Christ's birth is the "reason for the season" for sure. But what we are celebrating is really a belief in that event, and what it means for mankind. It's more often called Faith, but Christian creeds repeat the phrase "we believe." We believe in the impossible. Virgins do not give birth to children. Men do not rise from the grave three days after their death. The spirits of the departed do not talk to their friends. But we as Christians make a conscious choice to believe these things happened. We can't prove it, and that's important, because if we could we wouldn't need faith, our belief would be meaningless. And Christmas would be just another birthday.
There are those who see Santa Claus and the traditions and, yes, commercialism, that surround him as taking something away from the "true meaning" of Christmas. I disagree. Santa Claus is the personification of all that is good and charitable and joyful in the human race. No one lives at the North Pole. Sleighs don't fly and fat men don't magically transport down chimneys. But that doesn't mean Santa isn't real. As Virginia read in response to her question to The New York Sun...
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist...
We can't touch love or generosity, just as we can't prove the virgin birth, but they are real things, and made more real by our belief in them. And Santa Claus helps that along.
Christmas is also the time for family and friends. Reading a friend's facebook post about missing his dad at Christmas, and his friend's kind response to him made me realize belief plays a major role here too at Christmastime. While I was growing up, my grandmother spent every Christmas with us. She'd come the night before and wake with us on Christmas morning and share in the opening of presents and all the fun. She passed away years ago, but that doesn't mean she's gone. I can no longer see her or hear her voice or give her a hug, but I know she's there with me and all my family as we share Christmas together. It's yet another impossibility that belief makes as real as the floor under my feet.
Our friends can also teach us about believing. I've found that some friend is always there when you need one. They often don't need to be called upon and many times have no idea that I needed help or even that anything was wrong. Twain wrote that a true friend is one who carries light into your darkness, and that we never forget these people. He's right, and I've learned to believe that they will always be there. You can't touch a frinedship, and I challenge anyone to write even a decent definition of the word, but it's real and it's part of what makes Christmas magic.
In The Polar Express the belief in Santa is represented by the sound of a bell that only those who believe can hear. Hearing that bell, being able to believe, into adulthood requires a conscious act of faith, of belief in the impossible. It requires not an ignorance of all the hate and pain and sadness in the world, but a belief that nothing bad lasts forever. Jesus really was born of a virgin and died only to rise again and show us the way to Heaven. Santa Claus is just as real as love itself. Our loved ones that have passed out of our reach will live forever in those of us they touched. Our friends will help us when we need it and fill our lives with joy. Love is stronger than hate. Forgiveness is stronger than hurt. Joy will always conquer pain.
I believe these things because I chose to believe them. For me, they are real and they make Christmas perfect, because I BELIEVE.