The first Christmas I remember clearly was when I was two years old. We lived in Alabama where Decembers were usually too warm for snow. A knock came upon our front door. My mother told me to look outside as she opened the door. On the front porch was a small racecar track set on a piece of plywood. She told me that Santa Claus had left it for me.
While I stared at it, not understanding whom Santa Claus was, my father snuck back through the house and showed up behind us. He carefully picked up the board and car set and brought it into the house for us to play. I didn’t know Santa, but it was neat that he dropped off the gift. But, why didn’t he stick around? What was the rush?
My mother explained that Santa had to deliver toys to all the kids in the world and just didn’t have time to meet everyone.
The mystery of Santa Claus worried me the following Christmas. Songs of Christmas and Santa played on our record player. Who was this Santa Claus and how did he always know what I was doing and whether I was naughty or nice? This troubled me. I thought only God had such power.
At a department store, my mother took me to see Santa. He gave me a piece of candy that I didn’t like, so I tucked it inside my coat pocket. When I got home, I took the plastic wrapper off the candy and tossed it in the toilet. The second I did this; I suddenly remember that Santa had probably watched me do this. I quickly tried to flush the candy, but it didn’t go down. I lowered the lid and hurried to the living room. Now I feared Santa wouldn’t give me any presents. Why should he? After all, I had thrown his candy away.
Christmas came and I got nice presents. Had Santa missed me throwing away the candy? Or, was it candy that he didn’t like, either? It no longer mattered. I had toys to occupy my time.
I don’t recall how young I was when I discovered that Santa didn’t really exist and that presents were placed under the tree by my parents. Maybe when I entered preschool someone had told me. But the leverage that you had to be good or you didn’t get presents from Santa no longer held validity. So, my parents played another song a LOT before Christmas. “I’m Gettin’ Nuttin’ for Christmas.” Not that I was a bad kid, but they still let me know that goodness earned presents and being bad had severe consequences.
Nowadays, it’s difficult to find kids that believe in Santa. The hustle and bustle of Christmas and its commercialization has soured many people and children. At family gatherings I have seen kids open presents and snub their noses at their gifts. Parents run up huge Christmas tabs on their credit cards and have lost sight of what Christmas is truly about. What happened to the days when gifts had more meaning than the cost?
Santa once haunted my youth, but seeing a traditional holiday mired by Black Friday and fist fights over gifts haunts me even more. Give the greatest gifts ever—love, respect, and time. Life is too short not to share these.