From Jessica Hooten Wilson:
When my daughter’s preschool teacher asked to make an appointment with me, I assumed perhaps my three-year-old had poked a hole in her classmates’ fantasy: Did she tell them that there is no Santa Claus?! The situation was much more egregious, her teacher informed me. She had told her classmates the truth: their grandparents will die, their parents will die, and one day they too will grow up and die. I was rather proud actually that my toddler had done so well confronting her mortality and thought her memento mori to be very Saint Nicholas-like.
It is not often that we pair the skull with our celebration of Saint Nicholas (as we rightly do with beloved Jerome), yet, during the Advent season, what could be more appropriate than reflecting on death? The man who invented Christmas, or rather re-invented it, Charles Dickens, gets it right, showing Scrooge’s contemplation of death as the necessary preamble to embracing the spirit of Christmas. Dickens sets “Santa” as the jolly ghost of Christmas present, couched between the past and the grim reaper. On the night before Christmas, Ebeneezer is confronted not by one spirit, for Santa Claus alone could do nothing to transform his cold heart to flesh and blood again. What was needed to convert “bah-humbug” into generosity and selflessness was three spirits, including that of the future, a spirit that forces Scrooge to look upon his own tombstone. A Christmas Carol opens with the announcement, “Jacob Marley was dead, to begin with,” foreshadowing that death will be a necessary part of this Christmas story. When Scrooge declares that he will honor Christmas in his heart, he rightly adds, “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future.”
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