My sisters and I ran through the front door into the living room and there to our usual delight, Santa had delivered our Christmas presents. He always knew we celebrated on Christmas Eve and even knew the exact time when we would not be home to spy him leaving our toys.
Around 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoon every Christmas Eve, my father would drive us three girls to pick up Grandma Lucy (his mother) and her presents along with the ones sent to her home by our Aunt Addie who lived in Dayton, Ohio. We would stay at Grandma Lucy’s for a good twenty minutes before heading back to our house where we would open presents and eat dinner. After enjoying our presents for a little while, we then visited other relatives before attending midnight mass.
At that age, no aspect of the Christmas celebration matched the excitement of knowing Santa Claus had visited our house. We didn’t have a fireplace or chimney, so my sisters and I surmised he probably came through a pipe on the roof of the house that [we believed] connected to the stove.
So it was when I was eight years old, right before Christmas, that I discovered the truth about Santa. I had been hearing from some of my classmates that Santa was not real. I did not want to believe it, but more and more of the kids were proclaiming it. I knew the only way I would believe that Santa was a fantasy was if I heard it from my mother.
After school, while she was in the kitchen cooking dinner, I approached her. I knew she’d tell me the truth; she always did when asked a direct question. I asked her if Santa Claus was real. She stopped what she was doing and looked at me. After a brief pause and a sad smile, she confirmed that Santa Claus was a make-believe figure. I don’t remember what else she might have said after that, but I was heartbroken.
I went to my room and cried for a long time. No Santa Claus? Suddenly Christmas seemed less magical. Mom and Dad were Santa. Mom did a really good job of hiding our presents was one of my thoughts, but then it all made sense. When we left to pick up Grandma every Christmas Eve, Mom would go to work organizing the presents under the tree.
My sisters were younger than I so I kept my discovery to myself. However, by the next year both of them knew what I knew. As disappointing as it was to discover the truth about Santa, it did not take long for any of us to recover from the disappointment. As we grew older, we still had wonderful Christmases, though different from the fantasy-filled ones of yesteryear.
Christmas has always been, and still is, a big deal in our family. Dad's love of Christmas decorations, music, and movies have made the sights and sounds of Christmas a constant presence in the home during the holiday season.
Now that my sisters have young children of their own and I am an aunt, we have rediscovered the magic of believing in Santa Claus. The kids’ joy and excitement about Santa is so special to observe, and we adults relive our childhood memories through them.
Some people may feel that it is wrong to let children believe in Santa Claus because it is a lie. I don’t see it as a lie, but rather an innocent tale that adds unbelievable joy and fantasy to the season. Children will be exposed to the harsh realities of the world soon enough, and the truth about Santa will be revealed to them eventually. Therefore, let’s allow them a brief moment in time to believe in a jolly old man who flies through the sky in a sleigh led by reindeer and who loves children enough to present them with toys on one special day each year.