My two favorite Christmas movies are Miracle on 34th Street (1994) and The Polar Express (2004). Both movies are about young kids who don’t believe in Santa Clause. In Miracle, little Susan’s mother wanted her to know only the truth and so didn’t tell her about fairy tales such as Santa. In Polar Express, a boy grows out of believing in Santa.
Maybe I like these stories because I can relate to the children. My parents chose to not teach me Santa exists. Instead, they told me about Jesus and how Christmas celebrates his birth. When I asked them why other kids believed in Santa, they explained that Santa is just a children’s story but not a real person. Rather than being disappointed, I felt as if I held special knowledge, a well-kept secret, that other children were not privileged enough to know. I remember challenging a classmate in first grade to prove Santa’s existence. I told him that he should stay awake on Christmas Eve to see if Santa brought his presents. I never heard after Christmas Break whether his parents had let him stay up or not.
The presents under our Christmas tree always had tags saying, “From: Mom and Dad.” My siblings and I would thank our parents after opening each gift, giving our gratitude to whom it was due. Usually, the tree had one or two gifts addressed to the family from Jesus. One year, the gift was a set of Veggie Tales movies. Other years, we received cards and board games to play as a family. We all knew even these special presents for the family were from Mom and Dad, too, but we enjoyed the gift together as a reminder that Jesus loved all of us.
My parents would remind my siblings and I each Christmas that the holiday was all about Jesus and his gift to us when he was born into the world. I’m at my childhood home again this Christmas with my whole family, even though all of us children have gone our separate ways to live on our own. Coming back here, I think about how Christmas is a time for me to see my family and enjoy time together. This is a time for peace, rest, and love. And all of that comes through our mutual love of Jesus, resting in peace because he is God who became human to save us from pain, distress, and separation. He came because he loves us, and for that, we love him in return.
I think it’s funny how almost every Christmas movie asks the meaning of Christmas. Is it really that much of a mystery? Does Christmas still puzzle people? These Christmas movies make it clear that Christmas isn’t about material gifts and receiving everything on your list. They will tell you that Christmas is about family, home, generosity, love, and faith. In Miracle and Polar Express, the young girl and boy learn how to believe. They learn faith. Not without evidence, mind you. They believe in Santa because they have reasons to believe. And so do I to believe in Jesus.
Have a merry Christmas.