I am thankful my parents included me in a spiritual community from the time I was born. The faith tradition of my family is Christian, and has roots in the Lutheran tradition since my grandfather’s family came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the mid-1700’s, and I sometimes still attend a Lutheran church. Growing up I came to understand the idea that God is Love, and also the concept of Immanuel, God with Us, and the meaning of grace because of what I understand of the story of Jesus. I do think it’s funny though that people say “don’t forget! Jesus is the reason for the season!”. Deep winter festivals were celebrated long before Christmas and the concept of Santa Claus has roots that far pre-date Christianity. While the American Santa Claus may have come from St. Nicholas, far more ancient roots trace the origins of Santa back to the Norse God Odin.
I do my best to avoid getting caught up in what at some point does become the Christmas oppression, but I do enjoy the celebrating at this time of year. I do not have a problem reconciling Christ as light, with the idea of the magic of Santa. When my kids ask me if Santa is real, to say that Santa “isn’t real” isn’t what I truly believe. When my kids and I pray our four direction prayer, the north represents magic, mystery, miracles. That is what Santa Claus is about to me, and can bring out the best in friends and neighbors and strangers.
My sister just this year told me about how her town celebrates the coming of Santa Claus in Boiling Springs, PA. In mid-December, the town gathers around the lake at Children’s Park. Out of the dark, into a lantern rimmed lake, Santa emerges from the darkness in a canoe with one of his elves.
In a luxurious red robe, he steps out onto land and greets the children, who each get their chance to talk with him as long as they’d like in the park gazebo.
I will never tell my kids that Santa isn’t real. Certainly our mythology has evolved over the centuries, and it is not natural for me to say, Odin is the reason for the season, at same time, I am happy that this thread of magic is still with us!