Sunday, December 16, 2012

Believe...a story of a kid who learned the truth about Santa

We're really into Christmas:
  • I shop early so I can have as close to a full month as possible to feast in the holiday festivities.  
  • The radio is on Christmas music with Delilah 24/7 beginning the day after Thanksgiving.  Ah...Karen Carpenter. Looooong agoooooo, and oh so faaaarrrr awayyyyyyyy...
  • I sing the gospel Christmas songs in my car with the gusto of any church choir singer (at red lights, I've been known to shut my eyes and clap to the beat as well).
  • There are numerous traditions we have created as a family: annual viewing of x-mas cartoons from the 70's, the Winter Lights Festival, each family member choosing a special ornament every year, everything related to the tree and special treats for Christmas.
  • I would holepunch "believe" in a card tucked into the lunch of my older daughter (a la Polar Express), that she would happily clutch all day.
  • There is great "Christmas magic" that my husband speaks of.  The talk increases about Nana, my husband's mother whom we lost several years ago.  Her angel sits on the top of the tree.  Her embroidered drummer boy ornament hangs carefully in just the right spot on the tree. A black and white photo of her and her two sons by her own Christmas tree is dusted off and sits on the bookcase for the season.
  • And then there's Santa...  He always knows what my kids want.  Last year, he knew my little one wanted a pink shirt that said "I heart music", and he found one for her.  That's pretty miraculous and cool (and so are iron-on transfers from Michael's).  He wraps their one special present with brown paper, and he always uses the same special lettering.  

My older daughter is 14, and whole-heartedly believed in Santa until she was about 10!  Now this is an intelligent, well-adjusted, outgoing kid.  Street-smart and savvy as well, but yet, she truly believed in Santa and all the X-mas hoopla.  If you're a parent that went full hog with the Christmas/Santa stuff like we did, you may have wondered exactly when enough is enough.  I don't know if no one told her, or if they did and she just didn't believe them, but when your older child is helping you bake cookies for Santa, and you're discussing where you should leave the milk, part of you feels kind of deceitful and kind of guilty.  Part of you feels sorry for promoting this whole thing and you wonder, gosh - is this harmful to make your pretty big kid think Santa has had several sips of milk and ate all his cookies?  Then just before you get a chance to figure out how you can gently let her know it's all been a well-meaning, but elaborate trick, she finds the truth out for herself.  

For my older daughter, it was really very, very devastating.  Without being too melodramatic, it may just have been the end of her innocence.  The year after she found out, she wanted little to do with Christmas.  She refused to take a photo with the mall Santa.  She was not interested in the tree.  She watched, but was cool about the claymation shows that typically make us all tear up.  She was either silent or sarcastic when we talked about Christmas magic with her little sister. 

The following year, she stood as her sister bonded with the mall Santa, and I got a nice photo out of it, but there was no talk about the Christmas magic.  

Fast forward to today.  As a teenager, she is fully aware that there is no Santa.  However, the kid once again loves Christmas.  She opens the Christmas storage bins and carefully unwraps the ornaments from their well-worn paper towels, that she is equally careful with.  She regales us with stories of each ornament she picked out.  She seems to remembers exactly what she was thinking when she originally chose each ornament.  She gets upset if we even entertain the idea of not following Nana's recipe for Santa's cookies.  She looks forward to the special lettering on "Santa's" gift (and will be really happy when she finds the gift card to Urban Outfitters this year).  

In the end, all the deceit that I felt perpetuating this Santa business was worth it.  As a teenager (and hopefully as an adult), the image of the generous old Caucasian guy in a red suit is gone, but what remains is many lovely family traditions and the magic of Christmas.  For all those concerned about allowing your kids to think Santa is real, I would say it is thoroughly worth it. 

We take turns choosing a theme for the tree each year.  It was my teenager's turn this year.  Her rule was only glass ornaments, but each person could choose 1-2 ornaments that didn't fit the theme if he/she really wanted them there.  I chose a cheap plastic Santa ornament that is hollow in the center.  I think it was originally one of those M&M's tube toppers.  Each year, I pluck a needle or two to place inside the ornament.  The hole in the bottom is covered with tape.  There are needles from the last...13 or so trees inside the cheapo plastic ornament.  It's all about the traditions we create.  


  1. Hi Wendy, I thoroughly enjoy reading this post. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and family.

  2. One of these days, when your girls are fully adults, they will let slip how important all this was to them. These are lucky girls.
    Of course you are lucky, too, to have so much love in your heart....but you know that. Happy Holidays!

  3. I saw a santa at one the malls here last month. Sitting alone on a big chair. I guess nobody was in the mood yet that time. But this week, we are really feeling the mood. Christmas carols can be heard almost everywhere now. Have a blessed Christmas to you and your family :-D

  4. What a beautiful story and I love your traditions - love the idea of a needle from the tree nestled inside an ornament that is brought out each year.

  5. Beautiful Wendy! Your traditions are fantastic and your kids are going to have the most amazing memories of Christmas as they grow older. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the Santa thing...I often wonder how it all works!!! You have instilled that magic in your kids..they are lucky to have you! Merry Christmas to you and your family! Enjoy your break!...and the tree is stunning!

  6. Ah yes, Karen Carpenter. When I hear her, I get a bit teary, remembering Christmases back in Canada - family, snow, all that.
    I have tried to create holiday traditions here, but it's just not the same - without the family or the snow.....
    My orchids give me about as much cheer as anything.
    Have a wonderful Christmas, Wendy.

  7. Lovely story! I beleiev in Santa until I was 11 years old!!! ;)
    Merry Christmas to you!

  8. I love the way you have maintain a wonderful family tradition on Christmas. I used to tell the magic stories about Santa Claus to my children too. Now that they know the truth, they still remember Santa, and our past Christmases. Wendy, tomorrow I shall celebrate Mid-Winter Solstice with prayers at home. Have a blessed Christmas!

  9. Just the other day I saw on Pinterest a letter that parents could write to tell their children that Santa wasn't real. It was very sweet.

    We never did do the Santa thing. We did everything else though and although my kids are adults now, it's still Christmas as usual. They'd be devastated if it were any other way.

    I hope your Christmas was warm and wonderful.

  10. I don't remember when my kids stopped believing in Santa but my son believed in the Easter bunny til he was 10. I love your traditions. We hang an advent calendar that my kids still love, even at 21 and 18.
    I'm a teacher who lives in no. VA and I'm starting a very casual garden club. Pop over to my blog if you'd like more info. :o)

  11. Your traditions and this story are both wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Lovely traditions :).Your kids are very lucky.

  13. Hi! I just found your blog today through Casa Mariposa (I think), and this post really resonated with me. I have no memory of when I learned Santa wasnt' real. We never stopped getting gifts from him until just a couple of years ago, when my parents' health issues reduced our Christmas in scope (they're in the 80s, I'm 47). It was always a joke that Mom's and Santa's handwriting was SO SIMILAR! Also, Santa could never remember which stocking was mine and which was my brother's. SO WEIRD!


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