I was six years old when I realized that Santa Claus wasn’t real, but I told no one. I let everyone in my family believe that I was waiting for the big red bringer of gifts to bestow me with my hopes and dreams. The older I got, the more they expected me to reveal I didn’t believe anymore, but I never did.
When someone in my family finally said, “do you still believe in Santa Claus?” with one of those knowing smiles on their faces, I realized I grew up. I couldn’t figure out when it had happened, but somewhere along the timeline of Christmases, this one had become different.
I wanted my family to keep believing I believed. That’s where I think this whole, “magic of the holidays” comes in. People hear that, and they, especially as young adults, turn away because maybe it’s just not real anymore. Capturing it is like a hard to justify metaphor; hard and cynical. What is the magic of the holidays in a world that’s the opposite of magical?
I’m still attracted to things I can’t believe in. I still love fantasy, and Murakami’s magical realism has become my favourite genre of literature. Magical realism verges on the cusp of realism and surrealism. Anything that happens could happen but usually doesn’t. Talking to cats, for example, is the talent of Nakata, a humble old man, in “Kafka on the Shore.” I was so connected to the book, that I felt like maybe it was really possible for old men to talk to cats.
When I watch the news, I feel the same kind of blending of realism and surrealism, but in an inverted way. Some of the events seem so horrifically surreal that I can’t help but think of them as such, though I know they are real. But then, I find myself pinching my arm at the sight of a beautiful sunset and wonder what I should really believe in. The ugliness or the beauty? I don’t know if one is more real than the other. I think people have a tendency to look toward ugliness as being more true to life. Being ‘rational’ for many means pulling the magic out of everything in your path. That takes the nuance out of it. Everything’s mixed together, more so in this society than ever. There’s beauty in ugliness, and the reverse is true. Deconstructing dialectical approaches is something that drives change, forces us to look at things through an intersectional lens. That’s the only way we don’t feel completely hopeless. We’re able to analyze issues through nuanced eyes.
One of the biggest debates I found myself consumed in was the art vs artist debate. This is an issue that can only be interrogated through breaking past a binary of good and evil. An idea like this wasn’t possible for me to come to terms until people asked me what I thought of so and so’s movies now that they were obviously one of the worst people on earth. There are terrible people, who make excellent art. Wonderful people can make that just isn’t what they are meant to do. It’s easy for cynicism to paint everyone black and white, to place yourself on guard to any art you encounter, just in case. That applies to relationships too; always assuming the evil keeps you safe, but it makes you miserable. What should we believe in?
As I sit on my couch and think about the art vs artist debate, and an evening news bit comes on about this year’s expectations for holiday shopping. I think about the binaries present in generic holiday celebrations. The concept of naughty and nice, the binary of Santa Claus and Krampus. Holidays are a time where people are expected to be ‘good.’ I personally find the holidays one of the most stressful times of year. It’s the start of exam season, when I’m terribly grumpy, and after that it’s the start of my family worrying about who’s making what for which get together.
The “magic of the holidays” is one of those beliefs that you must choose to believe in. It’s a mess of good and bad. It’s everyone’s personal Santa Claus or Krampus. The is snow is a white, glittering utopia when I’m indoors. The snow is terrible for a commuter university student like me. Seasonal depression takes a toll. The warmth of the lights under a Christmas tree takes me into the realm of nutcrackers and candy that I never actually ate as a child, and homecooked meals make me grateful that I have a home and a mother that built it for me.
I can’t dismiss the reality of surreal events. I can’t dismiss the surrealism of real events. But I can invent. I can create a belief that will follow me forever and that will never be deconstructed until somebody asks, “do you still believe?” So, I believe the world can be a good place. I believe in the kindness of most strangers. I definitely believe old men can talk to cats. Ask me again in a few years.