My parents didn’t wrap Christmas presents. They said Santa didn’t wrap up toys; he was too busy making and delivering them. Wrapped presents were from someone other than Santa. We were each to stake out an area in the living room and make a name card to identify the spot. Next morning there would be the anticipated treasures deposited on each designated area on the carpet.

That was just one of the extraordinary lengths to which they would go to preserve the tale of Santa.

Another was that Santa didn’t discriminate in his rounds. Everybody was treated equally and some parents were able to afford to add more toys to the bounty.

If we walked down a city street and saw a bell-ringing Santa up ahead, my Mom would steer us away before we could ask questions.

I was embarrassingly old when I confronted my mother with the ugly rumors I had heard at school. She gave me the old Christmas-is-in-your-heart routine and Peace on Earth stuff that I did not want to hear. I couldn’t believe it. So much so, that I tried to poke holes in her story.

“Why is it,” I demanded, “there is always soot in the water we leave for Santa to wash up in and we don’t even have a fireplace?” I thought I had her with that crucial detail.

“Your father puts cigarette ashes in the water,” she said. Arrgh!!!! I was devastated, but got over it in a hurry when I realized I could lobby directly for some new white figure skates.

Years later I was in the same hot seat. My second oldest asked me the big question _the oldest was still a faithful believer. She asked me who ate the carrots, and who washed up in the basin and drank the bottle of beer and ate the cheese. And how come there was soot on the washcloth and we had no fireplace.

I gave her the Spirit of Christmas drill and told her her father was responsible for the scene, including ashy footprints on the living room floor.

“So,” she said, leveling me with a look, “All Santa does is leave the presents?” She just could not let go. “Yup!” I said, saying to myself, “What’s another year!”

Now, there’s another generation in our family, asking the tough questions. There are those that believe, those that don’t and those that pretend to believe in the interest of covering all bases.

Christmas has a way of tapping our need to believe. I am always astounded by the tide of goodness that emerges and flourishes as people around the planet talk the talk and then walk the walk of good will toward men. In this vast world neighborhood we live in, good will is boosted into good works and we are all blessed with an abundant amount of opportunities to contribute to those in need. There’s a certain magic to those twinkling lights that reminds us that we can take part, be it contributing money, baking a cookie, or smiling at people you pass on the street.

When we ask for peace on Earth this year, it’s not just another platitude; there is a horrible war going on. We have to believe that this nightmare will be resolved. We have to believe that goodness will triumph, and that the insanity of violence around the world will cease one day soon.

As children we believed in a man who was all good and who brought us presents. Maybe if we believe as strongly as we once did, the magic of Christmas can work miracles again and bring us peace. We have to believe that.