About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

My First Christmas Without Santa Claus

My Sister, Mary (on the left) and Me When We Were Believers

I’ve never been a mom so I’ve never had to confront the age old question whether to tell the kids to get those Christmas wishes to Santa or tell the little cherubs there is no Santa and that all their presents are from Mom and Dad.
I can only rely on my own childhood experiences to determine which way I would have gone with the dilemma of truth or consequences about Santa. 

My parents went with the age old concept of a jolly old guy with a white beard dressed in red who made toys at the North Pole and delivered them to the good children of the world riding on his sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer ALL IN ONE NIGHT!

My parents were pretty dang crafty about the whole Santa thing. None of Santa’s presents were wrapped. My parents realized my sister and I would immediately know the truth if we ever found any of the wrapping paper from Santa’s presents with the regular present wrapping paper. Kids are like little detectives and they are relentless about seeking the truth. My sister and I would have investigated even the trash cans looking for any suspicious wrapping paper.

Sometimes we would try to trick them by picking up one of the unwrapped presents and ask, “Is this from you, Mom?” or “Is this from you, Pop?” They would either say, “No, not from me”, or throw the question back at us with something like, “I don’t know. Who do you think it’s from?” Very cunning, indeed.

Naturally, they liked to reinforce the Santa Claus myth by reading T’WAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS to us on Christmas Eve. I have to say, I was all in, a genuine believer. It was the most magical time of my life, those years of wonder and belief.

And then I turned eight.

I questioned everything on Heaven and Earth. Was Jesus real? I would sit on the monkey bars on the playground behind the school across the dirt road from our house and stare up at the sky and ask God to send me a sign if Jesus was real. Was Santa Claus real? Some kids in my class had already made the transition to the dark side and had become nonbelievers. They didn’t have a problem with standing on the teacher’s desk to announce the cold words, “There is no Santa Claus.” So, I went to the “knower of all things”—my parents. They insisted Santa was real. He was the spirit of Christmas, of giving joy. For the first time, I doubted them. I felt they were trying to evade me. It shook me up on the inside to doubt them.

My older sister, by one year, and I decided to investigate. If the parents were responsible for the presents they said were from Santa, they must have them hidden somewhere. Down the rabbit hole of doubt, deception, and discovery we went. We searched every closet, every dresser drawer, every cabinet, and then under our parents’ bed. It was there in the quiet, shadowy place under their bed where we discovered our portable record player and other presents that would be declared as gifts from Santa.

A battle began inside me in that moment. I felt elation that my sister and I had found our presents and discovered the truth about Santa, and the stilling reality that our parents had lied and there was no Santa Claus. We looked at one another for a moment as the light of Christmas magic died in our eyes and then, wordlessly, we put everything back under the bed just as we found it. Sometimes the truth hurts, but it also enlightens.

For a time, it felt like God had died and my parents had told me an unforgivable lie. How would the world ever move back on its axis and make me feel happy again?

And then the enlightenment part came to me. My parents had given me a gift, a magical childhood filled with wonder, belief in things beyond what I can see, touch, taste, or feel except in my heart and spirit. They fed my imagination and made me feel anything is possible. That’s a powerful and wonderful feeling and I am so grateful for it. Memories of my parents and Christmases as a “believer” have sustained me through some tough times.

I’m certain it must be a difficult decision for parents whether they tell their children about Santa Claus or tell them the stark truth. Did you tell your kids about Santa Claus, or did you tell them their presents were from the people who loved them completely? What was your Santa experience?

I want to wish all of you a wonderful Christmas filled with joy, wonder, and gratitude. And for those of you who celebrate another kind of holiday, I wish the greatest of happiness.

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. Some of her fantasy and paranormal books may also be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Victory Tales Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:


  1. I was told a little too young, and out of anger, there was no Santa. So, I've tried to keep the magic alive for my children for as long as possible. And when one of the boys figured it out, he was required to keep it quiet. We have a rule: you must "believe to receive." That's about Santa and gifts. We also believe in Jesus.


    1. Denise, I am so glad to see how you turned a negative event into something positive for your own kids. You're giving them such great memories they will keep with them always.
      I don't know if I made it clear or not in this blog, but when I got over my realization that Santa Claus had not brought our Christmas presents, I returned to my faith. It's not like I really lost it. You can't be mad at somebody you don't believe in. Faith in itself is a gift. I know a few people who have no faith in God or any other higher power even though they may wish they could believe. When things look bleak, they have nothing to turn to for strength and comfort. You might well imagine how terrible that must be for them. I don't think they understand faith doesn't come from logic; it comes from feelings and an open heart. Don't you wish you could just give that to someone, but we all have to come to it on our own. So we pray for them.
      I like your rule, "believe to receive". It applies to all things, doesn't it?
      Thank you so much for coming and sharing some Christmas thoughts with me. It was gettin' kind of lonesome up in here. I wish a wonderful and joy-filled Christmas to you and yours!

  2. I have fond memories of Santa Claus. I figured out it was my parents when I was about eight, but didn't come right out and tell them I knew because I wasn't sure if receiving gifts from Santa would end. lol I'm the oldest of five children and there is a nineteen year difference between me and the youngest sister. So Santa was always a part of my Christmas experience. :) For my kids, we had Santa. My eldest questioned everything from a young age and it was difficult to keep any secrets from her. lol We didn't wrap the gifts from Santa either. One time I left the price tag on one of Santa's gifts and my daughter questioned it. All I said was who do you think makes the toys for the toy shops? She filled in the answer herself. Santa, of course.

  3. Karen, we were the same age when we learned the awful truth. There are some things a kid just doesn't need to tell the parents, especially if it may cause the loss of presents. LOL
    That is a huge difference in age between you and your youngest sibling. Since my oldest sister was married by the time I was eight, Mary and I seemed like the only kids.
    Good answer for the inquiring daughter. LOL
    Have a wonderful and very merry Christmas, Karen, and thank you so much for commenting.

  4. This is one thing I do not remember, and I have tons of childhood memories. I don't recall anyone telling me there was no Santa Claus, or that I even doubted. My sister and I just went about the business of hoping we'd get this or that for Christmas...not really every seeing a Santa made this easy, I suppose.
    I think I was less curious than you, and certainly not as brave! With our own children, we said Santa Claus would bring the toys, and again, neither seemed to be curious about it.
    I've known people who felt traumatized when learning the truth...something I could never fathom. Merry Christmas, Sarah!

    1. Celia, I think this episode in my childhood sticks with me because I had an inner battle going on about Santa Claus and whether he was real or fiction before my sister and I discovered our presents.
      My parents were so different from other "normal" parents. They allowed a great deal of freedom to us for exploring, questioning, and they were open to helping us figure things out without just telling us the answer. We had very few distractions like TV and my parents didn't take us to amusement parks, zoos, or even out to eat that often. Those were special treats. We had plenty of time to wonder and think, to read and assimilate all the things we were curious about. They rarely criticized us. But the thing is, because they were so encouraging about discovering the truth, it was like a double-edged sword. We were encouraged to search for truth and, in so doing, discovered a lie. Of course, we realized most parents told their kids about Santa Claus just to make things more magical and fun. In retrospect, I think neither of us would have cared much if they had told us about who Santa really was before we discovered it for ourselves. As it was, we got over it after the initial shock and then we knew exactly who to aggravate for what we wanted for Christmas ever after. Ha ha I can't really imagine anyone being traumatized by such a thing. I can see where a kid who never got a present and nothing but a bologna sandwich for Christmas dinner might have some trauma...but being traumatized by finding out that your parents are the real Santas just says somebody's led an awfully spoiled and sheltered life. Just sayin'...
      Thanks so much for coming and sharing your thoughts, Celia. I know you're always going to lay it out there like it is--and that's one of the many things I love about you.

  5. You know, I don't remember when I first knew there wasn't a Santa. Because I knew my family bought the presents at the same time - they were under the tree and said "From Grandma to Gerald" and so on. I think at this young age, our grasp of the difference between reality and make-believe is fuzzy and we can believe in both at the same time.

    1. Maybe so, Gerald. Kids don't know enough about the world yet to NOT believe in some things, and other things they just try to figure out and maybe get wrong. I remember thinking the sun was held up in the sky by a hook.
      One of my dearest friends grew up in a very poor family. Their parents did not tell them Santa brought them presents because they didn't want the kids to have unreal expectations and be disappointed on Christmas morning. Very practical. Very forthright. No margin for error. He and his siblings were content and happy to get things like a new toothbrush in their favorite color or a ball and jacks instead of an air rifle or Betsy Wetsy doll (remember those weird dolls?). They loved new socks, a little bit of candy and an orange in their Christmas stocking. They grew up to be successful, happy adults.
      Thank you for coming, Gerald. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.


Comments relevant to the blog post are welcome as long as they are noninflammatory and appropriate for everyone of all ages to read.
Thank you for your interest and input.