Chesterton on Santa Claus

Chesterton on Santa Claus

Even though we are once again in ordinary time, I had to share with my faithful readers a pertinent selection of quotes that I just discovered over at the Irish Elk blog:

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way. As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good—far from it. And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. Of course, most people who talk about these things get into a state of some mental confusion by attaching tremendous importance to the name of the entity. We called him Santa Claus, because everyone called him Santa Claus; but the name of a god is a mere human label. His real name may have been Williams. It may have been the Archangel Uriel. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea. Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void. Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea. Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill. *

David Fagerberg writes in The Essential Chesterton:

Until we are grateful, we will not find the world miraculous; until we find the world miraculous, we will not find it important; until we find the world important, we will not be happy here. The difference between ourselves and Chesterton is that we don�t think our world important because it seems ordinary, while he thinks his world is important because he is ordinary. “I am ordinary in the correct sense of the term; which means the acceptance of an order; a Creator and the Creation, the common sense of gratitude for Creation, life and love as gifts permanently good, marriage and chivalry as laws rightly controlling them, and the rest of the normal traditions of our race and religion.”

This ordinary happiness makes up the essence of Chesterton, and, woven into all his writings, perspicuous on whatever page one opens, it is his gift to those who suffer boredom. A happy saint is just the antidote we need.

Via The Inn at the End of the World, the last word:

Personally, of course, I believe in Santa Claus; but it is the season of forgiveness, and I will forgive others for not doing so. G.K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles

(Apologies to the Irish Elk for the blatant and wholesale lifting of his blog entry. I’m having problems with the link, not sure it will work. But I am copying out the quotes in any case so as to be able to have them again even if his page should disappear at some future point.)

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  • Becky, glad to oblige. Like I said, it’s nice to find other lovers of books with similar tastes. Welcome to the Wine Dark Sea, come back soon.