The Christmas season is one filled with magic and Christmas Eve is the most magical time of all. Here’s a little story that is close to my heart. I hope it will fill your heart too and remind you of the wonder that is Christmas. Enjoy!

Do You Believe In The Magic?

Sam Benton changed out of the cheery red suit that Gumbel’s Department store had given him to wear in his job as store Santa. It was Christmas Eve. He was done until next year when he was certain Gumbel’s would rehire him as they had for the past 18 years. He sighed softly in the empty locker room, stuffed the wide black belt he’d brought with him each year into his coat pocket, and headed for home.

When he stepped outside, he walked into a picture postcard. Snow fell like a broken bag of feathers, the lacy flakes drifting to the ground. Shoppers hustled home with their last minute gifts. Christmas lights twinkled at every turn. On the corner, the Salvation Army had set up their donation kettle and a brass band was playing carols. Sam fished into his pocket for a dollar to drop in the kettle, and wished them a Merry Christmas as he went on his way.

He strolled down the city street with his thoughts wandering as they often did at this time of year. He fingered the over-sized belt in his pocket; the one he’d had since childhood and was never able to wear until he stuffed pillows into his Santa suit. Not for the first time he wished he really was Santa Claus.

If I really was Santa, Sam thought, none of those children would get scared when they come to see me in the store. He recalled the twin boys, identical except for the color of their hair and the fact that one sat happily on his lap while the other cried so hard that his brother had to tell him what they both wanted Santa to bring.

Sam waited at the corner. The traffic light turned its Christmas green; he crossed and turned down an empty side street. Passing a darkened thrift shop window, his thoughts drifted to this last work day. He had been leaving his chair to take a much needed break when he spied a little girl wearing hand-me-down clothes, watching him with such seriousness that he had to stop to talk to her.

“Merry Christmas, Little one,” Sam said with a smile. “Are you lost?” The child’s sad brown eyes widened in awe.

“No, Santa,” she said. “Mommy told me to wait here.”

He squatted down and smiled into the girl’s face. “You didn’t tell me what you want for Christmas,” he said. “I would’ve remembered. Tell me your name so I can check my list.”

“My name is Cindy, but I’m not on your list. Mommy said so.”

Sam grimaced. His heart always ached when children were told Santa wasn’t coming for them, either because their parents had no money or were cruel enough to say the kids hadn’t been good. Again he wished he were the real Santa so he’d know just the right words.

“Well, Cindy, tell me anyway.”

Cindy shrugged and pointed behind the counter to a glass globe filled with snowflakes that danced around a carousel horse when you shook it.

“Cindy!” Her mother had come up behind them and was visibly irritated. “Come on now. I told you not to talk to strangers.”

“But it’s Santa…”

“I told you there isn’t any Santa Claus,” Cindy’s mother hissed in a coarse whisper as she pulled her away into the crowded store.

The bright jingle of bells in the deserted street startled Sam from his reverie. He stopped short and rubbed his eyes, not believing what his own senses told him. Standing in front of him was the quintessential Santa Claus, perfect from the top of his fur-lined red hat to the bottom of his polished black boots. All the cliches raced through Sam’s mind: the broad face and round belly, the rosy cheeks and the twinkling eyes. Every child’s Santa Claus stood before him.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas, Sam!” Santa said.

He stood dumbfounded. Sam thought he must be dreaming.

“No, you’re not dreaming. It’s Christmas Eve, the night when dreams come true. I’m as real as you are—and you know it.” Santa winked.

“You’re trying to tell me you’re really Santa Claus?” The man knew his name—how could that be?

“Don’t you recognize me? I know it’s been a long time, but I didn’t think you’d forgotten.”

Sam scanned this Santa’s face, racking his brain to recall this impersonator.

“It was a long time ago,” Santa said. “Christmas 1948. Merry Mount Home for Boys. I remember it distinctly because I’d taken off my belt after eating too many Christmas cookies and forgot to put it back on. Mrs. Claus was very annoyed when I came home without it. Ho! Ho! Ho! She nagged me about that for years!”

Sam clenched the belt in his pocket, the belt he had had since he was seven year old, the one that Santa left behind at that long ago Christmas party. He slowly pulled out the belt and held it toward Santa.

“I…I wanted to return it, but I never got to see you again,” Sam stammered.

“I know,” said Santa, warmly. “I am happy to see you kept it though.”

“Why are you here now?”

“Ho! Ho! Ho! Because it’s Christmas Eve, of course! !” Then he added more seriously, “I saw you as I was passing and heard your thoughts. I wanted you to know that Cindy will get the snow globe. Now I’ve got to run. Lots to do.”

Sam watched Santa duck into the alley where his sleigh was hidden. In a flash, the reindeer took off and Sam was alone. He wrapped Santa’s belt around his waist, surprised to find it fit him. He walked home through the snow, his heart filled with Christmas joy.

~Elise Skidmore ©2019

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