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Christmas Beliefs

Volume VII, Issue Four | December 2012

Last year, I told my grandson, Forrest, then nine, that I was glad he was spending Christmas at the Bride’s House, because it had a fireplace. “I wonder how Santa gets into houses that don’t have fireplaces,” I said.

“Oh,” Forrest replied. “Santa has a master key.”

Forrest knows all about master keys, because he sometimes accompanies his grandfather, Bob, a property manager, on his rounds. But his answer was more than that. It was about faith. And believing in the magic of Christmas.

I don’t know if Forrest is still a believer in Santa. At 10, kids are pretty sharp, and I wouldn’t be surprised if somebody at school has enlightened him. I was about that age when I learned about Santa. It wasn’t traumatic. In fact, I don’t even remember how I found out. I do remember that I didn’t ask my parents about it, for fear the presents would stop. And as I got closer to Christmas, I began to doubt my new knowledge. There was a real need to believe.

Learning about such things is a rite of passage. I remember when Povy figured out about Easter. For some reason, our girls believed in the Easter Pig, who clomped through the house at Easter leaving candy. We were in Taos that Easter when she was eight or nine, and she found something in her basket on Easter morning that she’d seen in a store the day before.

“There isn’t really an Easter Pig,” she said.

“Do you think he’s really the Easter Bunny?” I asked.

She thought about that for a few minutes. I could see the wheels clicking in her head. Then she said, “There isn’t an Easter Bunny, either, is there?”

Sometimes, I think these discoveries hurt parents more than they do children. We think the truth destroys the illusions of childhood, but coming to terms with them is about growing up. Christmas is every bit as wonderful for children even when they know the truth. There are still presents. There is family and Christmas Eve dinner, lights shining on the tree, the candlelit church service, and walking home in the snow. And most of all, there is the Christmas story, which is so much more magical than the fat man in the red suit. As they give up Santa, children learn what Christmas is really about—the birth of a baby boy in a stable so many years ago, a birth that brought promise to the world.

So it won’t bother me that Forrest will lose a treasured childhood belief this year or next. Because it will be replaced with the real meaning of Christmas.


Our family: Lloyd, Dana, Forrest, Bob, Sandra, Povy.

(Okay, so Dana and I went to France in September and brought these striped shirts.)

I’m signing The Quilt Walk and other books with quilt mystery writer Arlene Satchitano at the International Quilt Festival in Houston.

Am I A Christian Writer?

I wrote the following as a blog last year, after several women at the International Quilt Festival in Houston asked if I were a Christian Writer. More inquired this year, so I thought I would reprint the blog in Piecework.

I’m not sure what a Christian writer is. I try to be a Christian, and I earn my living as a writer, but I think that’s different from being a Christian writer. Technically, a Christian writer is one who is published by a Christian press and whose books are sold in Christian bookstores. Some of my books, especially Prayers for Sale, have been sold in Christian bookstores, but St. Martin’s is not a religious publisher, so by that definition, I don’t fit the category. But that’s a narrow definition.

I’ve gotten emails from readers who want to know how my religion influences my writing. I always reply that my religion is personal and I don’t like to discuss it. But that’s really my way of begging the question, since I have no idea what the answer is. At the festival, I signed books next to my friend Clare O’Donohue, the wonderful mystery writer, who said she was asked once about how being of Irish descent influenced her writing. She couldn’t answer that any more than I could about how my religion affects my writing. It’s just part of who we are.

I’m a Presbyterian, and we’re reluctant to wear out religion on our sleeves. In fact, there’s an old joke: What do Presbyterians bring to the evangelical movement? The answer: Restraint.

Do I pray when I write? Oh, yes! Just the way an unprepared student begs God’s help before a test. Ann