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As I think about Christmas, a sadness sometimes engulf me. I feel emptiness and a loss of what was. The magic is missing. There is no Santa Claus or his reindeer. There are no elves that make the toys, and no one to put milk and cookies out for. Why did I have to know the truth? It was all so wonderful.

All I see is Christmas sales, the pushing and shoving of people trying to get the best buys and best merchandise.

When did I stop feeling the specialness of Christmas and lose the magic of the season?

When did I stop singing the songs of peace with a sense of love for others and the world? When did I stop feeling the words deep inside?

And then I realize that Christmas isn't really the stores or the music, nothing that can be seen or touched. Santa Claus is faith and believing in the unknown. He's the symbol of magic and of the wonder of this world. It's the belief that your dreams can come true if you wish for them hard enough, that there are magic rainbows of all different colors with their pots of gold if you truly believe.

I sometimes lose the sense of magic and stop believing. I forget there is a Santa Claus -- I don't look inside my soul.

True Christmas is the spirit within me that reaches out and touches other hearts and gives them the magic to believe.

"You tear apart the baby rattle and you see what makes the noise inside. But there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love and romance can push aside that curtain and view the beauty and the glory beyond.

"Is it all real? Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

"No Santa Claus? Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, ten times ten thousand years from now he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood." (Frank Church, the New York Sun, 1897).

CAROLE PITTMAN lives in Indianapolis.

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