When my kids were young and I was in a mother’s support group, the question of telling your children about Santa came up. There were the realists, the delayers and those that didn’t celebrate Christmas anyway.

The realists argued that if you are caught lying to your children about something, perhaps they would never trust you again. The delayers wanted to make that delicious innocent time last as long as possible. And the Hanukkah crowd saw no reason to keep up a story that had nothing to do with them.

But for me, I had a realization late one Christmas eve when the house was all quiet, the children long asleep and my husband dreaming of sugar plums.

Santa means saint, and in that expectant stillness with the soft lights of the tree, the fragrance of pine and apple cider in the air, I felt the spirit of that ancient one dear to so many children. It wasn’t that he came down the chimney or had a sleigh pulled by reindeer, though those are really cool ideas.

I felt the energy of Santa arrive in my own heart as I remembered my delight waking on a frigid Ohio morning, the windows laced with Jack Frost’s designs, and sitting bolt upright among my heavy quilts realizing that this was indeed The Day. I was the first one downstairs, and there, where last night only a few packages had been, untold treasures lay gleaming in the morning light like a bank of snow under the tall tree. A miracle had occurred in our very house, a miracle of generosity and caring!

As a child I had revelled in this time of year, the slow build starting just after Thanksgiving as the big Sears Roebuck catalogues arrived. We kids would spend long hours poring over the toy section, hunting for ideas to put in our letters to be sent to the North Pole. And then we were pressed into service as cookie dough stirrers and spatula lickers, and helping to move the cooled cookies off the racks on the counter so the hot ones could take their place.

About the middle of December we would all pile into the station wagon, Grandma too, and go in search of the perfect Christmas tree. My Dad would insist that this fine specimen have its trunk shortened and then stay overnight, excruciatingly, in the garage soaking up water from a bucket. Then we would all stand back as this fragrant gift from the forest turned our living room into a fairy land. We strung popcorn and cranberries, and pushed whole cloves into oranges to be tied with a red satin ribbon and hung, filling the air with spice and mystery.

That night, so many years later, as I filled each stocking with juggling balls and candy canes, taking care to make each one enticing with just a glimpse of shiny ribbon, I realized I did not need to worry about lying to my children about Santa. Santa is indeed real, and lives in the hearts of children and those who love them.

Kanta Lipsky lives in West Tisbury.