Welcome to another holiday season. The Christmas trees are up at the mall. Beautifully tacky lights are up everywhere. We’re all spending too much money and stressed out. It’s my absolute favorite time of the year! But this time there’s something a bit troubling lurking beneath my festive mirth. Is this the year Santa Claus will die?
My children still believe in Santa Claus, but now that the oldest ones are in 5th and 6th grade, I know the clock on their belief is winding down. My oldest is in Middle School and it actually seems a little absurd to me that a Middle School student would still believe in such fantasies, but the mommy in me is sad to know that the magic in her life will fade away. Its a weird time with kids her age maturing so rapidly but still being so young. Maybe them hitting puberty means they can leave a big glass of wine for “Santa” aka Me, instead of cookies?
They believe, even though their peers are staring to say otherwise, because I have actively participated in the Santa Charade. Each year we travel to visit our family in Michigan for Christmas. Every time we are about to depart our house, I double back inside, feigning the need to pee, saying I forgot something, or pretending to go turn off a light I left on. That’s when I grab the gifts from Santa that I had wrapped in a different paper than all of the other gifts and hidden somewhere in the house. I put them under the tree, and when we return home from visiting relatives they think Santa has been to the house, leaving those presents under the tree in our absence.
Last year my oldest told me that she knows FOR SURE that Santa exists because the gifts show up under the tree when we are gone out of town so the gifts couldn’t possibly be put there by me. My plan has worked for all these years and there’s no stopping until she discovers Santa isn’t real for herself. I can’t take that away from them. But someone will. With every passing year the probability of someone committing Christmas Spirit homicide gets more likely. I remember when my Santa was killed. It was my aunt and I was about the age my kids are now.
She was chatting with me, asking what was going on my Christmas list that year, and in the midst of the discussion she asked, “You don’t still believe in Santa Claus do you?” I played it off as best as I could and stayed cool as I responded, “Nah, of course not.” Inside my head…
“OH MY GOD!! None of it was real??? I feel so BETRAYED!! There’s no SANTA?!”
Santa. Dead to me. When I told my mother that I knew there was no Santa her charades of putting gifts marked “From Santa” was over and all of my childhood magic was gone. After a while there wasn’t even any surprise any more as I became difficult to shop for the older I got. She’d take me shopping for whatever it was I wanted, we’d bring it all home, and she would tell me to wrap it up myself and put it under the tree until Christmas. Damn. Even the simple mystery beneath wrapping paper was gone. I can’t even get a surprise anymore? Hard Knock Life.
After that, the Christmas spirit still took hold, but in different ways. The magic of the season became something else. It was the excitement of being with family and watching the younger children get excited as they opened presents from Santa. It was the cupcakes we would bake every year together. And NOTHING could remove that feeling you get when you see the first Christmas lights each season or when you fall asleep in the living room by the glow of the Christmas tree. For me, Christmas is a feeling. I don’t know who’s gonna kill Santa Claus for my kids, but when it happens I hope they can still see the magic that I do.