Humor by John Christmann

Santa Proof

Santas at SantaCon

A couple of weeks ago, as I was slogging about New York City fighting holiday crowds, I came across a large, happy gathering of inebriated mall Santas singing racy versions of time-honored Christmas carols. Needless to say I was shocked and appalled: Why wasn’t I invited to this party?

Personally, I love out of control holiday celebrations. I believe they bring out the best in people.

It turns out I was in the midst of SantaCon, a yearly event in which St. Nick practitioners don ill-fitting red suits, share their Christmas spirit with the world, and slur well-known carols with spicy adult lyrics which describe all of the interesting things that can be done in a one horse open sleigh.

It sure beats listening to stale holiday muzac at the mall waiting for their picture.

Still, even as a jaded adult it was a little uncomfortable to see them pierce our pristine image of Santa Claus. Because at Christmas time we are programmed to believe there is a place in hell for those who roast tradition over an open fire. Even if hell is festively decorated in the middle of New York City on a brisk, sun-lit December afternoon.

But this is probably why I find the concept of fun-loving Darth Mall Santas so amusing. After years of deceiving my children with out-and-out lies concerning the famous fat man dressed in red, I surely deserve to go to the dark side too.

When my kids were really young, perpetuating the myth of an airborne Santa who simultaneously swooped down chimneys all over the world was fun. And the more preposterous the story, the more intoxicated with Christmas deception I became.

But when their reasoning started to develop and I had to soberly explain the big guy, I grew uncomfortable. I felt queasy holding steadfast to my story that Santa was a nuclear physicist who had figured out how to bend the space-time continuum.

But my most hollow deception came after I encouraged my kids to believe in Santa when they no longer did. Maybe I felt bad because I realized their only alternative was to believe in me.

I recently travelled to the town where I was born outside Chicago. On a whim I drove down the street where I lived for the first five years of my life. But I couldn’t find my old house: it had been remodeled and I didn’t recognize it.

And then I noticed the familiar brick chimney rising up the outside.

I knew that chimney well. As a young boy I pondered endlessly how a large man, carrying a hula-hoop in an oversized laundry bag, could possible shimmy down inside. Once I even climbed the stepped chimney to the roof and peered down the narrow flu to see for myself.

The fire department had to get me out.

At the time Santa was an unsolvable mystery, for in my innocence it never once occurred to me that the whole adult world was lying and he might not be real.

Several years later, after my belief in Santa had shattered like a fallen glass ornament, I turned my imagination toward conspiracy theories. After all, if my parents could deceive me about flying reindeer, it seemed logical that the government could be hiding the truth about UFOs.

Still, I didn’t give up hope. For a while I even considered that Santa and Elvis might be the same person. After all, they were everywhere, but never together.

But finally, as an adult, I came to accept the truth behind the Santa Claus conspiracy—that he was nothing more than a marketing campaign instigated by the Coca Cola Company.

Shortly after that I began religiously lying to my children at Christmas.

These days it seems we cannot believe anything without visual, substantiated proof. The fact that Santa does not have his own reality TV show or has not been photographed in a compromising position by paparazzi is just further evidence that he is not real.

So what are we supposed to believe when we come across a ribald congregation of reveling Santas who are unabashedly wishing strangers good cheer as if they were an Occupy Christmas movement?

I’ll tell you. We can choose to believe in them. Even if they are naughty. Even if they are nice. Even if we have to check them out twice.

Believing in Santa Claus. This is what we learned as children and unlearned as adults. Remember?

Rejoice! I have met the Santa Claus . . . and he is us!

Because here is the reality about the brave men and women who willingly bare their black boots, red suits, and snow white beards in public merriment each year: they want nothing more than to spread joy at Christmas. I have seen it with my own eyes.

And as we all know, seeing is believing.