I believed in Santa Claus until around age 9 or 10. I had gathered enough evidence over the previous two Christmases to prove that the old Saint Nick was indeed not the one delivering my many, wonderful gifts. The first time I ever questioned the magic of Santa, I curiously asked my father how it was possible for Mr. Claus to get in the house and leave gifts under our tree if we didn’t have a chimney. We lived in a row house in the middle of the city, so the story just didn’t add up. He quickly explained that Santa had a magic key that could get into any house in the world, including those without chimneys. That time I was satisfied with the answer, and my joy and belief in Christmas remained intact. I happily went on to leave Santa some saltine crackers and milk, as we were out of cookies that year.
It was not until I realized that Santa’s handwriting on my gifts was eerily similar to my mother’s that I grew suspicious. I knew that no one else in a 25-mile radius signed anything in a French Cadel style. When I asked my mother if she was the one labeling the gifts, she simply said “No, I didn’t.” From that point on, I was looking to disprove Santa’s existence and let my parents know I knew they were lying. Putting the clues together was almost more fun that actually believing. Another year, I noticed that my father (I know it was him) left the Walmart labels on my Bowwow CDs. I asked him why the CD’s said “Walmart” if they were from Santa. He told me that in recent years, Santa had outsourced from the North Pole to Walmart because kids were asking for too many toys or something. I was not at all convinced, but I needed concrete evidence to prove my case.
The year after that, I just found one of my sister’s gifts behind the couch. They didn’t even try that time. I went to my parents and let them know the jig was up, and they told me the truth. There was no Santa, no Mrs. Claus, no Rudolph, no magic elves, and while reindeer may have been real, they definitely did not fly. I remember being very satisfied with my little detective skills, and promised not to tell my younger sister about the fake Santa until she was old enough. That was the end of the innocent, childish joy of Christmas for me, but it was fun while it lasted.
I will forever appreciate my parents for their selflessness in letting their children believe. I understand that many parents hate the idea of “working all year and letting some strange white man take all the credit,” but your kids simply do not care about your financial struggles. Also, if it means that much to you, you can show them the many images of Black Santa. No 6-year-old cares a bit about how much you paid for their bike or dollhouse as long as they got it. They just want to have fun and be happy. Trying to force them to appreciate your hard work will not make them appreciate your hard work. It does children a disservice to deny them a part of their childhood for selfish reasons. It is not your child’s fault that you will be in a tight spot until February because you wanted to give them a nice Christmas. I understand not wanting to celebrate the holiday altogether for religious or spiritual reasons, but if you do, let the kids be.
If anything, believing in Santa teaches children a crucial lesson: that they will be held accountable for their actions by entities outside of their loving parents. They learn that they can be rewarded for being polite and responsible, and miss out for being nasty and reckless. They will be judged by something that they cannot manipulate as easily as they do their parents and family members.
Regardless of what you do or don’t believe in, have a safe and happy holiday season with your friends and family. Stay safe, stay warm, and don’t leave your presents in the back seat of your car. How did you learn about Santa growing up?