"By the way, she knows." That was what my sister whispered out of the side of her mouth to me as we walked across the restaurant parking lot after a meal with our families the weekend after Thanksgiving.
"Who knows what?" I said.
"Lena. She knows. About Santa."
My niece Lena, who had just turned ten, perked up at the sound of her name and turned around to see what we were talking about. I called Lena over to me and said, smiling broadly, "Is that true? You know the truth about Santa? That's fantastic! I've been waiting and waiting for you to figure it out!"
Her slightly befuddled look told me right away that Lena didn't understand why I would be happy to learn that she'd finally confronted her parents to get some real answers to a few difficult questions for a kid. It was actually not even about Santa initially, but she needed some answers about the tooth fairy after discovering an old bag of Halloween candy which the tooth fairy supposedly absconded with the year before, which led to a discussion about Santa (and most likely the Easter Bunny).
"I'm so happy Lena, I really am."
"Because now you know that Santa is you." I grabbed her hand as we walked over to the car and I said, "I mean, Santa was a real guy, once upon a time. They didn't call him Santa then...but Saint Nick was a real person. And after he was gone, people kept his spirit alive by continuing on the tradition he'd started of leaving gifts for children at Christmas. So yeah, your parents are Santa. Well, they used to be Santa. But the thing is, now that you know, you get to be Santa. You are the one who gets to carry on the spirit of Christmas by becoming Santa."
I can't tell you the relief I felt when Lena got a huge, eye brow raising smile on her face as I told her about how, now that she knew the truth, she was going to get a peek behind the curtain and learn the tricks behind the magic of Christmas.
"It's kind of a big responsibility. Do you think you can handle it? Because now you are going to become Santa just like we have been since we found out. You're going to join the ranks of a lot of big kids and adults. Are you ready for it?"
She said she was, and so I told her that I had some very special tools to give to her when we saw each other next.
|The Secret Santa Toolbox|
A few weeks later, we ventured north again, and this time I brought the box. A tin box with "Believe in the Magic of Christmas" on the top, and it was filled with everything Lena needed to become Santa.
|Lena inspects the contents of her Santa toolbox.|
I went into pretty extensive detail about it in Yes Valerie, There Is A Santa Claus, but as a refresher, all you need are candy-cane seeds (a handful of starlight mints) and a bottle of magic elf dust (red sugar sprinkles). And there’s one more ingredient: the magic of Christmas. Because you can knock yourself out planting candy cane seeds all year long and pouring sprinkles on them, but they’ll only grow into candy canes one night a year, and that night is Christmas Eve, when we’re surrounded by the magic of Christmas.
I have to admit that I was kind of giddy when I presented Lena with her very special pre-Christmas gift. With nobody else around except for me and her mother, Lena opened the tin as I shared some super secret Santa stuff with her.
I explained that becoming Santa is a pretty important responsibility, because the job entails becoming the keeper of magic and keeping it alive for younger kids until they learn the secret of Santa on their own. “And once they do,” I told her, “then your job is to pass that responsibility on to them so that we keep Santa alive for future generations. Can you do that?”
Lena (who had lost her voice that evening during her school talent show) nodded solemnly and whispered, “Yes.” I told her that when Sophia was young I kept the magic. When she was 14 & Lena was 4, Sophia took over the job. And now that Lena was 10, she was going to become the keeper of candy cane magic for her young nieces, 5 year old Maggie and 2 year old Nora, who just happened to be visiting for Christmas this year.
I told her that it was now her responsibility to share the contents of the tin with Maggie and Nora, and pass on the story of how to grow candy canes on Christmas Eve. In fact, she would supervise the whole operation.
“But now that you’re Santa, I have something else to give you,” I said, and pulled out a red bag filled with candy canes. I explained that the heaviest responsibility of being Santa was to remember to go out after the little ones were safely tucked into bed to replace the seeds with grown candy canes. “You need to find a special place to hide this bag. Because this bag is only for those who carry the magic. Don’t ever let Maggie and Nora or even any of your friends see what’s in this bag.”
I told Lena that she also had to be prepared to answer any questions that Maggie and Nora might throw at her. Questions like: Do we plant candy canes inside or outside? With the wrapper on, or off? Lena already knew the answer to that question, because she’d asked it herself the first year she’d planted candy cane seeds, so she already knew that if you plant a candy cane seed with the wrapper on, you get a full grown candy cane with the wrapper on. And if you remove the wrapper before planting it, you get a sticky, sappy gloppy mess the next morning. I told her that I was in favor of encouraging scientific experiments as long as you stay one step ahead, prepared for the outcome.
I reached into the bag and pulled out a handful of candy canes in wild colors like green, blue and purple. “For example,” I told her, “when restaurants started handing out mint chocolate flavored starlight mints, I started stocking green and brown candy canes. And when Sophia asked me one year what would happen if she planted an already grown candy cane, a giant candy cane appeared in its place the next morning.”
“One just like this one, “ I said as I handed Lena a two inch thick, foot long candy cane. “Better be prepared for that one.”
I spent the next half hour passing on all my magician’s secrets, answering all of Lena’s questions, so that she can be as prepared as possible for the enormous task ahead of her. And she's as ready (and excited) as Rudolph on a foggy night. It was like a whole new world had opened up to her, just when she thought that her Christmas dreams would be gone forever.
|Lena shows off her gift.|
I hope the magic of Christmas is alive in your household this year, for the young and old, and those who are just learning the real secrets of Christmas. As you enjoy your holiday, I hope you'll click the play arrow on the Spotify Stocking Stuffer playlist below and enjoy some curated music from Mistress Santa!