I haven’t had much to say lately, but wanted to talk a bit about Christmas, seeing as it’s coming up here very soon.
As a kid, Christmas was the usual Big Deal. I believed whole-heartedly in Santa Claus until I was about 11 years old (late bloomer?). My parents bought presents all year and stashed them at my grandparents’ house so we would have lots of presents on Christmas day. My parents would wake up first in the morning (or had they never gone to sleep?), start a fire in the fireplace, put on some Christmas music, and wait for us to wake up.
We’d get up earlier than we had all year, step into the living room. The fire would be glowing, the soft music in the background made everything feel happy, and some good smells would be wafting in from the kitchen. We’d see the over-stuffed stockings hanging from the mantle with candies and other goodies peeking out the top. We’d rush into the den to see the Christmas tree all lit up with presents piled underneath and strewn around it.
We were allowed to “open” our stockings, but had to wait for Nana and Grandpa before opening presents. They usually arrived around 9 AM, so it was a long wait. Once they showed up, we’d rush them into the den, get them seated, and waited probably impatiently to start opening presents. We had a rule in our house–my dad would pass one present out to each person, and then we opened them one at a time. Our present-opening took a few hours at the least.
It was a fun time. I remember those Christmases fondly, and they make me smile.
My parents always stressed the importance of giving. I loved to give gifts… but I loved to get them, too. We made out Christmas lists, and I can remember be disappointed if I didn’t get the first or second thing on my list–even though I’d get at least a dozen large toys. Even in the “season of giving,” we were being taught to be selfish. My parents were simply doing what their parents weren’t able to do: provide a “big” Christmas. Would I have enjoyed my childhood more if, instead of spending all that money on all those toys, we had gone on a family vacation or two? Sometimes I wonder if not spending that money on Christmas might have saved my parent’s marriage in some way.
I remember when I figured out Santa wasn’t real. I guess most of my peers knew before I did, but I was a sensitive kid with a trusting heart. My parents were already divorced, and I was living with my mom. I had a hard time falling asleep one Christmas Eve and my mom didn’t wait long enough to put the presents out. I heard her, sneaked down the hallway, and took a peek right as she was writing “Santa” on the “from” line on a gift tag.
I cried myself to sleep that night. I didn’t cry because Santa wasn’t real. I cried because my parents had lied to me for my whole life. I cried because I was sure my sister already knew and I was the last one to know. I cried because I felt left out and embarrassed for not figuring it out sooner. I cried for all those stupid letters I’d written.
Many years later, when I was trying to figure out God, I struggled. Many atheists use an analogy comparing God to Santa in order to de-convert young Christians. I wasn’t really a Christian, but had never thought that God wasn’t. For a while, I thought maybe I had to give up God kind of like I gave up Santa–they were pretty much the same anyway, right?
Now I wonder sometimes if my parents hadn’t lied to me about a man who knows everything you do and will judge you to decide if you get a present or not, if maybe I would have been more receptive to the Christian message. I had a chance to go to church with a friend. She invited me to her confirmation when I was in seventh grade–I declined and told her I didn’t believe in God, so it would be uncomfortable for me. She said she understood, but that the invitation to go to church with her family would be open anyway.
I never went with her. I was sure I was right. I wonder if that whole Santa lie fed into that. I don’t know, but it’s not something I’m willing to chance with my kids.
I told a friend about how Nate and I won’t “do” Santa with our kids. She laughed at me a little and told me I was being silly when I told her, “I just don’ see how you can lie to your kids about Santa for years and then turn around and prove to them you aren’t lying to them about God.” She said, “Well, I believed in Santa and God growing up and when I figured out Santa wasn’t real, it didn’t really affect my view of God.” She didn’t think kids would feel like their parents had lied to them. I didn’t ever tell her my story–I figured she’d think it was a one-in-a-million kind of case.
Anyway, tomorrow, Nate and I will be leaving for Houston to spend Christmas with my family. I look forward to it as another time to spend with them, when everyone has time off work, and we can spend more than one night together.