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: