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Opinion >  Column

Doug Clark: Yes, Virginia, Santa may be real, but better ask your folks

To Santa …

Or not to Santa?

Oh, no. Not that question again.

I never stopped to realize that becoming a grandfather meant the Kris Kringle conundrum had to be hashed and rehashed all over again.

But there it was Monday morning, just three days before Christmas. My family was sitting around the living room when the subject of that fat man in the funny suit came up.

Then, after a few minutes of talking trash about Kim Jong Un, we moved from North Korea to North Pole.

In particular: When the time arrives, what will my daughter, Emily, and son-in-law, Shane, teach their new baby girl, Ronan, regarding Santa?

Should he be given amnesty? Should he be deported with other illegals who sneak across our border?

Or we can just stick to real/unreal.

The Vietnam War was ignited over far lesser disagreements.

The Santa Question is one of those lifelong, line-in-the-sand debates that has provoked more bloodshed than gun control, abortion or Pepsi vs. Coke.

And much to my fatherly horror, it appears my daughter has entered into one of those troubling “mixed marriages.”

Thanks to my lovely wife, Sherry, and me, Emily always knew Santa wasn’t real.

To be sure, we also taught little Emily (and her brother, Ben) to be respectful of children who believed in Santa.

Never tell anyone that Santa’s a myth.

Unless, of course, it’s for political or financial gain.

But Shane, I’ve learned, was brought up a Santa believer although he claims, “I’ve repressed much of my childhood.”

Shane’s not fooling me. Just like religious preference, the existence of Santa is never a big deal until children come along.

There was no discussion about Santa during my formative years in the 1950s.

All my grade school chums believed. We had to. Discredit The Claus and – WHAM! – suddenly you’re being interrogated by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Leaving Santa was tougher than quitting the mob.

I remember one year in particular when my Santa faith started to waver. I made the mistake of sharing this with my Old Man, who quickly improvised a Christmas Eve scheme.

Spreading a few cups of flour evenly on the tile hearth in front of our fireplace, he told me we’d check our “Santa Trap” in the morning to see what happened.

I don’t need to continue, do I?

Sure enough, on Christmas morning I arose from my slumber to find big telltale boot prints in the gluten.

Santa came down our chimney!

For the next few months I was glowing like a Hollywood Scientologist.

Then I found my dad’s flour-covered English riding boots in the basement.

So after we were married, Sherry and I decided to not fill the heads of our children with sugarplum hooey.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I know. I’m defying a newspaper tradition that dates back to 1897.

That’s when New York Sun editorial writer Francis P. Church wrote his response to an innocent question posed by 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon.

“Is there a Santa Claus?”

“Yes, Virginia,” answered Church, “there is a Santa Claus.”

If only I could journey back in time. If I could I would materialize inside the New York Sun and grab Church by the shoulders.

And shout:

“Dude, sign these copyright forms. We’re gonna be RICH!!”

I’d tell Church about future marketing possibilities. T-shirts, for example, and the “Yes, Virginia,” musical. And department store promotions featuring celebrities like Donald Trump and Martha Stewart.

“Your ‘Yes, Virginia,’ stuff’s a bloody gold mine,” I’d holler at Church, just before vanishing with signed documents in hand.

The good news is that Ronan turns 6 weeks old today. We’ve got a year before any Santa discussion turns serious.

And don’t get me started on what I think about “Elf on the Shelf.” You know, the doll that spends its days at the homes of children, supposedly gathering intel on them for Santa.

This is over the line. Kids should be able to grow up and start paying taxes before they discover they’re being spied on.

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at

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