Not normally, I assure you. I’m well aware of the difference between fiction and reality. And I understand that the ever-changing history of the myth and the cultural differences in the tradition negate the idea of a universal Father Christmas figure.
However, whenever I watch a Christmas movie that aims to help children understand the magic of Christmas, there’s always a moment when I find myself believing.
In Miracle on 34th Street, there’s that moment when Kris Kringle is on trial and everyone is saying “we believe.” A little girl puts a poster in her window, union workers share their support, and even the CEO of Cole’s Department Store shares his belief in a commercial. I know Richard Attenborough is a psychotic dinosaur lover in Jurassic Park, but he’ll always be the real Kris Kringle to me – if only for a moment.
In Elf, when a blonde Zooey Deschanel starts singing to spread Christmas cheer, there’s a small part of me that wonders if my lack of belief 99.999% of the time is causing Ed Asner to crash his sleigh in New York City.
In The Santa Clause, I better understand the skepticism Tim Allen has at the beginning of the movie now that I’m a grown-up. And I also better understand when he hides that doubt for the sake of his son’s imagination. But then he’s forced to start believing. The weight gain. The facial hair. The reindeer following him. The hundreds of bright red boxes containing the list that best-character-ever Bernard sent him. And then he shakes the snow globe and sees the magic of Christmas and becomes Santa, and I think, “Yup!”
In Arthur Christmas, I get pretty excited when Arthur finds his Christmas spirit again and stops at nothing to bring Gwen her present. And when she sees him covered with snow with his red windbreaker puffed up by the wind, I find her childlike belief contagious.
In The Polar Express, I spend most of my time trying not to look directly at the animation. It’s just a bit odd, and the whole sequence with the Tom Hanks hobo on top of the train is somehow unsettling. But then at the end, you find out that you can’t hear the bell unless you believe, and I want to hear it, too. Plus, Josh Groban is singing at me to believe, so I do.
And then the moment passes and I remember that Christmas isn’t about Santa and presents and the commercialism of modern festivities. So I watch A Charlie Brown Christmas and cry when Linus drops both his blanket and some serious truth.