Marvin's Window: Taking stock in Santa Claus

I sat by my window over the weekend wondering how a fat, old Santa would make it down our chimney.

Do you suppose he ever considers any of the overwhelming number of diet programs touted on television?

Santa Claus gets all kinds of press during this great shopping expedition we call the "holiday season" or "Christmas" depending on which side of the ACLU debate you like.

The ACLU seems more active during this portion of the year making sure no Christian symbols of Christmas appear in any public place.

So far, the ACLU has not attacked Santa Claus.

Sometimes it seems like everyone else, from both sides of the great American debate over the separation of church and state, criticizes the bearded guy in the red suit.

I have never been able to find the phrase in the U.S.

Constitution, but I am not a lawyer.

The American-style Santa Claus has caused alarm in Austria where they intend to keep the traditional St.

Nickolaus.

Austria wants to continue to focus Christmas on the "true meaning" and celebrate the birth of the Christ Child, Jesus.

I have heard some American churchgoers make the same complaint.

For some, the jolly, old fellow is a symbol of the commercialization of the traditional holiday.

Some businesses will do 40 percent of the year's sales during the Christmas shopping season.

Does that make Santa a "secular symbol" and keep him out of trouble with the ACLU?

Others argue that Santa is real and children should believe in him.

It might not be a bad idea for some adults because Santa does bring out a lot of good things in everyone but Scrooge.

Even Scrooge eventually caught the Spirit of Christmas.

A substitute teacher in Phoenix recently told a classroom full of 6-year-olds that Santa Claus is not real.

Parents were aghast!

The school did not go so far as to ban the substitute as some parents demanded.

The school administrators solved the problem by asking Santa to visit the classroom and show the children how real he is.

In Austria, tradition holds that the Christ Child sneaks into households on Christmas Eve and leaves presents.

If I had a choice at my house, I would rather have Jesus visit instead of Santa.

On Dec.

25, Christmas Day, families in Austria gather together for a traditional meal of baked carp.

I think I will stick with the traditional American Christmas staples this year.

Where would I find any carp to bake?

Santa Claus (an Americanization of the traditional St.

Nickolaus) adds much to our holiday season.

Few realize that Santa translates to Saint in English and that the "Old Saint Nick" we sometimes call him points to the Austrian version.

Our version of Santa and his reindeer is a jolly tradition that has inspired all kinds of poems, songs and movies.

I cannot imagine Christmas without Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.

Without the tradition of Santa and his eight tiny reindeer, mathematicians could not continue the December rituals of calculating how fast the sleigh has to fly to reach everyone.

The U.S.

satellite system could not make the Christmas Eve announcements of Santa's progress.

Without the traditions of Christmas in Austria, we would be missing great traditional song for they gave us "Silent Night Holy Night."

I think Santa Claus does a great job bringing a wide variety of Americans into the spirit of peace and caring for each other during this holiday season.

Santa is great at inspiring each of us to do something for someone else at least once each year.

With this annual reminder of our need for one another, some of us continue that spirit through the year.

I never want to give up the childhood memories of Christmas and Santa Claus.

Every year, the children and their reaction to Santa inspire me.

The smiles are priceless.

If you are wondering about the reality of Santa, I suggest you find a copy of the original version of "Miracle on 34th Street." It remains my favorite holiday movie of all time.

So far, I have not seen it on any of the movie channels this year, but I know where to find a copy.

It made a believer out of me.

I hope Santa can get each of you into a holiday mood during the next few days.

Don't let the last minute shopping or the "Scrooge's" steal your Christmas or holiday joy.

It is a season when we can all forget our hurts and differences for a few days and find something good in each person.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!