His horse wore antlers and his cart was decked out as a sleigh but I never once questioned it. His reindeer was a magical creature and there was no need for explanations. I saw what I wanted to. Santa was bigger than life, bigger than anything and when we made eye contact it was as though he knew exactly who I was and where I lived. I reached up to catch sweets he scattered from his sleigh and then felt the magic still long after he’d disappeared around the end of our street.
For the next few days, whenever I passed a shop grotto, I’d feel sorry for squirming kids in a long queue then wonder why they screamed so when faced with Santa’s knee. One year my aunty took me to see Santa too. I stared hard at him. It wasn’t the same. When my aunt asked me why I was so serious I told her: ‘I can’t feel the magic. That’s not my Santa.’
I can’t remember how old I was when one year I decided not to go outside even though I could hear music and bells. The bubble had burst when I'd overheard the postman talking to a neighbour. My Santa was just some local guy who liked to do the rounds for the kids but I soon regretted not going outside to see him. I felt grown-up and abandoned. When I peaked around the curtain I caught a glimpse of the back of his red gown as his cart turned the corner of our street. A big part of my childhood went with him.
I'd forgotten about my Santa until recently but I can still vividly recall that sense of magic he'd left behind. I realized that although that part of my childhood had gone the magic hadn’t gone with it. Back then it was a moment of simple naivety, a suspension of reality. Being out in the open night air and waiting for the magic to fill me with warmth and hope was part of the excitement.
So…if you find yourself sat at a dining table surrounded by people, perched on the end of a settee and smiling wryly at bickering relatives or sat alone in a chair with a tray and a TV remote, think back to when you still had your personal piece of magic. Think back to when anything was possible. Did you let go of it completely? Was it smothered by worldly things? Is it waiting for you to rekindle it or have you seen a glimpse of it in your child’s eyes? Don’t blink! You may miss it. My Santa was real, a man with a huge heart. When I think of him now I know he must have held on to his piece of magic and allowed it to grow so that he could share it with others. That’s the true meaning of Christmas. Magic is a feeling.