It’s Christmas Eve. My son Ben is 5, soon to be 6. He still believes in Father Christmas. I’ve convinced myself that the time has come to tell him ‘the truth.’
Harsh, you might think. But for the best. It’s not going to be much good if he goes on believing when all his school chums know ‘the truth’. They could end up thinking he is a wimp. And I’m recalling the quandary I was in when I was Ben’s age when one of the kids in the street had taken delight in telling me ‘the truth’. I wanted to spare him that.
So, I’m standing next to Ben and we’re looking out of the window, out onto the street from the little terraced house in South Wales. It’s snowing, one of those rare white Christmas things. And I’ve plucked up the courage to tell him.
‘You see, Ben, there is no Father Christmas. It’s just something that grown-ups invent…..’
Ben’s not saying a thing. I’m beginning to think that I’m doing this well. But something has caught his attention further down the street.
Just then, right on cue, Father Christmas comes walking along, picking his way through the ankle deep snow. Dragging a small sleigh with a big white bag full of presents on it. As he comes closer, he sees us at the window and gives a wave and a cheery smile. I wave back.
Ben still says nothing. He’s a thinking child and he’s trying to weigh this up. Dad’s saying there’s no such thing as Father Christmas. Father Christmas has just come walking up the street dragging his sleigh and has just waved and given a cheering smile. Dad has waved back. Finally, Ben waves back and just says, ‘OK, Dad.’
The guy who’s just walked past is Brian, a teacher friend of the two girls who are our next door neighbours. He’s volunteered again this year to be Santa at the local primary school, just round the corner. He’s good at it. He has the full red and white Santa suit, portly gait and believable white beard. And the sleigh and the big bag of presents. I’m rubbing my eyes as he braves the steps to the house next door. He’s come to wish the girls a Merry Christmas in his usual exuberant way. I don’t know him well but I’ve spoken to him a few times, enough to give him a wave.
That was over thirty years ago. I don’t think that Ben has ever wholly believed a word I’ve had to say since that day. How could you blame him? A lesson for us both in truth and reality, perhaps.
And the proof, if proof was ever needed, that you shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you that Father Christmas doesn’t exist.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Thanks to all those who’ve taken an interest in my writing during the year……