Dear sweet complicated Isabella,
Santa is make believe.
You are right, he is not the nice man in the mall. He is not those look a like's you see in the movies you love so much. He is not at the north pole either.
I have always told you so but also probably I have confused you by allowing you to believe if you wanted, only telling you the truth when you asked directly. I just tried to treat it like anything else you asked about. We've watch Santa movies and things, but even when you were very small you would ask if Santa was make believe and I would tell you yes.
Why? There were more than a few people to my surprise who were a bit put off by it.... so why did I?
Not because I wanted to steal away something fun or magical.
Not because I didn't enjoy the stories when I was young.
It's because I want you to believe in a thing much more important... just as hard to believe in some ways but much more amazing. When I told you about Jesus being born, both God and man in a manger two thousand years ago I wanted you to see my sincerity.... not just wonder if it was another fancy story created to make you "behave". I didn't want the nativity story to have to compete with the Santa magic because lets face it, at first glanced one is a bit more sparkly than the other.
So far the Santa thing has seemed to be no big thing to you, but this year you became a little more perplexed and honestly annoyed by the whole thing. WHY do people pretend something like this? Why do grown ups tease? Why do they insist in the existence of a person and magic that you know could not be? I think you began to believe you were smarter than many adults around you....
you said, "why on earth would Santa come HERE?".... good point, we WERE at the mall.
you said, "there are lots of malls too.".... very good point.
you said, "And I just KNOW it isn't true Mom... I am FIVE and I am really very smart." well then.
My sweet little five year old... these questions had you nearly irate and the mall the other night.
So here is what I told you....
You right that Santa Claus is not what most people would say.... but you are wrong to say that he does not exist, He did and he does. He was a man inspired by the spirit of giving.... by the gift given to him by Jesus. The gift of eternal life.
So he still lives in that way... because of what he inspired us to do. Even though the real man we called St. Nicholas went to Heaven a long long time ago we can be Santa Claus to each other now if we choose to give selflessly just as he did. We can let the joy of God's gift fill us up and allow us to learn that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. Give of your time to help others, give a gift, give someone a smile or a hug or your prayers... You now know a very grown up secret, you yourself can be Santa to anyone who needs you.
But why do so many people want you to believe in Santa Claus? Well because it is a story of hope and possibility to a world that doesn't always see the hope God has for us. The world is sometimes a scary and bad place. One night a year people believe even just a little that maybe this will be the year that they get everything they have always wanted... but what they want isn't what they need. Sadly they are not seeing that every hope has been full filled, and every fear laid aside, by simply choosing for your perfect gift that little baby in the manger.
I am sure you will have many more questions and conversations like this next year but you seemed satisfied for now. Funnily enough you still went up and talked to Santa at the mall, which is fine by me, make believe always has a place in our home.... and we both know you were just there to get that candy cane.