By Tim Hayes

In rummaging through some plastic tubs in the garage a few weeks ago, in preparation for decorating the house for the holidays, I came across an old red fleece jacket, a pair of black leather gloves, some jingle bells, and a well-worn old Santa hat with the beard sewn right onto it.  It made me smile and sigh at the same time.

In our family, Christmas Eve has always been a magical time for the little kids.  Years ago, it touched our children when they were small.  In more recent years, it’s been our nephew and nieces.

The centerpiece of family gatherings each Christmas Eve came as Santa made his annual appearance at the front window, ringing his jingle bells, and waving to the kids inside the house.  We have videotapes of our kids literally leaping with excitement and joy when the Big Guy came around.  Back then, I was inside operating the camera while my father-in-law pulled Santa duty out in the snow.

Somewhere along the way the torch got passed to me, as the Christmas Eve family gathering shifted to our house.  After everyone had eaten their fill, with the adults laughing and chatting in the dining room and the kids having fun in the living room, I would eventually get the silent signal to disappear – usually under the guise of taking out the trash or some such ruse.

Down to the garage I’d go, donning the red fleece, black gloves, hat and beard.  Then, trying to keep the jingle bells as quiet as possible, I’d sneak outside, sans eyeglasses, and start my approach to the big windows in the front of the house.  Shaking the bells for all they were worth, blind as a bat in the dark, trying not to trip over the Christmas lights and decorations in the front yard, “Santa” made his yearly visit, waving to the kids somewhere on the other side of the steamed-up front windows. 

It was really tough to see without those glasses, I’ll tell you.  I mean really tough.  But on Christmas Eve, you do what you gotta do.

The squeals and commotion inside – especially when the little ones were truly little, but big believers – was electrifying and filled your heart.  I looked forward to that three-minute slice of heaven for a lot of years.

We don’t have little kids in our family any more.  Everybody’s either in college, high school, or old enough that a visit in the window from Santa wouldn’t kick up the same enthusiasm these days.

But the stuff’s still in that plastic bin down in the garage.  Someday there will be little ones around here again, and when the time comes, I’ll be waiting for that silent signal to suit up and stumble around in the dark and snow, just to once more hear that precious sound of kids jumping out of their skin because Santa is in the window, waving to them.

Whether clad in red with a hat and beard, whether looking into your family’s eyes with profound love and gratitude, or whether staring in amazement and wonder at a baby in a stable, the spirit of Santa remains and perseveres, claiming hearts and making magic around the world. 

Merry Christmas, and may every good thing be yours.  See you in 2013.

Copyright 2012 Tim Hayes Consulting