Disclaimer: I realize that not everyone’s Santa story is the same, but wanted to share my own experience since it was so beloved.
Throughout the years, the discussion of Santa has elicited its fair share of controversy. From traumatization to lying to deception to the real meaning of Christmas to the fun of it to stockings, candy and Christmas morning, Santa Claus seems to have been put through the proverbial ringer.
Perhaps I should start at the beginning. Twas the Night Before Christmas…and my childhood encapsulates vivid memories of the man in red. In addition to our annual visits to see Santa Claus at our local mall, my dad dressed up as Santa Claus for our family Christmas Eve celebrations. A tradition he has continued to share once Charlie was born in 2009. The jolly red cheeks, grandfatherly white hair and clanging jingle bells always spring about warm memories for me.
The origin of Santa Claus can be debated from now until the end of time, but generally stems from St. Nicholas known in Dutch as Sinterklaas merged with the English gift-giver. St. Nicholas has a philanthropic background as a secret gift-giver and possible life rescuer.
And the vision of Santa I have now has been lived out by the man who plays him every year for Christmas. Self-sacrifice, giving, and loving. Growing up, I never confused my faith with a man who flopped down the chimney looking for cookies and leaving a Christmas trail behind. Each Christmas morning, the first gift we always opened (and still do) is the most Precious Gift of all and hangs out in our home’s nativity display.
When I realized Santa wasn’t real, I cannot pinpoint the day. I know it was an older relative who may have accidentally spilled the beans, but my memories of sacrifice and love and generosity haven’t changed just because the figure who sometimes represented those things may not be real. My memories are still fond and the Christmases I experienced and still do are filled with love, joy, family and His eternal gift.
So when it came time to carry on the Santa Claus tradition with our boys, I didn’t hesitate to share something so magical with them. The twinkling of their eyes as they hear his bell, the stories of his travels and the Christmas Spirit all throughout the season. And the more I reflect, the more I realize just what Santa Claus represents to me: innocence.
I spy Santa Claus! Charlie waits VERY eagerly for Santa this year! He is absolutely ecstatic for him to arrive!
I remember living in a time period where everyone seemed to believe. And for a long time at that. Now, we have kids asking questions at such a young age (about many things in their little worlds) that I cannot begin to wrap my mind around. And my heart breaks because I see a world that no longer cherishes and protects such innocence, but exploits and damages it in the process. And for me, that has little to do with any lies about the man in Red and more to do with where we are in this world.
Charlie turns six in January and I am so keenly aware of his fleeting childhood. A reminder that I get him like this for such a short time and maybe that’s why I am so very protective of such a simple tradition. But to me, it signifies something so much more. If only we could all share in such faith as a child. If only we could take back that journey into the unknown world and protect our children for a little while longer.
So forgive me if I want to preserve that and cling for dear life to the last years of pure innocence that my babies will know because in the twinkling of an eye they will grow up and experience first-hand a world that isn’t always so loving and magical. And for me, the heartbreak associated for some with the true discovery of Santa Claus has more to do with this world than it does with a childhood tradition gone awry.
Charlie’s first and sixth Christmas.
If only we could all somehow go back to a time and belief in Santa Claus and the goodness he represents forever.