Is Santa Claus Really Real? (A Christmas Eve Story in Which I Go Shopping with my Dad in an Elf Hat, and I am the Good Guy in the Story)

Once upon a time, when I was an adult - 

Magdelana: Is this a scary story?

Yes...Just kidding. It's not.

- Then why did you say it was?

I changed my mind and decided to tell the unscary version. 

- Tell the scary version!

Okay, then I will have to make up part of it. You want me to do that?

- Yeah.

I'm not going to tell you what parts are made up and which parts aren't.

- Why?

Because then it wouldn't be scary. Deal?

- Daddy, just tell me what parts you're making up!

No! Then it wouldn't be scary! Fair?

- Yes.

Thank you. Once upon a time, when I was a very successful adult, but not the age I am now, then we were in Lincoln City on Christmas Eve. You probably want to know why we were in Lincoln City on Christmas Eve. 

- To go Christmas shopping?

No. We were there because  a friend of ours was in the hospital there and she was going to have a baby. Have you ever heard of a baby? We wanted to be supportive, so we went there. We were waiting and waiting and waiting. Although the cinema would have you believe otherwise, then oftentimes what happens when somebody's having a baby is that there's a lot of waiting and waiting. We couldn't actually see her, and so my Dad said to me,

Hey Joseph, I gotta run some errands.

I said "Dad, what errands do you have to run? It's Christmas Eve."

I just gotta run some…errands.

I thought we were going to go eat.

Yeah, we'll do that. I just got a couple errands I gotta run.

Can you just tell me where you're going?

Nah. I just gotta run a couple places.

Dad…you're being very weird. 

C'mon, it's Christmas Eve!

Uhh, yes Dad. I know it's Christmas Eve. I'm very aware that it's Christmas Eve, and that I'm spending Christmas Eve in a hospital right now. But thank you for reminding me that it's Christmas Eve. I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be right now than in a hospital. 

I can tell that you're being sarcastic. But I've got an idea…how about a little DAD/SON BONDING TIME…what do you say?


So we hopped in the van. The big black passenger van he was driving at that point in his life. At that point in my life, I was a grown-up adult driving a much nicer automobile than a black van, and I was very successful, if I remember correctly. Too successful to be driving in a dorkball passenger van.

So I get in. And my dad tosses me something. Something red and white. Know what it was?

Magdelana: A candy cane?

No. A hat. Like an elf hat.

What's this for? I said.

It's a hat.

Why would I wear it?

To stay warm. And also, it's Christmas Eve.

I know that it's Christmas Eve, Dad! We already went over this. I know it's Christmas Eve. What does that have to do with putting on an elf hat? I'm not an elf, Dad.

Yeah. You're an elf. We're both elves right now.

No. I am not an elf. I am in college, and I am a person. A very successful person. And I don't think I should be wearing a stupid elf hat right now. What if people see me?

If you're a wimp, then don't wear it.

I'm not a wimp, Dad! I just…why should I wear an elf hat that's probably lice-infested, and smells like a dental chair?


Fine. I give in. I'll wear it. Whatever.

Don't say whatever.

Don't say 'don't say whatever.'

Don't say 'don't say whatever' when I say 'don't say whatever.'

Dad, don't try to cheer me up. I would just like to be in a bad mood right now. 

Why would you be in a bad mood? It's Christmas Eve.

I KNOW IT'S CHRISTMAS EVE! You keep telling me that it's Christmas Eve, and I am VERY AWARE that it is Christmas Eve, and I feel like being in a foul mood right now, because I AM IN A TOWN FAR AWAY FROM OUR HOME. WHERE I WOULD LIKE TO BE, WITH A COMFORTABLE DINNER TABLE, AND A CHRISTMAS TREE AND LIGHTS TWINKLING AND MUSIC GOING AND PRESENTS UNDER THE TREE…and thinking of all those Christmas things we're supposed to be doing, all snuggled up and warm, waiting for hot chocolate and whipped cream and peppermint things, and waiting to watch Die Hard after Mom goes to bed, and all that stuff. But no. I'm not doing any of that. I'm driving HERE, with YOU, in a FOREIGN town, on Christmas Eve. It's like we're Joseph and Mary right now, in a place far from home. We have no place to go. 

That doesn't make sense, because I'm not pregnant. 

I know you're not pregnant, Dad, because you're a guy. 

Yeah I know. I was just making sure you knew that.

Dad. Sometimes you can be a dork. 

Thank you.

I wasn't saying it as a compliment!

Well I took it as a compliment. Thank you.

No! If I didn't say it as a compliment, then don't take it as a compliment. You can't take something that was meant to be an insult, and accept it as a compliment. That's illegal. 

Well, I changed the rule.

You can't change the rule.

I'm your father, so I changed the rule. Any rule that you make, I can change. 

That's not fair. 

Don't say 'it's not fair.'

I can say 'it's not fair' if I want!

No. I'm your father. You can't say 'it's not fair.'

Well, I am an adult. A very successful adult. 

Right now, you look like an elf.

Dad, where are we going? Seriously. What are we doing that is so important that you pull me away from the one comfortable place I was actually in: a hospital, which at least is warm. Unlike your van with a broken heater. And I'm wearing a stupid elf hat. And I'm tired of listening to Mariah Carey.

That's what elves do: they wear hats. And listen to Mariah Carey on repeat.

For the last time: I am not an elf. And you are not an elf. Now let's get this ridiculous errand done, whatever it is.

OK, let's do it. 


Where do you want to go?

What do you mean?

Where do you want to go?

DAD! You ASKED ME to go with you to run some errands…ON CHRISTMAS EVE. That means that you had something in mind. I'm just along for the ride. You wanted me to come.

Yeah. Where do you wanna go?

Are you telling me that you don't have any idea where we're going? Wait a second...there are no errands. Are there? You had no errands.

Not true. We're running errands right now. I just don't know where we're going….HEY LOOK! There's a store! That's where we're running one of our errands!

Dad, seriously. We left everybody at the hospital to run these errands, and you don't even have anywhere to go. You don't have a plan at all.

Well yeah, I wanted to get some Christmas presents. 

Deep sigh.

Tomorrow is Christmas. You're telling me that it is

(I check my watch)

seven o'clock on Christmas Eve, and you want to go Christmas shopping. 

Yeah. I thought we'd just get some Christmas presents.

Have you not done any Christmas present shopping?

Of course I have!

Then why do we need to go get Christmas presents?

We don't need to. I just thought it would be fun to go get some more.

So we pull into this store, this parking lot, in front of this store, and he leans on his horn.


What was that for?

What was what for?

Why did you just honk the horn?

Because I'm angry.

Why are you angry?

Because the store is closed. 

Dad, of course it's closed…IT'S CHRISTMAS EVE. It's Christmas Eve. Stores are closed on Christmas Eve.

That's stupid. 

Dad, it's not stupid. People don't go shopping on Christmas Eve. 

Well, I'm a person, and I'm trying to go shopping on Christmas Eve, so therefore your logic is false. I am trying to go shopping on Christmas Eve with my son, like you suggested. 


Stop twisting my words around. 

Also, stop copying me Dad.

Stop copying me.



I swear Dad….you are the most frustrating person on the face of the universe. 

How do you know we're on the face of the universe. How do you know this isn't the universe's butt?

Deep sigh.

That's not even funny.

Yeah. It's funny. 

No, it's not.

Yeah. It's funny.


It's funny.

It's - okay Dad, I am telling you, as one very successful person who understands humor, and what's funny and what's not, that it is not funny. 


So we drive up and down the stretch of Lincoln City looking for somewhere to buy Christmas presents on Christmas Eve.

Magdelana: Your dad was being funny. 

No, he's not being funny. I am the good guy in this story.

Magdelana: Your dad is funny.

No, he's not. Do you want me to finish this story? 

Magdelana: Yeah.

Okay, so we're driving around, and we see another parking lot. We pull in to check it out. My dad cranks the van around - CRAAAAANK - and also, my dad has probably set the world record for longest amount of time that he leaves his blinker on when he's turning. So we're driving down in the big black bomber van, wearing elf hats, and his blinker is going KCH-KCH-KCH-KCH.

Dad, your, umm, your blinker is going.

Oh. Okay.

Are you going to turn it off?


How come you're not then?

It doesn't seem to be bothering anybody. 

That's because nobody else is out on the road right now. We're the only ones out on the road. 

Good point. I'll turn it off pretty soon. 

Dad, you are so frustrating.

So we keep on driving, and cannot find a place open, as I had told him. I was right, and he was wrong. 

Of course we're not going to find any places that are open for shopping on Christmas Eve. Just like I told him. 

Suddenly, you will not even believe what we saw.

Magdelana: Tiger?




Johannes: A lion? A tiger? A bat?

Nope. I'll tell you. Santa. Santa Claus. We're cruising down the road and we see this blubbery patch of red and white. My dad says: Hey! It's a giant elf!

I say That's not a giant elf…that looks like Santa. What a dorkball.

Yep. Sure enough. Santa was walking along the sidewalk, holding a leash attached to what looked like a beagle wearing reindeer antlers.

Magdelana: I know you're making this part up.

Not necessarily.

Daddy! There's no such thing as Santa! 

How do you know?

Because I've never seen him. 

Well…that is what we call a 'black swan scenario.' Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about it, and essentially what it means is that just because you've never seen something before doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. So just because you've never seen Santa Claus, does that prove that Santa Claus doesn't exist? Can you prove the non-existence of Santa Claus?

Magdelana: No.

So you can't really disprove the existence of something, I guess was my point. 

Magdelana: Well I don't believe in Santa Claus.

Okay, well I guess that just like I didn't believe my father, you're choosing to disbelieve me. 

Magdelana: So is he really real? Did you really see Santa? Maybe you thought you did, and it was somebody dressed up. 

Johannes: Santa Claus wears a suit. 

Me, to Johannes: Is Santa Claus real?

Johannes: No.

Why not?

Johannes: Because Santa Claus is not real.

That is what we call circular logic, Johannes. So anyway, we see Santa Claus there in the road and my dad said,

It's really Santa Claus!

There's no such thing as Santa Claus. I said.

And he said: Well, that's not true. Santa Claus is right in front of us.

And I said: Dad, Santa Claus is not real.

Well…we're looking at Santa Claus in front of us.

Dad…that's somebody dressed up as Santa Claus. There's a difference between dressing up like something and actually being something. Right?

Magdelana: Right.

So Santa Claus was on the sidewalk, walking his dog with reindeer antlers. I said:

Well, fine, let's find out if that's really Santa. Let's find out if that just happens to be the REAL SANTA, just out walking his dog with fake reindeer antlers before he takes off in his sleigh to deliver presents to good little children around the world, improbable physics notwithstanding.

Nah, I don't want to stop.

Why not? If we stop right now, Dad, then you could prove, you could find out right now if Santa Claus actually exists.

I don't want to find out. 

Why not?

I don't want to know.

What do you mean, you don't want to know?

Why would I care if Santa Claus exists or not? I want to believe that Santa Claus is real. So I'm just gonna believe that. 

Let me get this straight: you want to keep on driving, when all is what we'd have to do is pull over and ask that guy: Is that a fake beard you're wearing? Are you really Santa Claus? We could find out right now if that is a fake Santa Claus or a real one, and you don't want to find out?


Why not.

Because I want to believe in magic. 

Dad, you're an adult. Why would you want to believe in magic?

Because…I don't like having everything explained to me. I want to believe in something extraordinary. So I choose to believe in Santa Claus. And I am going to choose to believe that we just passed Santa Claus on the road walking his reindeer dog back there, and when we get back to the hospital, I am going to tell everyone in the hospital that we saw Santa Claus. Santa Claus walking. His. Dog.

Well Dad…that wouldn't be true.

How do you know it wouldn't be true? It might be true. 


Dad, I am an adult - 


A kid.

No, I am an adult. A very successful adult. 

A kid. My kid. You're my kid. 

Stop calling me kid.

You're my kid.

Instead of referring to me as a kid, could you just refer to me as a highly successful adult?

Well no…you're my kid. I'd prefer to just call you my kid. And I believe in Santa. 

He starts yelling out the window.

Oh look everybody, I'm driving next to an elf! Look everybody, I'm right next to an elf!

I look around. Nobody there.

Dad, who are you talking to?

I'm just telling everybody that I'm driving along with an elf. Look in the mirror!

Dad, you're such a cornball. I'm wearing an elf hat. That doesn't make me an elf. 

UHHHH….that's where you're wrong! You're an elf!

(Magdelana laughing: Your dad is right.)

I'm gonna tell everybody when we get back that I have spent Christmas Eve almost running over Santa and riding around with an elf.

Johannes: Hi Elf-Daddy.

I'm not Elf-Daddy.

Johannes: Hi Elf-Daddy.

I sighed, deeply, for the billionth time.

You know what I want right now, Dad? Some Mexican food. I want some Mexican food. I need to eat.

We drove back. I could see that his shoulders were slumped just a tidge. He didn't have the same bouncy joie de vivre. I started thinking about my old man. Such a cornball. Do I really know more than he does? I thought.

Of course I do, I answered myself. I know way more than he does. But maybe there's a few things he's figured out that I haven't yet. 

And does it hurt anybody to believe in magic?

So we got out of the dork van. 

You can leave your elf hat in the front seat, he said.

I tugged my elf hat lower on my head, and I pushed him in the chest, and said:

Get your elf hat back on, old man.

He started to get a smile on his face. We walked into the hospital lobby, I slugged him in the kidney and kicked his rear without breaking stride with my foot as we came through the automatic doors. The kid had just been born, and we could hear it screaming down the hall I think, or maybe someone else was just in a lot of pain or in labor or something. Everybody was slumped in chairs, waiting. A regular Nativity. And I said:

Guess what? We just saw Santa out walking his dog. Now let's go get some food. Some Mexican food.

The End.

Magdelana: Can you tell me another story?



  1. Thanks for the post, Joseph. Your writing style is enjoyable. Your very successful college self and responses to your dad remind me of myself and my dad a bit. Thanks for a good read.

  2. Thanks Erik! I have enjoyed the couple of times I have met your Dad. He seems like a unique character as well - and, it sounds like, a great chap to banter with. Appreciate the nice words.

  3. I read this to my wife and she said, "His dad sounds like my Dad!" Reading your stories have made for a great Saturday night. Thanks!


Love to hear from you. Thanks for your comments!