I Created Santa Claus

(From a December 1952 insurance company ad)

He’s a chubby man with a red suit and a cold nose and a big heart, and everybody knows he isn’t exactly true.

The books tell you he goes back twenty centuries and is known from the North Pole to the bottom of Africa. But the books don’t say why a man who doesn’t exist has been around so long and has gone so far.

Who created Santa Claus? The books don’t know, but I know. I created Santa Claus. Here is my story.

I was a Roman soldier. I was assigned to the execution of a man who got into trouble with the authorities. We used to nail them to a cross in those days. When I saw this man his clothes were torn and somebody had put a crown of thorns on his head, but I knew there had been a mistake. He couldn’t be a trouble-maker. I felt he was a man who would help anybody in trouble if they gave him a chance. So I defied my orders. I ran away. They put me in jail for it, but I’ve never been sorry. There was something about that man I didn’t want to destroy.

I was an electrician in Philadelphia. One Sunday in May, I was fishing in the Schuylkill River and I heard a scream. I saw a boy struggling in the water, a little boy about seven. I jumped in after him. The current was strong and I was never a good swimmer. We were reaching out our hands toward each other when I drowned.

I was a German infantryman. On December 25, 1917, we were in the trenches with a few metres of mud separating us from the Americans. We’d been shooting at each other for weeks. Suddenly I found myself laying aside my rifle, and I wrapped a piece of chocolate I’d been saving for myself, and I threw it across the lines. From the enemy side, somebody threw back a can of milk. Soon we were all tossing presents back and forth, laughing and crying like madmen. You will say it was a foolish thing to do in a war. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.

I am Debbie White and I am in the second grade and Vilma is my best friend. Vilma moved into my block last week. Vilma doesn’t speak English. So Vilma doesn’t know what we are saying and we don’t know what Vilma is saying, so lots of the girls laugh at her, so Vilma is my best friend.

I am many people. I am not always generous or brave or good. But sometimes I find myself swept by something stronger than self: the desire to give to others, and to do so with no thought of return.

My name is everybody.