Ivan Natividad: Santa is not dead | TheUnion.com

Ivan Natividad: Santa is not dead

My 5-year-old son doesn't believe Santa Claus is real.

It's a little sad, but he came to the conclusion last year when he couldn't figure out how a fat, old man could fit in our 8-inch wide chimney flue.

It likely also had to do with a conversation he had with his grandfather, which irked me a little. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't appreciate the little man's rational thought process.

So earlier this week, when he asked me who the real Saint Nicholas was, I told him.

I talked about how Saint Nicholas was a Christian saint who lived more than 1,600 years ago, and that his habit for secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional story of Santa Claus … according to Google.

He followed up by asking, "Is he still alive?"

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"No," I responded. "He died over 1,600 years ago."

Bad idea.

The next day he came home from school, slightly irritated and said, "No one believes me that Santa is dead."

"What?!" I exclaimed. "You told your class Santa is dead?"

"Yes," he jabbed back. "And they didn't believe me."

I envisioned his classmates, these little cherub-faced kids sitting in a circle, wide-eyed and hopeful, one by one sharing what they wanted from Santa this year.

"I want a bike!" one would say.

"I'd like a new baseball glove!" another said excitedly.

"Yay!" the kids would yell with each request, until it circled all the way around to my son.

"And Dillinger," his teacher would ask. "What do you want from Santa this year?"

He stands up amongst the crowded room mischievously smoothing the palms of his hands together, and eerily shouts "Santa is dead! He's dead! He's deeeaaaad!"

The classroom would erupt in pure pandemonium!

A little girl retreats to the corner of the room with her face buried in her hands, sobbing uncontrollably.

A young lad sits staring at the ground, with arms folded, rocking back and forth whispering "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the waaaay."

Another crumbles to the floor onto his knees, with shaking fists raised to the ceiling screaming "Why?! Why?!.. Why Santa?! Why?!"

Soon an angry mob assembles around the classroom Christmas tree, barreling empty milk cartons at its branches, slowly stripping the tree of all its decor and glory.

The children then storm the tree, lift it up like the statue of a fallen dictator and ram it through the classroom window, pieces of shattered glass flying everywhere as they chant "Santa's dead! Santa's dead! Santa's dead!"

They kissed the lips of lady truth and this what it tastes like.

And my son, standing fingers curled in the middle of it all, the grim reaper Grinch of Christmas present, laughing a mischievous maniacal laugh "Muahahaha… Muahahaha….. Muahahahaha!"

The horror, I say! The horror! …

Turns out he only told a couple of his friends in passing, and they kind of shrugged it off.

According to a University of Texas study, more than 80 percent of 5-year-old children still believe in Santa. But the study shows that belief in the big guy seems to dwindle by the time kids reach the age of 10, as less than 30 percent of 9 year olds believe in Saint Nick.

When it comes to matters like Santa, my stance has always been to let him figure things out for himself, and answer any questions he has without injecting my own preconceived notions.

In other words, I want him to ask questions but I don't want to lie to him, or taint his sense of imagination and wonder.

So it's heartening to know that he still believes in dragons, unicorns and the tooth fairy.

Despite Santa, he and his siblings still love Christmas. But it has more to do with the spirit of it all.

They love the lights, the food, the family gatherings, and obviously, like any red-blooded child — the presents.

They enjoy watching me cut down a Christmas tree to bring home and decorate, and they have fun following their own Advent calendars.

For cynical adults I think it's refreshing to be able to see Christmas through fresh eyes again. To remember what it was like before it all became so routine.

Before lights became a hassle to put up. Before visiting family became an annoying obligation, and before buying and wrapping presents became inconvenient for your disposable income.

Before you knew Santa was dead?

Seeing Christmas through the eyes of a child, to me, is more magical than the belief in Santa itself.

Do we really need to believe in some imaginary man in red who magically flies around giving presents to every kid in the world?

No, I don't think we do.

We have all the various groups, organizations and individuals that find it in their hearts to give to people in our community during the holidays.

We can believe in the spirit of giving because we already have real people doing all the things Santa is supposed to do.

So I guess in a way that's what Santa represents, not so much a person, but more the spirit of giving.

And in our own little way, the idea of Santa can continue to live on in our community at large, by thinking of others and giving to those in need.

Looking for local groups to donate to this Christmas? Go to the Center for Nonprofit Leadership at http://cnlsierra.org.

Ivan Natividad is Digital Editor at The Union. To contact him call 530-477-4242 or email inatividad@theunion.com.

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