Let me say this and not mince words. If you raise your children to not believe in Santa Claus, you’re failing as a parent. I don’t care what your argument is, it’s invalid. The joy in a child’s eyes when he or she wakes up on Christmas morning and sees toys under the tree that were not there the night before is unmatched. And as a kid, the breathless anticipation of what awaits you the next morning makes it so you can barely sleep. There’s always the argument that Christmas is a Christian holiday and all that, but really it’s the quintessential American holiday. Although the celebration of Christ’s birth and Christmas are the same day and share the same name, they’re two entirely different beasts. You can believe in Santa Claus without ever setting foot inside a church. They are not mutually inclusive.
Then there’s the Judaism thing. Celebrate Hanukkah with its eight crazy nights and then celebrate Christmas. Take your kid out to the mall to see Santa Claus. Have them bake cookies and leave a glass of milk out for Santa. For God’s sake make them watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It’s joy, dammit! Do you know how little actual joy there is in life? Christmas is one of the few times I can remember being so happy I couldn’t hardly stand it. I’d kill to have some of those moments back. Finding out that Santa wasn’t real wasn’t a huge shock to me, because by the time I did, the realism of the world had already started to set in. Besides, I still got gifts and that helped smooth the transition. This story isn’t about how I came to find out Santa wasn’t real, it’s about how I stayed convinced for a few extra years. And try as you might, you can’t take those memories from me.
By the time Christmas of my 9th year rolled around, I had already been told by my classmates that Santa wasn’t real. My family never made a huge production out of Santa, but he came to our house nonetheless. I’ve always been good at “the suspension of disbelief” and I can lose myself in the entertainment of a movie or a book without concerning myself with its feasibility. Santa Claus played into this wonderfully. I was still happy to be young and naive.
That particular Christmas Eve when I was 9, we’d returned from the annual Christmas party at my grandparents’ house and were carrying out our usual Christmas traditions. This consisted of baking cookies and watching A Christmas Story on TBS. Christmas Eve was also the one night of the year that my dad would wear his Playboy night shirt. It really was as ridiculous as it sounds, and we loved it. A 5 foot long t-shirt with a big ass playboy bunny on it, made even funnier by the fact that my dad is not a small man. Such a normal family we were…
About 10:30 or so, my mom would usher me off to bed and and my older brother would have to follow soon too. She said it was because she had to finish wrapping presents, which she usually did. In my younger years, I would sleep in the extra bed in my brother’s room, so he could make sure I didn’t run off into the living room in the middle of the night and scare off Santa. I probably made that idea up in my mind, but what can I say? I’m a glutton for suspense.
This particular Christmas, I went to bed and tried my best to fall asleep. Not happening. I was way too excited. I can’t really remember what I’d asked for, but this was to be a banner year at the Lutz Residence. If I got even half of my requests, I’d be fully stocked on fun for months to come.
I awoke at the crack of dawn, and tried to wake my brother up. No such luck. He was in that middle to late teenage stage where you sleep 67 hours a day. So I rushed into my parents room to wake them up. “Go back to sleep till 8:00, then we’ll go open presents.” My mom said. I trudged back into my brother’s room, defeated.
I watched the clock tick until 8:00 and I was out of the bed the moment the digits rolled over. I kicked my bro in the back and hoofed it back into my parents’ room to get them up. They rolled out of bed and my mom just about had to grab the collar of my pajamas to get keep me from running off before my dad had a chance to find the camera. I was like a rottweiler rearing to be unleashed.
Finally it was time. I tore down the hallway, dodging the clothes hamper and wrapping paper rolls and laid my eyes upon the most beautiful sight at 9 year old could wish; a living room overflowing with gifts. I remember this as the year we got several Super Nintendo games. It might have even been the year we finally got the system itself, it’s hard to remember exactly.
After opening all our gifts and checking our stockings, it was time for breakfast. My dad would always make bacon, eggs, and grits for Christmas breakfast. As I was sitting there at the table eating with my family, he asked me if I had gotten everything I wanted, just like in A Christmas Story. I was sure that I had, but he said I had one more present in store. “Take a look out back.” He told me.
I giddily rose from my spot at the table, wondering what it could be, and peeked through the sliding glass door. There in the backyard was a brand new, full-size trampoline. I was in shock. That most decidedly was not there the night before. How else would it have gotten there if it weren’t for Santa? I was smart enough to know that trampolines did not come fully assembled from the store and certainly not on Christmas Eve night.
Mom made put on some warm clothes, but once I did, I jumped on that thing until she made me come in after dark. I had the time of my life on that thing. It was better than your typical trampoline too. It was about six to 8 inches taller than most trampolines and had much softer springs so you could jump really high. Over the years we devised countless games to play on it. Dodgeball, Criss-Cross, Break the egg. We even had a plastic basketball goal that sat on a table by it so we could dunk like Michael Jordan. Oddly enough, I never got hurt on that trampoline, which was pretty much a death trap; it had no mats covering the springs or those retention nets to keep people from flying off. It was my neighbor’s trampoline with all the safety devices that I shattered my elbow on.
Slowly, over the next few years as the realization that Santa Claus wasn’t real set in, I always kept this trampoline thing in the back of my head. I found out that Santa was fake long before I actually figured out how that trampoline got there. It turns out that my brother and my dad put it together in the dark after I went to bed. It took them till 1 or 2 in the morning to complete, and they did all that just to see the joy on my face. That’s what Christmas is all about, folks. Joy. It’s the most American of all things. Underneath all the commercialism and political correctness, there’s a smiling kid who just got the surprise of a lifetime and who gets to believe in something magical for that much longer. If you deprive your child of that, damn you.
Merry F’n Christmas!