Sinead Moriarty: 'At times like these we need Santa Claus more than ever'
IN a time when the leader of the free world has everyone holding their breath as to what he will say or do next, when Brexit is tearing our neighbours apart, and when the refugee and homeless crises continue to worsen, we all need a little magic.
Santa Claus is magic. The man in the red suit who delivers presents on Christmas Eve is what magic is all about. Everyone's favourite part of Christmas is Santa. Without Santa, there is no spell.
And so, as my children grow older and more cynical, the idea that some of that enchantment may be leaving the house fills me with dread.
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The older two have their own ideas, but my youngest still believes - as of course do I. In fact, I believe so much that I took her to Lapland. I cannot lose Santa. Ever. For what is Christmas without Santa? Just a day when you eat too much and swap gifts. Sure, it's nice to eat good food and who doesn't like receiving gifts, but where's the magic?
I'm clinging to Santa like a drowning man. I will not let him go. I can't. I'll never be ready for the magic to stop.
Magic is in the little moments and memories. Remembering my kids when they were younger, carefully writing their letters, their tongues sticking out with the effort of getting the letters right. The spellings only decipherable to a parent or Santa himself. The kisses and hearts drawn at the end of the letters.
Going to the post box and posting the letter while they shouted into the letter box: "Thank you, Santa."
Christmas morning sometimes comes very early - we had one 2am wake-up when Santa hadn't even arrived. In fact, Santa was still assembling things and getting quite irate.
Santa sometimes overestimates his gift for constructing things and then gets very narky. Sometimes Santa should listen to Mrs Claus when she tells him to do things earlier so they're ready in good time and not always left until the last minute.
Santa should also listen to Mrs Claus when she tells him that sometimes it's better to get a man to come and help assemble things rather than trying to pretend you can do it yourself.
Let's not underestimate the potential danger assembling something, for example, a slide, with the handles on upside-down. The children will end up flying head-first down it on Christmas morning.
Magic is also the sight and sound of little feet running in Christmas pyjamas into the room where the presents lie. Their faces, lit up with joy and wonder. "He came!" For once, as a parent, not minding that they are eating a selection box at 5am.
I treasure the memory of my youngest, her face covered in chocolate, shouting: "I love you, Santa" up the chimney.
The wonder at Rudolph eating the carrot and Santa the cookies. The year Santa left snowy footprints in front of the fireplace.
And let us not forget the relentless questions. I didn't think I'd miss them but, of course, now I do.
How does Santa manage to deliver all the right presents to the right children all on Christmas Eve? How can he leave presents if there's no chimney? How does he fit down the chimney? Is Santa Jesus's cousin?
The question most parents dread is "Dear Santa, can I have a puppy/snake/turtle/tarantula?" The best answer to this question I've heard is "No, because it gets so cold on the sleigh that Santa doesn't bring animals". Very wise, Santa.
The problem nowadays is that it's not just older siblings and kids in the school yard questioning. It's the internet, too.
With social media and smartphones, some children are having doubts younger.
Let's do our best to keep the magic alive. Let children be children for as long as humanely possible.
Childhood doesn't last forever, so it should be cherished for as long as possible. Christmas is about magic and imagination, but most of all it's about children.
It's the one time of year when children can actually be children.
I am not a child. I have heard the doubters, but I still believe - Santa is real.