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Christmas—A holiday for the child in each of us

Which  of us hasn’t delighted anew in Christmas on seeing it through our children’s eyes? Bleariness from staying up till 2 AM to assemble a dollhouse or bicycle is washed away in the joy we take on hearing joyous cries of “Santa’s come!” even if it’s a mere three hours after we finally fell into bed that we’re thus awakened.

But then, one day, your child, or the last of your children, leaves the nest. Already long past the Age of Believing, he is, she is, or they are gone altogether, and Christmas loses just a bit of its luster. Suddenly, you feel just a little bit older. It’s funny how Christmas can do that to you.

On the other hand, it’s funny how Christmas can also make you feel young again. How’s that? you ask. It’s the magic. It’s the magic of Christmas, if you’ll only open your heart to it.

Speaking for myself, one of the ways I continue to connect with the Christmas-is-for kids concept is by volunteering to play Mrs. Claus annually for our village. It’s strictly a phone gig…and strictly a volunteer gig. The only “payment” I get is the pleasure of talking to the kids whose parents, unknown to them, have signed them up for a call from either Santa or Mrs. Claus. Armed with the slips of paper bearing the kids’ names, wish lists, brothers’ and sisters’ and pets’ names, and other salient info, I make calls for two and a half hours and listen to the delighted wonder at the other end when the phone-answering parent announces, “Alison. It’s for you. It’s Mrs. Santa Claus!” and the subsequent earnest appreciation as the child gets on the phone and tells me she has been a good girl and hopes Santa will bring her heart’s desire I’ve been doing this every year since shortly after I moved to my current home, in the small South Florida village of Palm Springs.

But that’s not all that Palm Springs does to make Christmas more meaningful for its residents. A procession comes around the village every year on a Saturday morning close to Christmas. This train of vehicles—it would be a stretch to call it a “parade”—includes Santa, who rides atop a fire truck that follows several police cars, one of which bears a big sign, “SANTA’S COMING,” and is followed by several Village utility vehicles. All the members of the procession are off-duty volunteers, from cops to water meter readers.

“Santa” was played by our mayor for years. Last year, when the mayor was term-limited out of office and a female mayor was voted in, it presented a problem as Christmas approached. Her Honor could hardly play Santa, nor would it do to have the fire truck bearing only Mrs. Claus. At the last minute the former mayor was drafted to assume his annual Santa role atop the fire truck.

And me? I’m a kid again. I wait for the arrival of the procession with all the excitement of a four-year-old awaiting the arrival of the “real” Santa. As the vehicles make their way around the village, sirens hooting to announce their progress, I listen and try to gauge when they’re on their way into our condo complex. After several of the inevitable false alarms, when I can hear them plainly but they’re not really here yet, I run out onto the catwalk for the umpteenth time, and this time it’s for real. Santa’s coming! As soon as I see the first police car, I run pell-mell down the stairs from our second-floor apartment to the parking lot and wait for the fire truck with Santa aboard.

“Merry Christmas!” I scream not only to Santa but to the occupants of every vehicle in the procession. Delight wreaths my face. Joy fills my heart. For those few moments I’m a kid again, excited at this visible proof that it is the Christmas season. Santa lives. Never mind that I know it’s really our former mayor. Santa is the spirit of Christmas, and the spirit of Christmas is real. And for those few minutes and some period thereafter, I’m a kid again, a believer. Young at heart and delighting in Christmas.

If your kids are past believing, grown and gone, what can you do to let the Christmas season reawaken the child in you, the wonder of the season, the delight, the joy? Don’t fight it. Give in to it. There’s a big difference between “childish” and “childlike.” Let the spirit of Christmas reawaken the childlike spirit within you—even if you’re Jewish or Moslem or a nonbeliever. Christmas is for everyone. Santa is for all faiths. The spirit of brotherhood, peace on earth, and good will to all people is universal. And as the lyrics of one secular Christmas song proclaim, “Aren’t we all children on Christmas Eve?”

Enjoy the season, with every childlike fiber of your being.

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