We Still Believe-- in the Magic of Santa & Love

We Still Believe– in the Magic of Santa & Love

Every website needs a good Christmas story. I’m sure that’s a rule somewhere, and if it’s not, it should be. I love Christmas. I love baking, I love decorating, I love the music, I love the family time, I love celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ—and I love Santa Claus. In fact, after the story of the birth of Christ, especially Luke 2 in the King James Bible, this story of Santa Claus is my second favorite Christmas story.

You see, my Santa story isn’t just any Santa story. It is the story that showed me the transformative power of love, and what Santa Claus is really all about. It’s not about the toys and the gifts, and it’s not even about the red suit—though it figures prominently in this story. It’s about the power of love and service, and willingness to set yourself aside to bring joy into someone else’s life.

I invite you to read on and see for yourself.


Santa Claus ©MarieLeslie

When my children were small Santa was a big deal at our house. He didn’t bring a lot of stuff—in fact, he always brought only one small gift—but he was responsible for some amazing little things that always happened around Christmas time in our family—at least in my children’s eyes. The magic of Santa has always been alive and well in our family. We count ourselves among the believers.

I still believe. I believe in all the good things that Santa represents. But then I had the advantage of having Santa Claus for a father. When we were very young, my sisters and I had the task of being elves and making little gifts for our neighborhood Santa to give out each year on Christmas Eve. Santa was a family friend (actually a few different friends over the years) and my dad was Santa’s driver. My mom was the organizer and Santa visited a number of families in our church and town who had children young enough to be excited over a personal visit from the jolly fat man on Christmas Eve.

When I was about 16, our Santa came down with the flu on Christmas Eve. Try as they might, my parents couldn’t find a replacement Santa at the last minute. My dad decided that he would do it, rather than risk disappointing the children who were anticipating his visit. My sisters and I were horrified–even my mom wasn’t too excited.

Our father had been a career Marine and there was no doubt in our minds that he had sprung forth from the womb a full-fledged Marine with all the toughness that entailed. When I was a little girl, I viewed my dad with a combination of hero worship and healthy fear-of-God respect. My dad was also skinny as a rail.

We had no idea how he was going to pull off the role of “jolly fat man” at 6’2” and beanpole. There was definitely no “bowl full of jelly” when he laughed.  He was the tough guy, not mean or harsh, but definitely a very strict dad, certainly not the first one you would think of for jolly and we were convinced that he would “ruin” Christmas for all our friends’ children. Well, Dad being Dad, he won (I told you he was tough–determined is probably a better adjective).

Mom was the driver that night and we girls waited at home for their return. About 30 minutes after they left, one of my mom’s closest friends called. Their first stop had been to a close family friend’s house to visit their grandchildren. She wanted to know who the Santa was. We thought it was a joke.  She told us he was the best Santa she’d ever seen. She had no idea it was our dad. We got several more similar calls that night. Despite having known him for years, no one had a clue who our Santa was, and all agreed he was the best Santa ever.

we believe in santa

As for the “fat man” part? My mother cleverly created padding that first year from a pair of suspenders and a couple of bed pillows. Later, we created a padded vest that was more comfortable and easier to wear than bed pillows and suspenders.

From that night on, I knew that Santa was magic. When Dad put on the suit, he became Santa. He was a completely different person and I don’t think I ever saw him happier than he was on Christmas Eve. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities to serve in really fun ways and this one gave him the opportunity to put on an alter ego that was completely different from the world’s preconceived ideas of who my dad really was. For the record, I think Santa was much closer to who he wanted to be than the guy he was in everyday life.

For the next 10 years, my dad was Santa every year on Christmas Eve. The year I turned 20, he decided he needed a “real” Santa suit. The one they had used for years was getting pretty worn and threadbare.  So, Dad and I went shopping and picked out top quality velvet, fur and leather for the belt. He even bought real boots and we went to a professional wig shop for the wig and beard. This is the portrait I made for him that year.

Sadly, he died the year before our son was born and our oldest was too young to remember him, so our children never experienced all their grandfather’s magic. But we hang his portrait and his sleigh bells in a place of honor every year at Christmas next to the sign my mom gave each us the first Christmas after his passing that says, “I still believe in Santa Claus.”  And at our house we really do.

Merry Christmas.

By the way, I know some of you who read this remember our wonderful Santa.  I would love for you to share your stories and memories here with us. And I would love for you to share your stories of the Santas in your life, too.

This post was originally published in 2011.

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  1. That was a beautiful story. Eventhough your children don’t remember your dad in action that will be a wonderful story to tell for generations.

    1. Thank you, Kenya. And thanks for sharing your story with me. I hope you’ve had a Merry Christmas.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this story with me – there was magic in those days and memories to last for ever

  3. This has got to be one of my favorite Christmas stories ever. Dads are the BEST! Thanks for preserving this blog and bringing a smile to my face.

  4. Just now reading this (a bit after Christmas) but the magic is still there.

    My favorite word for the holidays is BELIEVE, as it applies both to Santa and to our Savior.

    We have two young daughter and it has been a ton of fun so far sharing the magic of Christmas with them.

    Hope you and yours had a very Merry Christmas!

    1. We did have a Merry Christmas, Rob, and I hope you did as well. Believe is my favorite holiday word, too. In fact, I have various carvings and other holiday decor with “believe” scattered all about my house at this time of year.

  5. Just read this post for the second time Marie and I loved it even more! There really is something magical about Santa Claus, isn’t there? I just love the portrait, your grandfather looks exactly like what I see in my mind when I envision Santa Claus. I’m glad you have this fabulous memory and great tradition. It’s a wonderful thing to “believe!”

    1. Thank you, Jennifer. I am so glad you enjoyed it. It truly is my favorite Christmas story (well, after the birth of the Savior) and reminds that Santa Claus really is magical. And that love is the best magic there is.

  6. Great story! Your father sounded like a great man, and I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas.

  7. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post to us..I always want Christmas..

  8. Ellen Koronet says:

    I’m sitting here at my Dad’s time share condo on the beach – my Dad left us 1.5 years ago – and really crying from your beautiful story. SO touching. THANK YOU!

  9. Marie…this brought tears to my eyes! What a beautiful and powerful story and legacy! Wow…what a blessing!! Merry Christmas!

  10. LOVE this! How wonderful that you got photos of it. Yes, he was a skinny Santa. What joy in those memories 🙂 Thanks for sharing & happy holidays!

  11. What a beautiful post and what a beautiful legacy your father left! I’m with you, I still believe in Santa too! Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Good ole Santa was fun while growing up. He didn’t bring a lot of stuff but we enjoyed it. When my kids were small, Santa only brought 1 gift, but it was the best. The rest of the wonderful stuff came from us, the parents because… well, we were the ones who paid! Ha… ha!
    The LEARNED Preneur @ NormaDoiron.NET ╰☆╮

    1. That’s how it’s always been at our house, Norma. Santa brings only one gift–after all, he has so many children to deliver gifts to that to expect more than one would be greedy. But it’s always one special thing–sometimes it’s a gift you know mom and dad would never buy for you. 😉

  13. Wow. What a moving blog! I’m getting all teary! It is wonderful too, how in different “costume” we are allowed to be a different person. It sounds like your Dad really enjoyed the opportunity. Love! Have a wonderful Xmas and new year.

    1. It is amazing, isn’t it, Molly? I never would have imagined my dad like that, but it truly was an amazing transformation and one he dearly loved.

  14. Wonderful story…i’m so glad you shared this again. It’s a great gift to keep on giving. Thank you for sharing this!

  15. What a wonderful and beautiful post! Thanks so much for sharing and opening your hearts to us. It brought tears to my eyes reading that the magical suit brought out the tender and kind part of your dad..that was actually always there:) Hugs to you and yours and Merry Christmas!

    1. It truly was always there, Daisy. Just well hidden. As I really look back on my childhood, I can see that all of those wonderful qualities were there. I think he just felt he needed to present a certain image to the world–perhaps it was his upbringing as the oldest son of a dairy farmer in rural Minnesota and a very strict German family.

  16. Great post! That picture of your dad is fantastic! He really looked the part, no wonder they thought he was the best ever!
    Shame about your son, not meeting ‘Santa’ but I’m sure he loves and knows him from his pictures alone!

    Have a great Christmas, and keep believing! :))

    1. Thanks, Tara. I do love that picture. And as for my son, he has so many of my father’s good qualities and traits, I can’t help but believe they met somewhere along the way.

  17. Fantastic. Thank you for sharing this personal story about your family and the adventures that you went through =)

  18. Amazing and heartfelt story. Thanks for sharing. Happy holidays!

  19. I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful and heart-warming story.

  20. I am sorry that your children never really knew their grandfather, but his spirit clearly lives within you. Nicely written!

  21. Vicky Savellis-Grant says:

    What a lovely story. Thanks so much for sharing!

  22. What a lovely story Marie.and a wonderful memory to carry on through your children. My dad is not Santa but he is just as special to me in his own ways. I am lucky enough to still have him though he is having some really rough times of late – health-wise. Your post made me cry as you honor a dad who was obviously so very special to you! Happy holidays!

  23. I love this for so many reasons. Family traditions, spreading love and hope to others, honoring your dads memory. Thank you so much for posting this, it really brought home what this time of year is about.

    1. Thanks, Beau. It wouldn’t be Christmas for me without “my” Santa and the lessons he taught me about love and giving, which I hope I have honored by teaching them to my children and trying to live them as a family.

  24. What a great story. Thanks for sharing. There really is magic in Santa. Even a hardened marine can be the most kind, gentle, wonderful santa.

  25. I’m teary-eyed! What a beautiful post, Marie. It took me back to Christmas memories with my own father, whom I truly love and miss. Thank you!

  26. LOVED your story, What an awesome photo and momento to put out every year, your very lucky 🙂

  27. Marie, I love this post.
    Thank you for sharing such an amazing story.
    Merry Christmas!!

  28. What a beautiful story and a great memory of your dad! Made me tear up!! I absolutely LOVE this time of year!

  29. Marie, such a beautiful post….it brought tears to my eyes….loved it. Thank you so much for sharing such a lovely memory of your Dad being Santa Claus.

  30. Marie, what a wonderful post. I just had the opportunity to share Christmas memories with a group of women and the stories that unfolded were a combination of heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Sharing experiences is so important. I too, still believe in the spirit and delights of Santa. ~ Kim

  31. Marie,
    I loved reading this post. Your Dad was the best Santa. And the only Santa in my eyes. He is the only Santa that my son Brandon got a visit from Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa's house. He loved Santa. I could never believe it was the same person either. Your Dad truly took on the essence of Santa. I believed in Santa after experiencing your Dad as Santa.

    I remember your Dad's funeral when your Mom spoke about him being Santa & then put that portrait of him as Santa on the podium. I don't think there was a dry eye in the chapel.

    Thanks for reminding us of your father as Santa. It will always be a special memory for a lot of us.

  32. What a beautiful story, Marie. I never really knew your father at all–which seems odd, since Mary Jo and I have been friends forever. It's wonderful now, to "meet" him like this–as a beloved Santa Claus. Who could possibly think of a better way to be remembered?
    Thank you, so much for this.

  33. Your Dad always had a twinkle in his eye and a BEAUTIFUL smile…..

  34. a most fantastic Christmas gift … from the bottom of my heart ….THANK YOU

  35. Linda Endicott says:

    I can't think of your Dad without the "Santa". He was and will always be Santa. We loved him as much if not more than our kids did. He will always be Christmas to us. Thank You
    for the memory of those special years. We loved him and your family.

  36. Angie Hamblin says:

    This is so beautiful!

  37. He was, and always will be the best Santa ever. Thank you for the early morning cry, just what I needed. I love you and miss you Dad!!