cards and presents - activities which so easily become merely tiresome and commercial - could be re-thought in this light, and without omitting any of our real duties and obligations, be made a true and happy service of Christ in each other. What still survives of the "real Christmas spirit" is actually a joy in carefree and happy going beyond the call of duty; since God's son became man, when we give to each other, we now truly give to him, and in the gifts we receive from each other, we receive gifts from his love. By re-aligning them in this light, our Christmas customs and Christmas prepartions, we can accomplish a great deal truly, to "put Christ back into Christmas", or better to let him make our Advent and Christmas according to his own original plan."
According to her, the ideal is to orient every element in our daily lives - prayer, study, work, play, - towards the celebration of the feast to allow the special light and grace and vitality of the feast to permeate every aspect of our lives.
And since the feast of Christmas has been planned by the Holy Spirit for our education and growth in Christ's life, the colour and variety and interest which it gives our lives, is not merely human, but also divine.
Parents need a re-orientation of what Santa stands for, and the realization of the necessity to instill in children the fact that Santa is real in the sense that Santa Claus stands for the spirit of Christmas. Parents must see to it that the story of Santa Claus does not interfere with the child's grasp of the true meaning of Christmas.
I quote, "The fictional character of Santa Claus has become an integral part of the celebration in our culture because he symbolizes gift giving, the centre piece of most holiday gatherings. What many people believe in at Christmas is the spirit of giving. The best gift in the world was wrapped in a manger."
Shoppers are mak ing their choice of Christmas cards more carefully than ever, because increasingly rootless 1ifestyles mean that it may be their only contact with the recipient all year, said a psychologist. The result is that cards are more likely to betray the senders' true background and personality.
A card says as much about a person as their home, car or job, according to Cary Cooper Professor of Psychology at UMIST in Manchester, in a study for the Cancer Research Campaign. Sending a large card is working class, he said. A snowscape or village scene indicates a suburban, aspirational background, and small and intricate designs suggest education.
Robins or flowers are sent by careful people who try not to risk upsetting friends. People who send lots of humorous cards often show arrogance and insensitivity. Religious subjects, particularly modern ones, naturally indicate a reverent attitude, but Old Master paintings of the Nativity or the Wise Men are also chosen by the upper middleclass showing off their taste.
People are becoming more choosy because of the growth of a more mobile and rootless society, Professor Cooper said. "These days, a Christmas card is often the only contact you make with an acquaintance all year, so there is a real need to make a statement. There is a process of part-conscious and part-unconscious choice going on, by which cards are reflecting personalities and backgrounds as never before.
"A Large card says, "Look, this is important'. The better-off go for more discreet, arty cards, usually for a charity - they don't need size to make a statement." Family photographs betray a desire to make a more personal link with the recipient, but humorous cards are a risk: "You can get into real trouble with a funny card, unless you know the person is in on the joke. Anyone who sends a lot of funny cards is going to be totally socially unskilled."
Professor Cooper studied cards in the Cancer Research Campaign's catalogue, profiling the kind of person who would buy them. Robin's Surprise, a picture of the bird which opens to reveal a tree and presents, was a neutral card that might be sent to a cousin or work colleague: "It offends no one and could be sent by any age or class. It's also rather uninspiring."
The Journey of the Magi would be sent by a conservative religious type: "The reverent sentiment is clear, and it is not an Old Master. That suggests that religion is the key to the sender, not the aesthetic."
Christmas Rose Bowl was an "auntie card", send by an older, usually female family member to younger relatives: "The sender has tried to be so careful and inoffensive that she has ended up looking bland and totally out of touch."
Santa Square was a children's card, or for adults who wanted to look caring. "An adult sending this one, particularly because it's a charity card, is trying to tweak the kid in you. It shows generosity, excitement and care."
The largest card studied, snow scene, was an 'Essex man' card, he said: "It has a lower-middle or working class, aspirational feel. This rather twee scene is where the sender feels he ought to be living at Christmas, and it's a big card, which suggests a material statement."
Hillary Cranne, at forty two had everything life could offer. He enjoyed women, rich exotic food, fast cars and vintage wines. He owned a penthouse on the 10th floor of a high rise building in the city and a luxurious rambling country house in the cool lush landscape of the hill country and five hundred acres of the best tea - all left to him by his parents who had died in a car crash almost 20 years ago.
He was a millionaire twice over, gifted with seemingly endless capacity for employment. That is until six months ago.
Hillary Crane was roistering with a particularly pretty svelte young model on a crowded dance floor, when he was suddenly seized with shafts of grinding pain in the lower part of his stomach. He was taken to hospital on a stretcher and from then onwards he had the best medical attention that money could buy. He was treated in the best clinics in Boston, London and Paris and finally after six weeks in a sanitorium in Switzerland he knew with almost dreadful certainty that his days on earth were numbered. The massive collection of X'rays Blood tests and reports had already been sent to his personal physician at home.
Through the open window of his drawing room he gazed at the ocean with its billowing white waves. The sky above was a metallic shade of blue without a single cloud. The breezes which came from the ocean were sweet and salty. It was almost Christmas and everywhere he saw the beautiful festoons and balloons and glitter associated with this particular festival. He could feel the gaiety and excitement below and with his eyes on the distant horizon Hillary Cranne allowed himself a few brief moments of calm analysis of the life he had enjoyed for so many years and of the pleasures he had always taken for granted like so many successful men. He knew with almost uncanny certainty what his friend Dr Senn would say to him.
He locked the doors of his pent house and took the lift downstairs. His car was parked in the hotel car park. He got into it and drove off. In less than half an hour he would know the verdict.
He was shown immediately into the private room of Dr Senn. He had known Dr Senn for a great many years and in his sad gentle eyes Hillary knew what the answer would be.
Hillary was told that he had just three months to live but with careful nursing and medication he could live for another three years. No medical science in the world could accurately predict one's death. Dr. Senn looked at Hillary for a long time pressed both his hands and said "Put yourself in God's Hands."
Blindly he walked in to the bright sunshine and got into his car. He realized now that not all the money in the world could extend his life even by a second. The glittering synthetic world had come to an end. He found himself cold and clammy and his head began to spin dizzily. "This must be the way a man feels when the judge has sentenced him to death he thought.
Starting the car he drove crazily and recklessly. He was not bothered by red lights and traffic signals. How long he drove he did not know but he stopped suddenly at an inter section. On his left was a deserted road and he turned into it. Some distance away he saw a Church and he stopped the car and stepped out.
The church doors were all open but there were no worshippers. In a distant corner he saw a few candles burning before the statue of a saint and on the rightside of the altar was the crib already decorated for Christmas . It was almost 25 years since Hillary Cranne had visited a Church. He knelt before the crib and there in the Manger was the Infant Christ with his loving parents kneeling in humble adoration.
He remembered then the many Christmases he had enjoyed in his boyhood of his mother who every year painstaking in a labour of love made each Christmas such a happy one for him and his father. Throughout the corridors of memory he remembered that the pealing of Christmas bells heralded the birth of a divine Child a Child who come into the world to bring love and peace to all mankind. Above all love unconditional love that was what symbolizes this great festival. At that moment Hillary experienced a great calm and peace. He broke down into shuddering sobs and the tears poured down his cheeks.
It was at that moment when he felt a soft warm hand on his clasped hands and a voice whispered: "Let Me help you."
He looked up and saw a young woman not much more than twenty five. Her pale oval face was framed in her dark hair and in her eyes he saw not pity but compassion and love.
"Let me help you please" she repeated once again.
Hilary rose to his feet and with her strong arms guiding him they left the church together.
Continue to Mirror Magazine page 2 * Creative Christmas * One wish for Christmas
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