“I hate Santa,” my Dad announces, watching the holiday-themed commercials of the Sunday football game.
Dad is not a holiday scrooge. He has just presided over a large Christmas party in his home, in which one guest, unaided, drained a $50 bottle of scotch while Dad betrayed not the slightest lapse in hospitality. He buys beautiful Christmas gifts for Mom and joins the church choir for holiday services. But he has no love for Santa.
Ultimately, his objection is a practical one: “There’s no way, even if Santa was real, that he could get to every house before Christmas.”
I pointed out that not all of the world’s children celebrate Christmas, so it’s not, by a long shot, every house in the world.
“It’s Christian homes all over the world,” he allows. But it’s still an “inane idea that he could fit down the chimney that had a roaring fire six hours ago, carrying a giant bag, and know what every single person wanted.”
I have to say I agree, though I don’t necessarily harbor any ill will against the idea of Santa. While my brother and I (and now my husband and his sister), as well as the family dogs, always received lavish stockings, my parents never emphasized the idea of Santa. On Christmas Eve nights, when mine and my cousins’ family would stay with my Dad’s parents, I, my brother and our cousins would sleep beside the Christmas tree, more to immerse ourselves in the festive setting and increase our proximity to the waiting presents than in hopes of catching Santa in the act.
Once, very early in the morning, I woke up to see my grandmother, in her long white nightgown, adding some premium markers to the stockings. She was flustered to notice me looking.
“I’m just adding to what Santa put in,” she explained guiltily. I nodded dutifully for her sake, because far from believing in Santa myself, I didn’t want to scuttle her belief of my belief in Santa.
I can’t remember ever believing that a fat, red-clad, white-bearded man would enter the house in the wee hours of Christmas morning, on his way to every other (good) Christian child’s house. The logical impossibilities of this made Santa a complete non-issue in my life. I participated in the assembling of family members’ stocking stuffers from an early age.
But Mom wasn’t sure of my detachment. After attending a mother-daughter Christmas party with me one year when I was in elementary school, I was sitting in the car on the way home, pleasantly distended from Christmas cookies in my red velveteen dress, and thinking that “White Christmas” was the most boring movie I had ever seen. Mom said she wanted to talk to me about something.
“Laina, did you know that Santa isn’t a real person?” I was surprised she thought she even had to mention it.
I know that when I have my own children, I won’t encourage them to believe in Santa. I realize I may be letting myself in for several years of grocery-line grief when I cannot say, “Santa is not going to bring you anything this year if you don’t put those M&Ms down!” But I’m willing to risk the fall-out. To me, family gift-giving provides all the magic Christmas will ever need.
But I’m also aware that many people recall the shocking moment when they (or their children) learned that Santa is not real. I’m interested in my readers’ histories with Santa.
I know many of my readers don’t celebrate Christmas. Feel free to chime in with any stories of your own holiday traditions. And to the Santa contigent: please share your stories in the comments about the time you (or your kids) learned the truth about Santa, or why you never believed in the first place.