Friday, December 24, 2010

I believe

I saw Santa. Not the mall Santa, or any of the other imposters, but Santa.

Let me back up. It happened when I was four or five, the exact year has since been forgotten. But what remains is an incredibly vivid memory  –  though when pushed I’ll reluctantly admit it must have been a dream. I remember waking up and crossing the hall to go to the bathroom and looking to the left in our ranch-style house and seeing Santa in the living room. My little kid brain processed it fast as “oh no, Santa won’t leave us the toys if he saw me.” So I quietly hung out in the bathroom leaving Santa a reasonable amount of time to finish his work before scurrying back to bed face straight ahead lest I catch another glimpse of Santa and put my family’s Christmas in jeopardy. This story has become the stuff of lore in my family.

Now as a 30-something, I KNOW that I didn’t really see Santa. And my Dad swears he never put on a Santa suit to put presents around the tree on the off chance one of us woke up. Yes, I’ve asked multiple times. But man, the memory is so real there’s a part of me that has to wonder. It probably doesn’t hurt that my Dad has always loved playing up the Santa factor. For years and years we’d sit anxiously on the step or down the hallway as my parents tortured us with the obligatory Christmas morning photo of us in our PJs straining like racehorses in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby just wanting to get to the finish line. I mean tree. And all the while my Dad would ask in a playful sing-song voice, “I wonder if Santa came” with a huge smile and a definite twinkle in his eye. He still does it when my husband and I stay with them for Christmas. And I can’t wait till he does it with our kids someday.

My parents would probably be chagrined to know that those simple moments are my favorite Christmas Day memories – the lasting traditions from my childhood. Don’t get me wrong the presents were great. And I certainly wouldn’t turn down another family Christmas vacation in Hawaii, but for me there’s nothing like getting up Christmas morning and seeing the presents under the tree and Dad chuckling asking if I thought Santa came.

Here’s a sampling of what brings others holiday cheer:

Jennifer Hofer Mills (via Facebook): I can tell you why I still believe in Santa! Many, many years ago (too many to count, so DON'T TRY!) my brother and I thought we were so smart because we figured out that Santa wasn't real. And we decided to prove it to our folks. Our tradition was to go out to eat on Christmas Eve and look at Christmas lights. When we came home, Santa had been there and we opened all our presents (Dad worked night shifts). So this time we were in charge of the house. We searched first, then walked our parents outside. One of us watched them while the other one did another walk through and locked the door. They kept trying to go back in because they forgot something or they had to go to the bathroom, but we stopped every trick! Boy, were they laughing. We knew the next door neighbors were all out of town, and so were our parent's best friends. There was nobody available to help them be sneaky. After looking at the lights we came home, watched our parents like hawks and unlocked the door. I was so sure that I had ruined Christmas and that nothing would be there. I remember how scared I was to turn that lock... But Santa had been there! To this day, I know that there is no way my parents were responsible for those beautiful presents. When I ask Mom how they got there, I still get the knowing look and the same answer. It was Santa! I truly believe, and I love that my 7 and 3 year old believe too.

Megan Brooks (via Facebook): Several Christmas Eves ago when I was right out of college and living in Indiana I spent the night with my brother and his family. The three kids and I decorated cookies, made a gingerbread house, and watched Christmas movies. That's when I figured out kids make Christmas so much better :-).

Lisa Starnes (via Facebook): While I'm not a mom (unless my four-legged dachshund children count), my favorite family tradition involves a mom! Every year, my mom makes us a traditional Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner, to honor our heritage. My mom and aunt are both full-blooded Ukrainians - my great grandparents came over on the same boat from Ukraine, but didn't meet until landing in the States, or so the story goes. It may have morphed some over the years to increase its dramatic appeal - call it artistic license! Dinner is meat-free (another tradition based on our family's Catholic roots), and consists of pierogis, a dumpling filled with potatoes, cheese and onions, plus an assortment of sides. I remember as a little girl, my grandma, mom and I made the pierogies and sides from scratch. I really enjoy taking a moment to remember my Ukrainian heritage every year, and now my German husband gets a little taste of the Old Country too.

Mick Doherty (via Facebook): When I was 16, my mom had been bugging me for *months* to shave off my then-new mustache. So for Christmas, just for her, I did so. She didn't NOTICE until New Year's Day when the rest of the family just burst into shared laughter at the whole thing.

Sheree Henson (via Facebook): When I was a child, we decorated the Christmas tree on my birthday. I felt like the Christmas tree was mine the entire season.

Merry Christmas whether you’re celebrating old traditions or starting new ones!

Jennifer Erickson is a Sr. Public Relations Specialist and has been pretty nice all year so is hoping for a happy and relaxing Christmas this year.

Santa art courtesy of

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