What it takes to be Santa

December 17, 2020   ·   0 Comments


By Constance Scrafield

We did an interview with a gentleman of another name during most of the year but in this Christmas season, he is Santa Claus. He is the Santa bringing us Stories with Santa at the Orangeville Public Library. Although he is pictured sitting in the Library, as he told us, “When no one [of the public] was there,” his delivery of the story books from which he is reading are only to be viewed online via the library’s website:

Our conversation was, a little surprisingly, not filled with merry anecdotes of his life in the North Pole with the Elves, contending with the pranks of the reindeer or the need to conceal his workshop from the prying eyes of increased traffic of surveillance aircraft. Nor did he regale us with stories from his many visits to mall and parades, the shining eyes of the children, their quaint questions, although all this was implied in the background of his 40 years in a part time career as the Old Elf.

What he told us about what it takes to be a good Santa was a reality check. He talked about hearing the Christmas wishes of terminally ill children. Of recognizing possible distress in a home from what a child was asking for – sometimes truly heart wrenching, sometimes shocking. Of coming to an early Christmas for a little girl who wouldn’t live to see it.

During the conversation, he reminded us that, amid the tinsel and Christmas tunes, to be Santa means to be aware of what is going on around him. To be Santa means having respect for the persona. He told us that, however else he feels, well or less so, putting on the Santa Costume – and his is beautiful, specially made for him – makes him feel strong and eager for the season to come.

He may tuck the costume away in its own careful place, yet something of the role stays with him in the luxurious beard he wears, long and snowy white with a moustache to complete the image, with the look of a good waxing in the story telling film from the library.

There are, in other times and again to come, a myriad of Santas or, at least Santa hats on the heads of people standing by pots looking for donations to worthy causes; there have been tremendous Santas in malls everywhere and in major department stores. None this year, I guess, and it left me wondering.

The Santa, the subject of this column, on the rare occasion when he was seriously alerted by a chid’s comment, asked the organizer, “how well do you know the family?” A gentle inquiry as to the unknown need for assistance.

More in recent years, as the harm that adults do to children, either directly or by virtue of behaviour: alcohol abuse, fighting between individuals; neglect, well, all kinds of problems – much of this harm has been exposed.

As the nature of society to interfere increases, one hopes for the better, and the troubles that went unnoticed or were ignored, have been more addressed and solutions sought.

Yet, has isolation and confinement buried those troubles again? Certainly, the incidence of domestic violence has risen and shelters are confounded by how many fewer women and children they can take in, where the risk of infection is considered more dangerous.

I have always felt that mitigating the darkness in our lives begins with education and education begins at home. Violence in the home of a child very often begets a violent adult of that child. Racism remarks from parents affect the very early thinking in young people that can taint their points of view for the rest of their lives.

Inclination to have contempt for the better educated or the poorly educated; the rich – the impoverished – contempt or fear of people who are different – the illusion that one’s own theories, religion, culture are the superior – most of this madness begins in the home. Then, those notions are carried into school and society at large, for reinforcement or confrontation.

Thus, we never solve anything.

Sometimes I feel as though the wheels of life have bogged down. I know, truly I do, how frenetically busy the online world is. I hear the stories, look over my daughter’s shoulder to see what she’s scrolling, learning modern wisdom on Instagram. Much of it is quite worth hearing; much is drivel; those ten funny jokes are making their rounds again.

Meanwhile, I hope homes are warming up to the light in the darkness – the coming season of Christmas and holidays – halted in its happiness by enforced separation. Yet, I am guessing that will be dealt with aggressively by the determined joy of shared meals over online means and shared laughter and messages of love.

And Santa? Nothing can stop his mission of bringing joy to children’s lives, hearing their whispered wishes and hoping to lighten their lives where darkness dwells.

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