Yes, China, there re­ally is a Santa Claus

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO - Randy Wright

An­other Christ­mas in China is fast ap­proach­ing, with all its po­ten­tial for boost­ing GDP. The hol­i­day has pen­e­trated ev­ery cor­ner of the coun­try. Christ­mas songs started play­ing in con­ve­nience stores and mar­kets last month. Twin­kling Christ­mas trees abound, and card­board San­tas, and rein­deer, and elves beckon shop­pers to empty their WeChat wal­lets.

In a Tian­jin su­per­mar­ket last week, I brushed past a full­size ro­botic Santa Claus and trig­gered its mo­tion sen­sor. The white-bearded Jolly Old Elf be­gan to dance and chuckle: “Ho, ho, ho!” What could I do? I took a selfie with him.

The re­li­gious over­tones of Christ­mas have long since faded, sup­planted by com-

This Day, That Year

mer­cial­ism. But that’s OK with me. Apart from wreck­ing my bank ac­count for the good of so­ci­ety, the hol­i­day pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to re­new friend­ships, con­nect with col­leagues, ex­press ap­pre­ci­a­tion and in­ter­act with loved ones. Th­ese things are of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by gift-giv­ing. If buy­ing them helps the econ­omy, so much the bet­ter.

But what re­ally sets Christ­mas apart is the magic.

Young chil­dren in­no­cently be­lieve in magic, and it’s a tragedy that so many adults grow out of it. I never did.

At the cen­ter of Christ­mas magic is Santa Claus. Chil­dren in the United States know that one night each year, af­ter they go to sleep, the kindly red-clad elf with the white beard vis­its in his fly­ing sleigh pulled by rein­deer. He leaves gifts — toys, treats and even or­di­nary ne­ces­si­ties, which some­how be­came more won­der­ful — in stock­ings or un­der Christ­mas trees, to be dis­cov­ered in the morn­ing with wide-eyed de­light.

Mem­o­ries of those mag­i­cal mo­ments linger with me still. They re­turn ev­ery quiet Christ­mas morn­ing when I rise be­fore dawn.

Never mind the cyn­ics who say that Santa should be ar­rested for break­ing into peo­ple’s houses in the dark, or those who say his fly­ing sleigh should be shot down by the mil­i­tary. Over­look his bad ex­am­ple of be­ing over­weight. (His belly “shakes when he laughs like a bowl full of jelly”, ac­cord­ing to one poem.) Ig­nore the un­likely lo­gis­tics of vis­it­ing bil­lions of chil­dren in a sin­gle night. None of that mat­ters.

The mag­i­cal mes­sage of Santa Claus is self­less giv­ing. He em­bod­ies un­con­di­tional love, which seeks no per­sonal re­ward. That is the spirit of Christ­mas.

You say it was re­ally the par­ents, not Santa, who laid out the gifts while their chil­dren were asleep? Think again. Santa Claus is as real as love it­self. He tran­scends logic. And he can mirac­u­lously bring joy to China as eas­ily as any­where else (even if he needs helpers).

Of course, if you stop be­liev­ing in Santa, he will stop com­ing — which should be a warn­ing to par­ents ev­ery­where who think they bought the gifts. You can get them free if you sim­ply be­lieve. If you don’t, you’re doomed to re­mem­ber pay­ing, which only di­min­ishes the joy.

This is the great les­son of gift-giv­ing. Give, and then for­get. Don’t seek credit. Don’t keep ac­counts. Lib­er­ated from the ledger, a per­son be­comes free to be­lieve in mir­a­cles.

Con­tact the writer at randy@chi­


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