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There are works of fiction galore depicting a person who becomes Santa Claus in some fashion. Sometimes, the figure has been in disguise throughout the beginning of the story and the climax includes a grand reveal. In other examples, we see the protagonist take on the mantle of the charitable icon of winter in a conscious act of personal life-changing. There are origin stories for Santa Claus and transformation stories. Every story along these lines that I can recall has one thing in common: they posit the theory that an ordinary person can be that red and white bedecked hero of the season.

I agree.

You might realize that this concept, which is less than a hundred years old at this writing, could be considered blasphemous were it applied to idols of various religions. No human can be unto a god since gods are inherently greater powers than we. St. Nicholas of Myra, even, holds a revered title that few people could attain as it is no trivial feat both to be venerable in life and to have miracles attributed to your intercession before and after your death. Ah, but Santa Claus is neither god nor saint any longer.

Santa Claus today is a recognizable character who is no one real person. He is more similar to Frankenstein’s monster than to a Greek, Christian bishop from the fourth century of the current era. He possesses parts of so many stories that the amalgam we know is more recognizable as a set of characteristics and ideals than a specific face. Those components can be admired by many people from diverse backgrounds all over the world.

There are those who dismiss Father Christmas as a sign of crass commercialization. The shallow observation can be made that Santa grants peoples’ wishes rather than fulfilling their needs. Another often cited reason to reject him is that he is simply a way to coerce children into behaving via bribery. All of these criticisms and numerous others make me think of trees.

A tree exists but to survive and perhaps reproduce. Inherent but incidental to its existence, it also serves as home and shelter to some animals, food for others, an anchor for the earth around it, a synthesizer of oxygen for those of us who breathe, and an inspiration to artists by the score since time immemorial. Humans can use that tree as fuel for a fire. We can craft that tree into clubs, or bats, or ships. We can whittle it into crafts for sale. We can fashion from it a stake for a vampire’s heart. What we do to the tree doesn’t matter in its definition. None of the things we can force a tree to be changes the nature of a tree.

The fact that Coca-Cola used Haddon Sundblom’s illustrations of the jolly old elf in its advertisements for thirty-five years doesn’t make Santa any less wonderful. It might make Coke less wonderful since that company traded on a fictitious character’s good name. I don’t begrudge the business decision, just the inconsistency with Santa’s legend. He’s supposed to drink milk and cookies, after all.

I think that if you like the idea of Santa Claus, you should feel free to take on any of his characteristics for yourself. If you want to be jolly, be so. If you want to be judgemental, please do. If you want the ability to fly, give it a shot. If you’re successful, teach me.

For myself, I have two Santa-related goals: 1) to be a Santa myself, at least once a year and 2) to inspire others to be Santa Clauses as well. In being a Santa Claus, I began with the attitude and ended up with a uniform.

I do create a list every year. Some years I can start in November, but this year was a bit delayed for me. On that list, I do not choose naughty or nice. I just don’t think the contemporary definitions fit my considerations. I choose Still Deserving, Once Deserving, and Undeserving. Next to each person’s name, I place the classification and then decide upon the type of gift or card that I would associate with them.

In choosing gifts, I do follow my own guidelines to fulfill people’s wishes. I do NOT choose to give gifts to fill needs. That’s a carefully considered decision on my part and I came to it this way: I earn my own survival. I work hard all year to ensure that I have food and shelter and the resources to live a sufficient life. When I have additional funds, I buy myself things that I want, but since I’ll already have spent money on the essentials, I can’t buy every whimsical item that I’d like. I think that everyone else should be the same. So, I’ll get gifts for deserving people, in hopes that they’ve already taken care of their needs.

I can’t sneak down people’s chimneys, but I can certainly sneak. Apartment buildings are tough, and I can’t usually do both Virginia AND Pennsylvania, but I do try to visit my nearby friends’ homes all in one night. It’s a terrific feeling being one of the few drivers out on the roads on Christmas eve. There’s a tight hot excitement from quietly sneaking up to and around your friends’ homes while everybody is asleep. If there’s time, I try to do a dry run before the actual night to make sure I know where I’m going and to see what apartments are accessible and which ones are not. I don’t think it’s called “casing the joint” if the purpose is to deliver gifts and cards.

And for my Christmas caper (I hope you never see it), I wear my version of a santa costume: it’s all red and black and gray because I was almost spotted in the red and white a few times. I wear black boots with silver buckles, red-fleece-lined jeans, a black belt with another silver buckle, a black and red jacket and a red and gray cap. To top it all off, I have a big red bag full of surprises in my hatchback. I like to think I’ll be able to explain myself if a police officer pulls me over that night.

I can’t really describe how much fun it is to play Santa Claus for Christmas every year, but I hope some people out there try it for themselves. You don’t have to go all out like I do, but maybe just drop off some cards at your friends’ doorsteps before dawn on Christmas. Perhaps just leave a secret gift for a coworker. It’s great, I promise. And imagine how amazing it would be if there were dozens of us, delivering our surprises and waving to each other as we passed like sleighs in the night. Think of how many people we could all surprise together: an army of Clauses waging a war against the war on Christmas.

If you want any tips or assistance in trying this out, I’d be happy to help. The hardest parts would still be up to you. In the end you’ll find, it doesn’t take a special magic, just a special decision: the decision to become Santa Claus.

About Paul Roth

A vegetarian, agnostic, lindy-hopping, dog-loving tv-watcher who likes to read his own words.
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