Dear Editor:

It is wonderful to see all the beautiful signs of Christmas: houses decorated, trees all lit up, people buying gifts, and stores all decorated to bring in customers. Many people have employment at Christmastime. Some need it to help them buy gifts and others need it to buy food to feed their families for Christmas.

Giving. This is what Christmas is all about. Especially to those less fortunate who may not even be able to afford a true Christmas dinner or even a small present for their children. I wonder how many people realize that we have this special day of giving because a little baby named Jesus was born. What would we have today if that baby had never been born?

People of all religions and races benefit from the birth of that baby, not just Christians. His birth has changed the world, yet many people refuse to recognize this and many will discriminate against the word “Christmas.” What would we celebrate if baby Jesus had not been born?

Jim in West Windsor

Jim, you worry needlessly. Now you apparently grew up in a good Christian household, as this editor did, where trees were trimmed, presents wrapped, stockings placed carefully by the chimney, and boys and girls were on their best behavior in hopes that Santa’s sleigh would find its way from the North Pole to their house.

If that little baby Jesus had never been born, we might not have had to go to church on Christmas Eve, but we would have found some other way to fend off the darkness.

You see, Jim, a lot of researchers believe now that Jesus wasn’t born anywhere near December 25, and that the only reason we celebrate that date now is so that the church could co-opt the bawdy Roman holiday of Saturnalia. Around the fourth century AD, some believe, the Christian church began converting pagans by promising that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia, which was cleverly repackaged as Jesus’ birthday.

As for all those gifts we now enjoy (along with the seasonal economic stimulus they provide), let’s not be so quick to praise Jesus for that good fortune. In fact, some Biblical scholars can point to scripture that says that Jesus didn’t want any gifts. The Puritans took it a step further and for a period of time in 17th century New England celebrations of Christmas were banned. Imagine saying “Merry Christmas” back then.

And good people of other religions have had their own holidays to celebrate the light that must return, despite all the progressively darker days that we have to endure as we approach the winter solstice.

As for that mighty economic engine that Christmas has become: Oh, Jim, think for a moment of Mattel, of Hallmark, of the manufacturers of that “official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot range model air rifle” that Ralphie craved in Jean Shepherd’s 1983 film, “A Christmas Story.” Do you not have faith that these creative people could find a way to brighten our homes in an otherwise dark time?

Keep the faith, Jim. And fear not that the baby Jesus will ever be lost or that you will not be allowed to wish the whole world, if you want, a merry Christmas. The truth is that come December 25 most all your neighbors in your culturally diverse West Windsor community will welcome the chance to slow down, reflect on their good fortune, and wish the same for others. You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish rye. And you don’t have to be Christian to believe in Saint Nick (see our next letter).

Dear Editor:

I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in the newspaper it’s so.” Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia in Brooklyn

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

With apologies to the West Windsor writer of a letter to the Times of Trenton on December 12 of this year; to Francis Church of the Brooklyn Sun, whose famous response to Virginia O’Hanlon was printed on September 21, 1897; and to Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, for whom there is not enough space to discuss her brazen suggestion — sight unseen, of course! — that Santa Claus must be white.

And finally from me and from all of my colleagues at U.S. 1 and Community News Service: May your holy days, holidays, and all your days, for that matter, be merry and bright.

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