Thursday, December 1, 2011

We Believe in Santa

I feel like I spend the better part of this blog confessing my weird little quirks and human foibles.  I guess after 43 years of living, through both good and bad situations, I don't really feel like I have much to lose in admitting my humanity.  In fact, these idiosyncrasies define much about who I am - again, both good and bad!  
Love the jolly expression
on my Russian Santa
seen here in the foreground

Today, I have a new confession...

I love Santa Claus. 

I was a devout believer when I was a child.  Letters, prayer intercessions, mall visits - the whole nine yards.  And except for the Christmas when I asked for a "real" veterinarian's medical bag and received a plastic Disney one instead (God bless my mother for going to the trouble to find it), I was generally pleased with the answered requests.

In retrospect, rather than the gift giving aspect of St. Nick, I truly think on a subconscious level the appeal of unconditional goodness and generosity was overwhelming to me.  I felt this concept of giving without receiving was so beautiful.

In later years, I've had the pleasure of playing Santa to my children and Secret Santa at our sibling gift exchanges.  I love the secrecy and the anticipation; the surprise and the fanfare.  But my Santa collection has got to be the single most anticipated part of the holidays for me.  (I know, I know...weirdo...)
 
My first few Santas
 My mom and dad and sister, Christine, have had gorgeous Santa collections for years.  I used to look at each figure and admire the detail and form, so I'll admit that when I announced that I wanted to start my own collection, it was purely for aesthetics and whimsy.  The first few Christmases, I got different styles of Santas engaged in different activities and made out of various materials...some workshopping, some gathering, some made of resin, some wood, some ceramic, a music box, assorted ornaments. 
 
My first Jim Shore Santa.
How appropriate that he's
holding a lantern, lighting
the way to the glory of Christmas

Then I received my first Jim Shore Santa from my sister, Christine.  I was smitten.

Jim Shore renderings hence became my focus. There is just something about the expressions and posturing of these works that speak to me.  They each convey a different human feeling...merriment, gravity, generosity, benevolence, mischief.  I've added to my collection by purchasing several throughout the years but more often than not, I have received them as gifts.  They are scattered in vignettes throughout my family room.  I unpack them the day after Thanksgiving, the first whisper of Christmas to speak in my house so I can enjoy them for the entire season and as long as possible before wistfully packing them up again.  (At least I'm not wacko enough to keep them out all year long.)

As I stop to think and wonder about this little eccentricity of mine, I know without a doubt the reasons I am drawn here.  The idea of Santa Claus represents all of what we Christians hold dear...hope, charity, selflessness, joy, grace.  Even the accountabilities are similar...see here the "Naughty/Nice Jim Shore Santa" carved with a warning for those who have erred (though bless Mr. Shore for omitting names on his "naughty" list) and a stern look and darkness of color representing the knowledge that our actions have consequences.  Conversely, the joy that we feel, the personal reward to our hearts when we endeavor to help, serve and spread God's love and cheer is similarly represented on the opposite "Nice" side.  And hey, props to those with the names "Robin, Kelly, Wendy, Sandy, Michael" who received a Jim Shore shoutout for their good works!  (Of course, though I wish the name "Cynthia" was displayed on this carving, I'm equally thrilled to note that it is not highlighted on the Naughty list...whew...)

Santa Claus, or the various identities he holds throughout the Earth -St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Babbo Natale, Ded Moroz, Papa Noel, Weihnnachtsmann, Father Christmas - represents all that we reach for in our broken world.  It is telling that each country has a name for and a story about him.  It shows we are all, no matter the location or the circumstance, in need of this legend, this possibility. But the beauty of this yarn is that it doesn't have to be a fantasy.  It can be the ideal displayed in each of our lives, in living with bigheartedness and goodwill.  So this day, this Advent season, and every day throughout the year, I will endeavor to make it on to God's "nice list" thus embodying Santa's spirit of the season for all to enjoy.  Won't you please join me?


This piece is called
"The True Meaning of Christmas"

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