Newswise — It's been 120 years since veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of The New York Sun, penned "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," history's most reprinted newspaper editorial. Yet, his words ring true today -- we still live in a skeptical world, where without Santa, [fairies, dragons and other enchanted wonders], there would be no childlike faith, no poetry and no magic, says Mary Muscari, assistant professor of nursing at Binghamton University, State Universiy of New York

Studies of children's brain activity offer evidence that children do indeed have active imaginations. They experience theta wave activity (the brain stage that brings forward heightened receptivity, flashes of dream-like imagery, inspiration, and long-forgotten memories) even when awake. Adults primarily experience this stage when their minds hover between sleep and wakefulness. Thus, children may be more adept than adults in forming varied and creative images – and see Santa with such clarity when all we see are holiday bills.

Unfortunately, there comes a time when the magic fades into oblivion and children stop believing, typically around age 7 or 8.

Depressed? Don't be. Santa is more than a jolly, old elf with a cholesterol problem; Santa is a frame of mind. He represents giving, sharing, happiness, family and the youthful fun and creativity that lie too dormant the rest of the year. Keep his spirit going!

  • Write letters to Santa, but have your child also write why he deserves to be on the “nice” list as well, and also have him write about something that he will give someone else.
  • Gather unused toys for homeless children and wrap them in ribbons and bows.
  • Have your child contribute some of his allowance to make a purchase for Toys for Tots.
  • Do a web search to learn what Santa means around the world.
  • Start a Santa collection. Better yet, make new Santas each year - paper, clay, pine cones, pasta. And don't forget Mrs. Claus and the rest of the North Pole crew.
  • Have 'Santa Movie Night' each week before Christmas. Sip hot cocoa while you watch Miracle on 34th Street and The Santa Clause.
  • Check out the stores and vote for the best Santa.
  • Have the family dress in their Santa and elf best and sing holiday songs at a nursing home.
  • Bring old towels, newspapers, blankets, and pet toys or a fresh box of food to your local animal shelter. Getting a new pet for the holidays can be stressful to the pet, but you can be your Santa best by adopting a shelter pet right after the holiday mayhem subsides.
  • Bake cookies for Salvation Army Santas. They must get mighty hungry standing out there in the cold.
  • Share Santa memories of Christmas past—theirs, yours, grandparents.

Muscari is an assistant professor of nursing at Binghamton University, State University of New York. Her areas of expertise include parenting, from toddler age and up, especially teens. She has conducted a number of parenting workshops around the country, the most popular topics including: keeping kids safe from predators ('live' and Internet), bullying, raising nonviolent kids. She has written a number of parenting books, including Child Behavioral and Parenting Challenges for Advanced Practice Nurses: A Reference for Front-line Health Care Providers (Springer, 2016).

Email her at [email protected].