There is much talk these days of there being no Santa Claus; and it seems to me there is an over-anxiousness of those who hold this view to convince the rest of us of the absolute correctness of such nonsensical talk.
These anti-Santas have gone to the extent, even, of flooding the season with many men in Santa suits, Santas ringing bells for good causes, Santas talking to good children in department stores, Santas landing in helicopters, Santas arriving by bus, Santas winking from the television, and so on, until we see but a blur of red fabric and cotton bearding, and the real Santa is lost from our sight.
Well, this is not accidental, nor is it incidental to you and me. There never used to be this imitation of the real Santa; and everyone knew, children and grownups too, that Santa is real.
In those days Santa always came to visit, left his gifts, and departed.
Of course he couldn't do such things unless he was different from you and I. He had to be as fast as magic to move so fast, to visit so many houses in just one night.
He had to be something special--and he was, and he still is.
Have you ever seen lightning flash on a storm-clouded evening and watched the bolts stand so scary-exciting on the horizon? Well, Santa is faster than that.
Have you ever seen a flash bulb flash and leave little blue and red lights in your sight for a while? Well, Santa is faster than that.
Have you ever looked into a mirror, and looked right into your eyes, and seen how fast your eyelids blink? Well, Santa is faster than that.
So, at best people could only get a glimpse of Santa when he was still coming around every Christmas, just a brief short flash of sight, like a shiny bubble almost, a flash of white with jolly red in the middle.
(Did I just say, "...still coming around every Christmas"? Well, I will explain that in just a minute.)
Of course you'd miss it altogether, the sight of Santa in your room, if you happened to be blinking at the time; and that's why children would look at him wide-eyed, and adults too, so they would not miss him by blinking; and that leads us to our story.
Back in the year 1914 there was a terrible war going on in Europe . That war was so big and so bad that we still call it, "The First World War".
Of course it wasn't the first war ever to take place in the world. There had been many, many wars before it; and Santa had never liked those wars because of the horrible things they did to boys and girls and grownups too; so in 1914 Santa decided to put his foot down.
Santa Claus sent a letter to all the countries fighting in the war that said: "Unless you stop this war and put your weapons into the junk yard I won't come to visit you on Christmas Eve!"
But nobody believed him. Santa had always come at Christmas. It was, well, it was his duty; and besides, Santa had put up with many wars before, so why not with this war, too? So all the presidents and kings and queens said, "Let's continue this war, Santa will come anyway."
Then Santa sent a letter to all the newspapers that said: "War is just too bad and too mean; and unless all the weapons are broken up and made into something else I won't come at Christmas."
Well, the newspaper editors took the same position as the kings and queens and presidents, and wouldn't even print Santa's letter.
So Christmas came in 1914, and everybody had a big surprise!
Children jumped out of their beds and ran to find...what? No stuffings in their stockings, no present from Santa under the tree.
There were presents from their mothers and fathers, grandparents, sisters and brothers and so forth, but nothing, absolutely nothing, from Santa.
Well, you can imagine the shock!
Parents didn't know what to say, and children were crying like crazy; and everywhere in every house, in every town, in every country fighting in the war--and, what!, also in every country in the whole world!, Santa had not come.
It was a terrible day, Christmas Day of 1914. The presidents and kings and queens wished everyone a merry Christmas, and the newspapers, in big letters above the news of the war, did the same--but Christmas just was not the same without Santa Claus.
Then a whole year went by, and as the world approached Christmas of 1915 the presidents and kings and queens and parents became very nervous.
What were they going to do? The children were asking if Santa was going to come, and they did not know what to say. The war, after all, was still going on and nothing more had been heard from Santa.
The kings, queens, presidents and parents didn't want to tell the children why Santa had not come in 1914. The children would only ask them why they didn't just stop the war so Santa would come in 1915; and they couldn't tell the children the truth, could they, that they didn't know how to stop the war.
So as Christmas of 1915 approached, when parents bought presents for their children they bought an extra present just in case Santa didn't come again, writing on it "From Santa", and hiding it away to put under the tree on Christmas morning if Santa had not been there.
And sure enough, he hadn't! Yet because the children had fallen asleep and had not seen that Santa had not come, and had found their present marked "From Santa" under the tree, they believed that Santa had come; and the parents and the presidents and the kings and queens breathed a big sigh of relief.
But when you tell one lie you usually have to tell another; and right away the grownups were faced with that problem because the older children, those children who went to school, could read the writing on the presents.
They could see the words "From Santa" seemed to be written with the same hand that had written "From Mom and Dad" on the presents their parents put under the tree for them.
Furthermore, the presents from "Santa" were store-bought, and the older children could still remember when parents and others gave store-bought presents but Santa never did.
When the older children asked about this their parents would say, "Well, the truth is Santa is just for little girls and boys, and big children know Santa Claus doesn't really exist".
Well, while they might sob a little with this new and false news, the children believed the story their parents told them; and the children of 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920--on up to this very year, have believed the same false story.
You know the story I mean, the false story that says Santa Claus is only for little boys and girls.
Now, of course, even the parents of today believe this false story because they were not even born in 1915 when this false story was first told; and they, too, were told this story when they were children, and believed it.
You see, if you tell the same false story year after year after year, after a time everyone believes it to be true.
But Santa Claus really exists. And if you want proof, have a Christmas with no war going on anyplace in the world and you'll see for yourself.
And you might want to know what Santa is doing now. Well, he's his same old self and I hear he is preparing a very special Christmas surprise to help boys and girls (and their parents, too) put an end to war forever so they can live happily ever after; but that's another story.
By Virgil Kret
December 25, 1980
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea