There is something to be said about the magic of Santa Claus. I like the way it is portrayed in The Polar Express. In the story, a young boy travels to the North Pole and is picked by Santa to receive the first gift of Christmas. Knowing that he can choose anything at all, he asks for one bell from one of the reindeer's harnesses. When the boy rings the bell, both he and his sister marvel at the beautiful sound. His parents, however, are unable to hear the bell and remark that it must be broken. The story then closes with this famous line:
“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. Even Sarah found one Christmas that she could no longer hear its sweet sound. Though I've grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”
I don’t remember a time in my life that I believed in Santa. He just wasn’t a part of my childhood. My parents never tried to convince me that Santa was real, but they never told me he wasn’t either. I guess that I decided for myself to believe in more than a rosy-cheeked man climbing down our chimney.
And for a long time, I thought that Santa was a silly invention to keep children from misbehaving around Christmas time. I mean, let’s be honest. That’s exactly what the Naughty & Nice List is for, isn’t it?
Yet, I finally realized that there’s a bit more to it than that. I spent the last three weeks talking with children about Christmas and Santa and what they want for presents and la dee dah dee dah, and even for the kids who are old enough to know that Santa doesn’t exist, there is still a glimmer of hope behind their eyes that maybe he does. It was actually an amazing thing to see. They were studying our Santa, trying to pick up on any clues that confirmed it wasn’t the real Santa. But for the younger kids, the glimmer in the eye is more of a supernova. For these children, Santa brought more than presents. He brought them imagination. He brought hope and laughter, and he brought a belief in magic and wonderment that can throw off the veil of the problems at school or at home. I don’t know. Maybe their gleaming eyes really do just shine for the presents. Or maybe, just maybe, the bell really is ringing.