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Is Santa Real?

I imagined the North Pole as I was driving through the Northwoods of Wisconsin recently. The sun set on the pine trees with a glorious reflection. As I daydreamed, holiday memories popped into my head. Candy canes and reindeers would fit well in these forests.

The legends of Santa and Saint Nicholas have evolved over time. Much of what we now associate this jolly fellow with is from Clement Clarke Moore's, "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" otherwise known as the "'Twas The Night Before Christmas." Originally, it was written anonymously in the 1820s and picked up by Moore a few years later. Back then, Santa wore unusual clothes. For example, a dark fur coat with black spots. He was also covered from head to toe in soot with wild hair and a disheveled beard.

In the 1860s, Harper's Weekly (an extremely popular magazine in the 19th century) featured famous American cartoonist, Thomas Nast's Santa Claus drawings over the span of two decades. The rest is cemented in modern history. Nast also picked Santa's residence of the North Pole "Santa Claus, NP". This location is said to be selected since it was a mysterious land yet to be explored.

Prior to Santa's move to the North Pole, some said he lived in the moon such as American author Mark Twain. Check out Twain's 1875 letter to his daughter, Susy:

The Palace of Saint Nicholas in the Moon

My Dear Susy Clemens,

I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me..I can read your and your baby sister's jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters--I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself...

The power of stories.

My daughters sing songs, read books, and color while my son plays with his cars. However, if I give these moments a title and capitalize the words"The Girls and Their Song," "The Boy and His Race Track", The Girls and Their Coloring Books," these seemingly mundane activities of my day sound much more interesting.

It turns out human beings are attracted to stories on a basic neurological level. Dr. Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzell state tales span universally through individuals of all cultures, generations, and ages. They are shared at social functions such as holidays, weddings, and birthdays.

In an interesting 2021 study by Perez et al., researchers instructed participants to listen to the same story, but in different settings and not all at the same time. They found that regardless of where and when the participants heard the identical story, their heart rates matched or synchronized.

Stories are so powerful. I suspect the question, "Is Santa Real?" will continue throughout the generations.

What are your favorite holiday traditions and stories?

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