I’m not sure I ever really believed in Santa Claus, at least not in the way that most people mean when they describe such a belief. There was probably a time when I was very young when I simply took Santa’s existence as a given. Adults said there was a Santa Claus, and I had no reason to question the concept. At some point, however, I began to realize that Santa’s existence really wasn’t a given. People talked about believing in Santa, and I gradually started to understand that, when people talked about whether or not someone believed in something (or someone), whatever it might be, it was usually not generally accepted as a fact. It required faith in the absence of evidence (or sometimes in the presence of evidence against it), and, as far as I can remember, I never really had that faith.
My parents were clever in that they told me that none of the Santas we would see at malls, in parades, or on street corners ringing bells was the real Santa. They were simply Santa’s helpers who would receive children’s requests for presents and report back to the real Santa. The only way you would ever see the real Santa is if you happened to catch a glimpse of him on Christmas Eve when he visited your house. Of course, then you would risk getting no goodies because you were not a good little child asleep in your bed when you should be! So, that eliminated any difficult questions about how Santa could be at 3 different malls, a parade, and the zoo all at the same time.
Even so, once I understood that the existence of Santa was not a fact to be taken as a given, I don’t think I ever really believed. I admit that I could be wrong—memory is a funny thing, and I know it is very much shaped by the sum of our experiences that occur before and after any so-called memory. However, I can say with relative certainty that there was never any crushing moment when I “found out” or was told there was no Santa. As far as I can recall, I just thought Santa was a nice story you went along with until you were a certain age, at which time you (or your parents) decided you had grown out of it.
All of that said, I do believe in Santa Claus in some sense. I believe in the good things he represents. I believe in generosity without the expectation of reciprocation. I believe in wonderful surprises. I believe in peace, love, and kindness. And whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus, Yule, Kwanzaa, Belka, New Year’s Day, and/or something else, I believe in a time to celebrate these good things with family and friends.