Here it is … that time of year. This is my second year out of the classroom. But I still keep an eye on the calendar and note that my teacher siblings and my teaching friends and all of their students are beginning two of the most exciting weeks of the school year … the Christmas Countdown! There will be concerts to practice for, carols to sing, special classroom decorations, arts and crafts and creative writing to share.
And … there will be the yearly showdown on the bus ride home when some little wide eyed primary student will find herself defending the very existence of Santa Claus. Some older student will get in on a discussion and relish the opportunity to dash a younger one’s fervent belief in St. Nick. In anticipation of that inevitable conversation I held an annual class discussion on why there really IS a Santa Claus. It would run something like this …
Over the next few weeks, as you ride the bus, you will more than likely end up overhearing someone dissing Santa Claus. It is important that you understand that there really IS a Santa. And that you step up when you need to to help others know that too. The younger ones are counting on you. You see … Santa Claus is not ‘less’ than you thought he was … he is more than you might possibly have imagined. He belongs in the category of things unseen yet believed in worldwide.
What do I mean? Let’s start here. Can you see wind? Well you can see what it does in the way it moves the leaves and blows in the grass. You can feel it – against your skin and your jacket. But see it? No. Do you believe it exists? Of course you do. Do you believe that love exists? or courage? What about School Spirit – does that exist? How do you know? We cannot see those things but we can see them through the actions of others … and we can feel them and act on them in our own daily lives too. Some things that we discover as we grow up depend on learning that there is more than the eye can see. How do we learn those things? Many we learn through stories … we listen to tales of cartoon characters like the Care Bears and the different feelings they represent. We watch superheroes in exciting movies and feel our own hearts race as we hide behind our fingers worried about what is going to happen – even though we know they somehow survive. Those stories teach us … we experience them vicariously. And through those experiences we come to know a little something about those type of life experiences. And about those qualities of spirit.
How about School Spirit. School Spirit depends on us as older students and school staff to model good character traits and enthusiastic participation in school events. School Spirit depends on us to plan shared experiences that bring everyone together. It is the community here – the play days – the sports events – the morning announcements – the reading buddies – the shared playground … all of those experiences teach our younger students and our new students and staff what the spirit of our school is like. And they also genuinely create school spirit.
Santa Claus is the first experience many young children have with meeting the Christmas Spirit. The experience of giving and receiving gifts. The experience of laughter and magic and hope. The experience of someone who reaches right around the globe to share plenty. When we’re little this concrete ‘Father Christmas’ is the spark that lights the magic. As we grow older we keep that understanding alive through seeing the larger ‘myth’ We get excited and look forward to the traditional Santas in the mall, at our Christmas parties, in our favourite Christmas movies. We begin to take on some of the jobs of Santa … perhaps putting a gift under the family tree for our parents ‘from Santa’. Or taking part in classroom ‘Secret Santa’ activities. Santa becomes much more than we thought ‘he’ was when we were little. He is the spirit of many of our holiday celebrations. ‘He’ does exist – ‘he’ is just much more than you thought he was when you were little. You started out with the make-believe Santa … and then as you were ready you moved to see the ‘Christmas character’ Santa … and eventually you will move along to be the Santa in someone else’s life. So you see – Santa IS real. Santa is the spirit of this amazing season. Don’t be sad or angry that the ‘one and only’ Santa is evolving into something different in your life. Stop and really let yourself enjoy what can be just as magical – the spirit of this holiday season.
You know that Spirit of Christmas Santa now … but don’t forget the Santa you started with. When you hear that little voice … wavering uncertainly in response to someone’s mean spirited dig at their Christmas beliefs … be the one who steps up with all the authority your seniority carries … and assure them that yes, there really IS a Santa Claus. Give them the opportunity to learn about all that Santa Claus can bring to Christmas. And then smile yourself at how amazing it is that it’s true!
****As I repeated this discussion year after year it never failed to enchant me as one or more students would squint and think and then almost whisper … ‘That was such a great way to explain that Mrs. P…’ And then some years I would be ever so lucky to overhear students talking in the hallway, or on the playground, or lining up for buses as either they stood up for Santa for littler ones … or even explained, as I had, how there really was a Santa Claus.
Merry Christmas Season everyone!