A small boy frowns under a heap of blankets in a little red wagon on the subway. His Dad and his big brother dance and croon, attempting to cheer him up.
A tiny girl with crooked pigtails moans unhappily until her mother whispers secretly in her ear, and a tiny, chocolate stained smile appears on her rosy face.
Everyone is on the TTC. All the nations are gathered together, and they shall be comforted.
They’re on their way to see their hero, to see Santa, who will appear at the finale of a fabulous parade to bless them as he rides by in majesty in a sleigh pulled by unlikely animals.
Why do we perpetuate this strange mythology?
Is there a reason a million people make this miserable pilgrimage in the cold to see this fecund fellow, this gnome of unusual proportions, this bulging bearer of goodwill, this sloppy gift giver, this distended donor, this pudgy provider? This is no Spiderman, no Thor, no Captain America. He is a sort of Falstaff, jolly and dangerously overweight, and fond of the drink judging by his red nose, and terribly reckless to venture out into the foggy sky on Christmas Eve to tumble down people’s chimneys with a sack. This is a hero?
The crux of the myth is that if you are a good girl or boy you will receive gifts from Santa. If you are bad you will get nothing, or worse you’ll get a lump of coal from Ruprecht.
That can’t possibly be true. Isn’t it a far fetched notion that some higher being is watching us, knowing when we are bad or good, judging our actions and pronouncing some future punishment or reward?
But here’s the thing. Occasionally at Christmas I receive a present that says “From Santa” as if I might still believe in this judicious fellow, and I know full well I have not been very good at all.
The miracle is that even if I don’t believe, I still receive the gift – even though I’m unworthy, the blessing still comes.
Like the snow – it falls on all of us.
On this day it falls so lightly, so tenderly, it’s almost suspended in the air, almost not real.
My companions and I, cozy in a College Street café, watch the madness of the traffic whirling outside. We sip from steaming cups and conjure memories of friends we love, friends we’re happy for, friends we worry about, friends we grieve with.
The enigmatic parade passes by, and we linger, hesitating to return to the hubbub, the blessed nonsense of our myths, the thinness of passing truths, and the wonder of not knowing.