There Was No Santa Claus.
December 25th was winding down when Dylan said, quite seriously, “Today didn’t really feel like Christmas.”
“Yeah,” Shane agreed.
After a jam-packed day of presents, food and family, I wasn’t sure how to take this. So I just said, “What makes you say that?”
“I don’t know,” Dylan said. “It was nice and all, but it didn’t feel like Christmas.”
“Maybe you’re just getting too old to enjoy it,” I told him, only half jokingly. Honestly, it hadn’t felt much like Christmas to me, either. It was a nice day, and everyone seemed to enjoy their gifts. We spent some pleasant time with family.
But it didn’t feel magical.
At bedtime I asked Shane, “Why do you think it didn’t feel like Christmas? What do you think was missing?”
Shane didn’t hesitate. “Nothing was missing,” he said. “It just didn’t feel like Christmas.”
I thought back through the day. We didn’t do our usual dramatic filming of the walk down the stairs this morning. I didn’t snap a photo every time a child opened a present. And I didn’t videotape every moment of Christmas morning.
I enjoyed watching this year, instead of recording. Dylan even mentioned it later: “I really liked that there wasn’t a camera pointed at me all morning!”
Looking back, that was the only difference in Christmas this year compared to last year – with one exception.
This year, there was no Santa Claus.
Sure, the presents were labeled with tags that said “from Santa.” But Shane declared that he no longer believed in Santa. Still, I’ve never moved presents when a kid was awake – and I was willing to wake in the wee hours to keep the ruse alive.
At one point, I told my husband I wanted to go to bed, and that I would get up at 1 a.m.
“Why would you get up at 1 a.m.?” he asked. He didn’t seem to have a clue. I didn’t want to talk too loudly about it, since Dylan was still awake, so I stayed quiet.
But at 10:00, my husband suggested to Dylan that he close his bedroom door because “Santa and Mrs. Claus were tired.” So Dylan shut the door and lay there, awake, listening to us shuffling about.
Then that same husband, who so blatantly disregarded the magic on Christmas Eve, sat next to me on Christmas morning and repeatedly said “your mom” in place of “Santa” while the kids were opening their presents.
My husband made this decision alone – to toss Santa out the window. But the magic went right out the window, too.
I am 50 years old and my parents still haven’t taken credit for any of the presents labeled “from Santa” that were under my childhood trees. I don’t remember any revelation or any secrets. I just know that those presents always came from Santa.
So the presents I put under the tree are also “from Santa.” But this year, no one paid any attention. They gave Santa about as much credit as they would give to a passing stranger. The gifts just appeared, and people opened them and talked about them like it was just a big birthday celebration.
Which, of course, it is – after all.
Maybe now, we’re ready to move to the next phase: the one where Christmas is not so much about the magic of sparkling gifts under a lighted tree as it is about the magic of love and joy, spread through the world on this one special day.
Maybe next year, we’ll be able to celebrate Christmas.