G.K Chesterton, a prolific writer, apologist, and master of wit and paradox, made headlines once again this summer when his cause for canonization gained some momentum and is now being investigated by his home Diocese in England. A man of many words, Chesterton was also known for his joy, and this time of year especially, for his steadfast belief in Santa Claus.
As we celebrate the Birth of Christ and Jolly ol’ Saint Nicholas makes his way into our living rooms, here are some beautiful reflections for young and old on why Chesterton believed in Santa, and why it is OK if we do too!
On believing in Santa…
Chesterton unabashedly declared that he believed in Santa Claus. Below he explains one reason why:
I do most definitely believe in Santa Claus; though I prefer to talk about him in my own language. I believe Saint Nicholas is in heaven, accessible to our prayers for anybody; if he was supposed to be specially accessible to prayers of children, as being their patron, I see no reason why he should not be concerned with giving human gifts to children. I do not suppose that he comes down the chimney; but I suppose he could if he liked. The point is that, for me, there is not that complete chasm or cutting off of all relations with the religion of childhood, which is now common in those who began by starting a new religion and have ended by having no religion.
The land of men and of fancy
Chesterton did not believe that there should be an abrupt separation between a child’s understanding of realty and the reality of the adult world. He explains how that extends to Santa (Holy Nicholas) in this quote:
Is the child to live in a world that is entirely false? Or is the child to be forbidden all forms or fancy; or in other words, forbidden to be a child? Or is he, as we say, to have some harmless borderland of fancy in childhood, which is still part of the land in which he will live: in terra viventium, in the land of living men? Cannot the child pass from a child’s natural fancy to a man’s normal faith in Holy Nicholas of the Children without enduring that bitter break and abrupt disappointment which now marks the passage of the child from a land of make-believe to a world of no belief?
Santa teaches us to believe in Jesus
Perhaps the most important observation that Chesterton makes about Santa is that as a child, believing in Santa Claus teaches one to have faith in Christ. Chesterton argued that belief in Santa and the joy of the season would eventually lead one to have stronger and deeper faith in the Christ Child; the true reason for the Christmas season.
The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why.
He further explains…
In point of fact, it is not very easy to say where Santa Claus ends and where the Child of Bethlehem begins. Logic seems to suggest that when you cast out the one, you must proceed to cast out the other.
Perhaps the most famous of Chesterton’s reflections on Christmas and Santa Claus, what is sometimes known as the “Christmas Stockings,” explains how his belief in Santa not only did not wane over the years, but in fact, grew stronger. We leave it for you in its entirety and wish you a very Merry Christmas season!
What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.
As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me…What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.
Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.