“He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. … Ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
I’m happy to say that the spirit of Santa Claus — the charity, generosity, and jolliness, the “childlike faith,” “poetry” and “romance” — is alive and well in Tracy. And it makes glad more than just children’s hearts.
OK, so maybe there’s no big guy in a red suit coming down your chimney this year. (Unless it’s the new Tracy crime fad, in which case build that fire extra hot Dec. 24.) But Santa’s spirit is surely as alive now as it was when Church was writing.
I could list the charities guarding that spirit here in Tracy, or the people who dedicate this season and their lives to sharing that spirit. But I’d surely leave one out.
Instead, it’s enough to acknowledge the reality they create in Tracy. The reality that the spirit of Santa Claus is alive and well, and that “in all this world, there is nothing else real and abiding.” A season of contradiction
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved driving around town during the Christmas season, eyes pressed to the window, enchanted by the soft glow of lights carefully strung on trees, fences and eaves.
It started as a tradition when Saturday morning cartoons were still the height of my culture. After a weekend dinner, my parents would load my sister and me into the car and drive off for one of the neighborhoods — you know them when you see them — that year after year would put on a show that could be seen from low-earth orbit. Sometimes, the show even came with free hot chocolate.
Years later, there’s still nothing like a self-guided lights tour to put me in the holiday spirit.
I think part of that is because it’s a return to a sense of innocence, a moment unburdened by the nagging conscience that usually accompanies indulgence.
I’m not worried about the wasted energy of those thousands of lights. I’m not worried about the unnecessary pollution of the car being driven for naught more than a temporary thrill. I’m not worried about the money folks are spending to lift my spirits, money that could be spent on helping the homeless, the ones who really need a lift on cold winter nights.
I know I should be worried. But when I’m looking at those displays through a fog-streaked window, I’m not.
It’s a contradiction in a season that has become a time of many.
Christmas is a season of spiritual awakening. Yet Advent is the time of year when people literally trample one another in the race to spend on earthly treasures.
It is a time of indulgence and spending on luxury. Yet it is a time of great giving and charity, when many people who don’t have much themselves decide to give food, money, clothing, company and compassion to those who have even less.
It is a season of peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. Yet it is a time when police and hospitals brace for the inevitable annual increase in injuries and fights, when normally joyful people argue over which seasonal greeting is “right.”
I can’t explain those contradictions, the ugliness that seems to wrap itself around my favorite holiday.
But I do know why Christmas remains my favorite holiday despite all that. It’s because of the people I am blessed to share it with, Scrooge awakened after his spin with Christmas Future and the memory brought back by looking at houses bedecked with light.
• Contact columnist and associate editor Jon Mendelson at email@example.com.