He comes into houses on Christmas Eve – whether that’s down the chimney or in through the doors, it doesn’t matter. Somehow he appears and he fills households with his warmth, his generosity and his magic.
He takes this night – this perfectly ordinary night, just like all the others – and he turns it into something completely different. It’s not just children, hanging stockings and laying out mince pies, who feel that magic is coming – parents feel it too. All afternoon, they can feel it approaching – can feel him approaching. His imminent presence is in the air. The other 364 nights might have been mundane - hard work even - but this one is different. This one gives them swirling snowflakes in their stomachs.
He exists when faces are upturned to a December sky, searching for lights. Sometimes he is even seen by the starry eyes of those still young enough for magic. He exists when a child goes to bed and feels half sick with excitement, knowing that Santa won’t come until they go to sleep but finding it so hard to drift off amidst the anticipation that something amazing is about to happen. He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake. When a child pads out of bed to ‘just check’ their stocking to see if he’s been yet, and a mother kisses and ushers them back to bed, he knows it’s not quite time yet.
He starts his work when those rosy cheeks are finally resting against the pillow, beautiful eyelashed lids swept over tired eyes. Then, on that cold winter’s night, for a short time somewhere between late-night parents’ yawns and early morning children’s excited cries, Santa is in the house.
He smells like fruity mince pies, pine needles and sellotape. He sounds like the jingling of bells and the creak of a door and the voices saying ‘He’s been! He’s been!’ He feels warm and soft, like a big red blanket that wraps around a family just for one night, telling them that there is good in this world, and there is magic and that we can transcend the day-to-day.
Santa exists because parents are selfless and because they are generous and above all, because they love. Because they let their children dream - just a little bit, just for a while.
He is tradition and he is childhood and he can never, ever die.