Yes, My Friends, Santa Exists.

A favorite memory from teaching 6th grade – more than ten years later, I still remember this class and this day.

The entire school was bouncing. I expected the building itself to go boing, boing, boing any time, with the amount of pre-holiday energy inside it. One of our specialists commented, “Ms. M. has the ‘too-cool-for-school’ class this year, and you have the energetic one.” She was right. My class, full of really nice kids from wonderful parents, has turned into the elementary equivalent of Animal Planet. Since tranquilizer darts are frowned upon in public schools (I’m KIDDING, I’m kidding!), I had to resort to creative drama to bring them to attention.
My class, as a whole, had been quiet exactly twice the previous day.
The questions of the day revolved around Christmas and Santa. All. Day. Long. “Is Santa real?” “How many reindeer does Santa have?” “Is Santa Claus real?” “How did all this Santa stuff start, anyway?” “Is Santa real?”
They were 6th graders, ages eleven and twelve. They were old enough to know the truth, but did they? I couldn’t take a chance on destroying someone’s innocence and having their parents hit the roof. So I gave them my stock answer: it depends on who you ask. Well, that didn’t last long.
During my graduate program, I took a class in storytelling from a professional storyteller. I relied on those skills to get the students’ attention. When they asked me how many reindeer there were, I stopped, put on my hmmm, there’s a story in here somewhere pose, and waited for quiet. Amazingly, quiet descended almost immediately.
“How many reindeer? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you ask Clement C. Moore, he’d have said Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen.” They were almost nodding along with me. Some were counting on their fingers. “Now of course you recall the most famous reindeer of all.”
Rudolph!” they chimed in.
“And Rudolph makes nine. But there’s a tenth reindeer, too. Do you know her name?”
One highly gifted child knew. “Olive!!!”
Yes, Olive the other reindeer… you know, the one who “…used to laugh and call him names.”
And that was just math class.
The “Is Santa real?” question wouldn’t die. They finally cornered me during Classroom Guidance on my “It depends on who you ask” with the statement “We’re asking you.
Thank goodness for the Internet.
I found a copy of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, told them the story, and read them the editorial. For those few moments, they were spellbound.

That year my class left me exhausted and happy every single day. They wore me out with their energy, and they energized me with their enthusiasm. And every year around this time, I remember the way they listened and absorbed my answer to their question. Yes, young ones, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday with family and friends and your own generous spirit of Santa.

‘Tis the Wrapping Season

My Facebook post reads: 
“Just finished the annual task of cutting up old Christmas cards to become gift tags. For the record, I haven’t bought gift tags in at least 35 years. At least.”

I followed up with a few comments on the use – or not – of wrapping paper. I didn’t need to write a new post on the topic; a search for “wrapping” came up with several. Here is is, folks, a reprise of the No New Wrapping Paper philosophy.

It’s time to remind myself (as if I needed the reminder) of my personal rule: No New Wrapping Papers. I give in on ribbons, invisible tape, and a few other basics. But as for wrapping paper, I dig in my heels.

Wrapping paper is:

  • rarely recycled
  • even more rarely recyclable
  • not suitable for fireplaces
  • wasteful (as in it fills the garbage bin)
  • a waste of money

I am lenient on the  re-use of gift bags – key word, re-use. I stuff the aforementioned bags with reused and reusable tissue. Sometimes we even decorate a plain bag with small scraps of re-purposed wrapping paper.

Keep sending the old fashioned snail mail holiday cards! Besides enjoying them, we reuse many cards as gift tags. I cut circles out of cards to make decorative tops for canned goods (pickles and jams, especially).

My family still gives me a hard time when I carefully unwrap big packages in order to re-use portions of the paper. That doesn’t stop me from doing it.

I ran into a dilemma yesterday. What about buying wrapping paper at a thrift store? Well, that kind of purchase doesn’t waste as much money, and the purchase price often goes toward a good cause. However, gift wrap purchased elsewhere is still rarely recycled or recyclable, and still not suitable for fireplaces. It’ll still fill the garbage bin, too. I decided not to buy it.

Readers, can you help me expand on the environmentally sound wrapping wisdom? Comment if you can.