‘Tis the Season

I’m pretty sure my brother never believed in Santa Clause. I think he played along because he understood that obliging when my parents plopped him on some sweaty guy’s lap was the price he had to pay if he expected heaps of gifts on Christmas Day. He was no fool, he was willing to quietly endure the task of leaving a perfectly good cookie out on the table overnight if it meant new toys in the morning. It was with an even tone that he announced he couldn’t live a lie any longer – in fact, it’s possible he thought he was doing my parents a favor and sharing information he had been keeping from them all these years. He said simply, “There’s no such thing as Santa Clause.”

I’m pretty sure I still believe in Santa Clause. The Easter bunny was never believable to me. A giant rabbit that carries baskets and hides eggs? Preposterous. I was very young when I informed my parents that I would not be buying in to such tomfoolery.  A jolly man with a sack full of presents and a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer? Seemed legit. I didn’t have a chimney, but I was told that he can also use doors just fine. I imagined him with one of those giant key-rings that janitors have in TV shows. That had really been the only doubt I had about the whole situation, so once that was cleared up, I had no interest in debunking this story. I was perfectly content with my blind trust in this magical phenomenon.

I don’t remember exactly how/when I figured out that it was an elaborate scheme to get children to behave in December based on a tradition that has evolved quite a bit from the original St. Nick. One of my friends was probably talking about it as though it were common knowledge, since we were most likely at an age where it should have been.  I recently asked my mother if she remembered how old I was exactly, and she said all she remembers is that I had been out with my cousin and had said, “I don’t believe in Santa anymore, but I’m afraid to tell my parents. I think my mom will cry.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if that was only a small part of it. I have a feeling part of it was also the fear that not believing anymore meant no presents. I also think I was afraid to talk to my parents about it because a small part of me was hoping it wasn’t true. That my friends were wrong and my parents had nothing to do with the presents that appeared on the morning of December 25th every year. I wasn’t willing to chance that they wouldn’t be able to say, “No, honey, I have no idea how those presents get there.”

For me, it was never about the material presents. What was wrapped in the shiny paper wasn’t important. In fact, there’s a video of me excitedly tearing open a box and exclaiming, “IT’S JUST WHAT I WANTED! What is it?” For me, it’s always been about the tradition, the feeling, the magic of it all.  It was being woken up by an excited little brother and going in together to jump on mom and dad’s bed. It was sitting impatiently at the top of the stairs together until they were ready to head down with us. It was that first moment of seeing the piles of presents and figuring out whose pile was whose.  It was opening our stockings first, then being made to eat breakfast, usually a Poptart that was nearly swallowed whole so we could open the rest of our presents.

Of course, traditions change as you get older. We’re not up at the crack of dawn anymore. My brother and I shuffle downstairs by 10ish. But we still go together. We no longer inhale our breakfast, but we still open stockings first.

My extended family also has a tradition. It’s hard to explain and involves “stocking stuffers” which are just fun, silly gifts that we all open in turn. Plus, just the tradition of being together and eating until we can’t possibly eat any more. This year, I sat on the floor of my living room, surrounded by my family, laughing so hard my sides hurt. I looked from smiling face to smiling face and my heart swelled with happiness. I may not believe in Santa Clause in the same way I did when I was little, but I still believe in the magic this holiday brings.

I still believe in Christmas.

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~ by Valerie Anne on 12/28/2011.

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