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Dear Ethan

This is a re-post of my 2018 letter to a young man who found himself at the Santa Crossroad: should he continue to believe or was it time to subscribe to the cynicism of his social circle? Like the season and the holidays and celebrations that fill the coming days, some things never get old and are worth repeating.

To this, I would add a question. Is there an important benefit in the outcome of his decision? I believe there is.

Dear Ethan:

As you can imagine, things are pretty busy around here. All of the elves are scurrying around to make sure that we have everything we need. I am taking care of the reindeer so that they are healthy and strong. Our big night is coming up fast, and there is so much to take care of before then.

In spite of this hectic time, I wanted to take a minute to write to you. I know you are now ten years old, and I know that it’s around then that you and your pals will question whether there really is a Santa Claus. I want to assure you that I am real, even though the evidence can be a bit confusing. For instance . . . everywhere you look, someone is dressed up like Santa. Some of these fellows look pretty good, while others look kind of silly. They always make me chuckle! But, here’s the truth. Those guys aren’t really Santa Claus, any more than a boy dressed as Spider Man on Halloween is really Spidey. With everything I have to take care of, it would be impossible for me to show up everywhere, all over the world, in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas Eve. These fellows dress that way to remind you, and all children, of the mystery of this season and that the magic of Santa Claus is a part of it. I’m grateful to these folks who take the time to do what I am simply too busy to do and that they honor me by dressing in a way that will remind everyone who sees them of me, Santa Claus, and everything I stand for.

You are now old enough to understand who I really am. People understand that I’m an old man who dresses in red velvet and fur, and who delivers gifts to children on Christmas Eve. I have been doing this for hundreds of years. Children across the world have different traditions and call me by different names - Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Santa Claus or Father Christmas. Regardless of where they live, or the name they use, I represent a tradition that makes them feel good. That, Ethan, is what Santa Claus truly is. I am about giving and happiness. I am a bit of magic that lives in people’s hearts, reminding them of warmth and love.

Now, you and your friends can argue all day long about how old I am, or whether reindeer can fly, or how I fit down chimneys, or how I get into people’s houses without waking their dogs or setting off their alarms. The truth is that no one can prove that these things aren’t true. And, whether they are true or not, doesn’t really matter. What matters is the magic of Santa Claus, the wonder of it all and how it makes people feel.

Think of a candle flame, Ethan. There is something very wonderful and comforting about the warmth of a flickering candle and the beautiful light it provides. But, if the flame is blown out the warmth of the candle goes away and the room becomes dark. The spirit of Santa Claus is like that candle flame. If people allow that flame to remain lit in their hearts, the wonder of Santa will always be a part of them and their holiday experience.

Those years you sat on my knee when I stopped by your grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve were real. Those conversations we had and those promises you made that you had been a “good boy” were real. Those feelings you felt, and what you believed to be true, were real. Santa is real if you believe he’s real. It’s that simple.

I need to get back to my chores. But, if your classmates try to convince you that I am not real, I hope you have an answer to their argument. I hope you can say, “Say what you want. I believe that the spirit of Santa is real.”

Now, I want you and your family to have a very Merry Christmas. Don’t forget to leave me some cookies and a carrot, or two, for the reindeer.

Keep believing!

Your pal,


I can only hope that this lesson on the "spirit of Santa" will resonate in the heart of a ten year old child and his friends. At its core, this is a lesson in compassion. It is a lesson about caring and empathy, and believing in something greater than oneself. "Soft skills?", sure. Essential skills in a preparation for success in our complex 21st century world? Absolutely!

I wish, as does Santa, that Ethan will decide to keep the candle in his heart lit, and that he will influence others to retain the magic of hope and generosity that defines this season. It is a promise to humankind - love and empathy exemplified by a mythical, sleigh-riding codger named Santa.

Blessings to all!

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