Some would say that I did not have quite the same Christmas experience most children have had. While my parents were not at all anti-Santa, they wanted me to understand that Christmas was not to celebrate a man who brings gifts once a year. They wanted me to know who Christmas really was celebrating. So, as soon as I was old enough to know about Santa Claus, my parents broke the news to me.
“Santa Claus is not real,” they explained kindly. “He was alive a long time ago, and he was a good man. But he is not what Christmas is all about.”
Of course, it was hard to be the only one out of the 20 kids in my kindergarten class to know Santa Claus was made-up. Playing along was the hardest part. Everyone believed Santa brought them their presents on Christmas Eve, but I knew their parents actually bought their presents and only claimed they were from Santa.
When I got a little older, I became more observant. Because I knew my parents were providing my Christmas gifts, I figured they did not wait until the last minute to get them. “Where, oh where could my presents be?” I thought.
I relayed these thoughts to my younger brother; and we conspired and planned when our parents weren’t paying attention. As soon as they’d leave the house, the hunt was on. Any UPS boxes were carefully untaped, searched and resealed. We raided closets and looked under beds. We even unwrapped gifts that had been placed under the tree and left no trace.
It was a game my brother and I played every Christmas. My parents were not oblivious, though. They may have been slightly aware of our tricks, so they hid the best presents in places they knew we would not think to look. It was a fun game for all of us. It was our tradition.
Santa-believers are offended by this. I’ve encountered several individuals who are appalled that I did not believe in the red-suited man.
“You didn’t believe in Santa?!” they exclaim. “You missed out on a real childhood!”
Those same people find my brother and my present-hunt to be upsetting as well.
“That takes all the fun out of it,” they say. “You’re supposed to be surprised.”
What I’ve come to realize, though, is that Christmas traditions are different for everyone. If you take away the traditions, the true meaning remains. While I appreciate the traditions of Christmas, especially my family’s traditions, I am very thankful that my parents placed such an emphasis on what Christmas is truly about.
Whether you’re writing letters to Santa or digging through the trunk of your mom’s car to find gifts, Christmas is ultimately about celebrating the birth of our Savior and celebrating it with those we love.