Debra Stella Ludwig
Catholic News Service
WORCESTER, Pa. — Call it a Christmas miracle.
It was 1996 when Catholic author Patricia Mohan Gallagher’s 9-year-old daughter came to her and said that someone at school told her Santa Claus wasn’t real.
This brought tears to Gallagher’s eyes. Though she knew her daughter, Kristen, had recently stopped believing that Santa was real, she couldn’t bear the thought there were other children who did still believe in him but were being told by someone else that he wasn’t real.
What happened next during that conversation brought tears to her eyes for a second time. But for a whole different reason.
“Kristen was more worried about her little brother overhearing something like that at school than anything else,” said Gallagher, whose youngest child, Ryan, was 6 and still believed. “She said to me, ‘Mom, no one should be told Santa Claus isn’t real, and I especially don’t want Ryan hearing that.'”
Motivated by her daughter’s kind heart, she decided she wouldn’t allow this to be reality for him or for any other child. Gallagher and her older daughter, Katelyn, 12, brainstormed ways so that, according to Kristen, “Ryan would always keep believing” in Santa and the miracle of Christmas.
Gallagher became inspired and the result eventually was a 52-page illustrated book titled “Christmas on Lindbergh Mountain: The Untold Story of Santa’s Magic on Christmas Eve.”
On the car ride home from a family excursion that year to a local Christmas village, Gallagher started making up a story about a family who loved their home on Holly Hill Road but unforeseen circumstances forced them to move to an unheated cabin on Lindbergh Mountain.
Why Lindbergh Mountain? “We passed a road by that name so I just made that location part of my fictional story. I passed another road called Chinquapin so that became part of the story, too.”
The story continued to grow and take shape for the next few days.
“Katelyn and I added details to the story. We sat at the computer in our laundry room and typed it up,” explained Gallagher, who lives in Worcester and belongs to Corpus Christi Parish in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.
“She suggested that we make it like a touch-and-feel storybook, so we bought trinkets from our local variety and thrift stores,” the author added. “We made all kinds of little things that would go along with the story.”
That’s how “Santa Clues” were born.
Her list of a dozen clues, or “proof” that Santa came, include “Santa” writing a child’s name on a Christmas tree ornament with a gold glitter pen, leaving a small wrapped gift on the dresser in the child’s room or leaving behind an “elf shoe” — a small baby shoe bought at a used clothing store and fancifully decorated.
“I wanted to create something magical for kids and for their parents to share together and even pass down from generation to generation,” Gallagher said.
She believed her “homemade” touch-and-feel books could connect children with Santa while connecting them with their parents as they shared this sensory experience.
The story itself takes place at Christmas time on fictional Lindbergh Mountain. Main character Kristen lives there with her family and is worried Santa won’t be able to find their old run-down cabin on the mountain due to a dangerous storm brewing on Christmas Eve.
Now, in keeping with the spirit of this giving season, Gallagher wants to give her beloved story to a whole new generation of families.
“With the holidays approaching and the pandemic forcing us all to have no contact with our families, I thought this was a great time for families to revisit Christmas on Lindbergh Mountain,” she said.
On her website, at www.lindberghmountain.com, Gallagher is making her story available to download for free. She also gives users a list of 100 family fun activities and her list of “Santa Clues” and has other resources on the site.
The list of activities alone can be considered a Christmas miracle to parents struggling to continually come up with ideas to entertain their children during a holiday season in the middle of a pandemic. And all at no cost to the user.
“I want to keep family traditions alive — even now when we can’t be physically with our loved ones over the holidays, we can connect virtually and keep the spirit of the holidays moving forward, whether together or at a distance,” said Gallagher.
She and her own family have been sharing the tradition of this story together since its inception in 1996. And it all started with her own children.
“My children are all grown now with families of their own,” she said. “This story has been a cherished part of our holiday tradition all these years. Now I not only get to share it with my children, but with my grandchildren, as well. It’s really family bonding at its best.”
Ludwig is a freelance writer who resides with husband and daughter in Pipersville, Pennsylvania. She’s the author of the forthcoming book, “The Goodbye Gift,” https://thegoodbyegift.com.