17 Dec 2012

8 Days to Christmas

"Daddy, are you sure Santa's real?"

"Of course, honey. Why do you ask?"

"Then why are there so many Santas in the malls and on the streets?"

"Well... those aren't actual Santas, they're just his assistants. It's hard for him to be so many places at once, so he gets many people to help him quickly spread the Christmas magic! But Santa's definitely real, Jane!"

"Oooooh!"

Phew, another nice save. But how long could he keep this up? Surely she must know the truth at some point in her life. It was already heartbreaking to see her ask the mall Santa for her mommy back the past few years. She still thought Mommy's in the North Pole, where Santa also stays. Truth is, even he had no clue where she went. He just came up with that convenient lie, given that it happened on a Christmas Day...

"Daddy! Is that Santa over there? But he doesn't have a beard..."

Huh? Who was she pointing to?



"Can't you see? That white-haired man! Is he Santa?"

Oh. How interesting, that this young man had white hair on his head. Was it dyed in preparation for a Christmas performance? That isn't very likely to be natur–

"-Jane? Hey, don't run off!"

The pesky little girl dashed off in curiosity towards this white-haired figure, eager to have her questions answered.

"Excuse me? Are you Santa Claus? Is that why your hair is whi–"

"Oh gosh! I'm terribly sorry, sir! She's just really excited about Christmas, please understand!"

The white-haired man chuckled. "It's alright! Unsurprisingly I get this a lot around this time of the year. I'm fine with it!"

Then he bent down and met face to face with Jane.

"I'm sorry, little miss, but the Santa Claus you're looking for isn't me. However, I can assure you he's REAL!"

Jane's eyes widened further. "Really??? How do you know?!?"

The man got closer to her and whispered:

"I've met him before. He's a nice jolly fellow!"

"DID YOU HEAR THAT DADDY? SANTA'S REAL!!!"

Oh wow. Everybody around them was now staring as though a bomb exploded at their spot. Judging from the volume of his daughter's sudden outburst, they weren't completely wrong.

"Yes, I told you, Jane."

The white-haired gentleman chortled again. "She seems really eager to listen to the story of Santa! Why not we three find some nice place to sit down and talk? I know a place where there's a playground nearby."

"Daddy, can we can we can we can we pleeeeeeeeaase???"

Goodness! If he said no, the fuss she will kick up will just attract even more unwanted attention... did he have a choice?

"Sure, baby. I'd like to hear some of his stories too, actually."

"YAY!"

"Then let's go! It's just a few blocks away, we can take a stroll there. Oh by the way..." Turning to the father, the white-haired fellow asked: "What is your name? It'd be rude to not address you properly."

"Oh... people usually call me Matt."

"Nice to meet you Matt, and your daughter Jane! You can call me Dominic."





"...and that's when he said, 'Merry Christmas to you too!' And he flew off in his magical sleigh, pulled by his special reindeer! Unfortunately only I was there to hear the sleigh bells ringing in the night sky, so nobody else really believes me..."

"I believe you, mister!"

"And I'm sure you do, Jane. That's why you have to make sure other people know that Santa's real! We all like to think that he's a phoney because we never actually get to meet him. The truth is, he just likes to be hidden. If he were to appear all the time in front of everybody, he wouldn't be that special anymore, would he?"

"Woooow. You're right! That's a really wonderful story, mister!"

"I'm glad you liked it. Maybe you can go on and play with the other kids at the slide! Even tell them the truth about Santa Claus!"

Jane nodded confidently, as though entrusted with a secret mission that only she could accomplish. Quickly she darted towards the indoor playground, hoping to enlighten the ignorant children with her newly found knowledge.

Matt leaned back on the bench together with Dominic.

"Wow. You sure know how to spin a convincing tale, Dominic. Even I was almost able to believe in it!"

"Well..." Dominic crossed his legs. "...it is true that I am kind of experienced in story-writing and storytelling... but what I said wasn't entirely false."

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"I wasn't actually there in that exact scenario... but I definitely know Santa Claus does exist."

This was certainly new, an adult believing in Santa Claus. Matt felt he might be dangerously close to opening a can of worms here...

"How are you so sure about that?"

"I told you, I've met him before. Like, physically."

"That's... erm... how could you be so certain that wasn't some ordinary guy dressed in a costume to look like Santa?"

"Well... it's quite hard to describe exactly, but... when you meet him, you just know it."

Matt was having a hard time telling whether this guy next to him was a half lunatic, or a gullible fool duped by others since youth.

"Listen... Jane's mother has been missing since three Christmases ago. I even suspect that she might be dead. I told her that Mommy is just spending time with Santa, doing something like helping him with his duties. But sooner or later, Jane must know the truth. She cannot be deceived forever."

He paused for a while. Dominic was listening intently, his gaze unwavering. Matt continued:

"I know it's fine to shield children from the horrible truth, because nobody should be exposed to that trauma at that young age. But when they get older, the veil must come off. If you keep on insisting that Santa exists, you're basically forcing the veil onto their eyes. You're encouraging them to live a series of comfortable but false lies their entire lives. Do you really want that?"

In response, Dominic uncrossed his legs.

"Of course nobody should be deceived their whole lives. They deserve the right to know the truth. But I  believe I deceive nobody when I say Santa does exist. He doesn't exactly fit the distorted picture that many people are familiar with, but I've seen him in person, touched the reindeer, seen the piles of gifts, entered his home base even. And you know what else I found out? He didn't really care too much about whether people believed in him or not, or whether they knew what he looked like. He just did his job. He helped out those who were deserving, and taught lessons to those who needed disciplining."

Dominic's gaze seemed to intensify, just to make Matt know he wasn't insane.

"Perhaps I've been deceived in a really elaborate lie, with lots of actors and props. You could discount my experience as that. But to me it never felt more real. I was absolutely certain that was the Santa, not like the mainstream's idealised image, but still a genuine figure. And knowing that I could be rewarded for doing good things in life, I acted as such."

Then he pointed towards Jane, gleefully frolicking around in the playground, unaware of the ongoing conversation.

"There's nothing wrong with letting her believe in Santa Claus. It isn't necessarily a malicious lie. It should be a carrot on a stick that you can use to guide her in her development. Sure you can reveal to her truth later on. But there's nothing wrong with knowing, even as an adult, that someone out there will reward you for your good behaviour. Just like how people believe in karma or other cosmic forces."

Well... Matt couldn't really disagree with that.

"You do have a point. Sorry I kinda snapped at you earlier. I'm just really worried for her..."

A pat on the back.

"You seem to be doing great so far, for someone whose wife isn't here to support you. It's natural for you to be concerned for your child. But loosen up! Let Jane believe."

Finally, for the first time today, Matt smiled.





"So did you have fun, Jane?"

"Yes Daddy! And thanks for the wonderful story, mister!"

"No, thank you for being such a great listener! Not many people are willing to stick around that long to listen to the whole thing."

"I'll be sure to tell my friends about Santa, mister!"

"Oh, and one more thing: Matt, how would you like it if I'd invite just you to my Christmas night party at my place?"

"W-wait. You're inviting me all of a sudden?"

"Yeah, why not? It'd be a fun way to meet new people and celebrate the occasion. I might prefer if you came alone though, it's more of an adult's thing..."

Seeing Jane immediately pout, Dominic quickly turned to her. "Don't worry! I'll make sure he passes my gift to you when he comes back that night."

"Really??? Thank you mister! Daddy, can you pleeeeeeease go???"

"Well, with such a nice offer like this, how can I refuse? Sure thing!"

Dominic grinned. "Here's my address. Hope to see you there and then!"

"Bye mister!"

"Goodbye! And merry Christmas!"

And so Dominic went off and disappeared back into the crowd on the sidewalk.

"Daddy, do you think Mommy will come back this time?"

"...I hope so. I really do."