Nine years ago I found out one of the world’s most well-kept secrets — a classified and undisclosed fib among adults and some children alike. Santa Claus isn’t real.
It was just before winter break, and I was in the sixth grade. I know — I was a pretty steadfast believer compared to most. As my class watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and picked away at red frosted cupcakes, I heard my math teacher tell a student that even if Santa were real, not even he would gift the present of extra credit.
I was devastated, shocked, sad and a little embarrassed that I held onto the hope of a large, magical man shimmying down every chimney in the world for so long. My house didn’t even have a chimney.
Then it hit me. My parents, just like many others, spent a great deal of time and money to keep that secret alive.
Each year, they ate the dry cookies, drank the lukewarm milk, produced fake boot tracks and shelled out the cash for Barbie’s newest beach bungalow. It put things in perspective.
After the short stint of sadness wore off, I became grateful to my parents and excited to know that I too could keep the tradition going.
I believe there are lessons to be learned from Santa Claus — when we believe and when we eventually find the truth.
However, there are some parents that simply don’t believe in making the myth of Santa part of Christmas for their family. That is OK — there are plenty of ways to enjoy Christmas that doesn’t involve the big guy. There is no one right way to celebrate the season.
There are also those that think the myth perpetuates greed and a sense of hierarchy between good kids and bad kids and families with high incomes versus low incomes. Sometimes, that is true.
Whether we realized it or not as children, not everyone received presents on Christmas morning. As a kid, I just assumed that most of my friends ravaged through well-wrapped gifts from Santa every year. The rule in my house was to never brag about our presents at school, and one day that finally made sense.
I really understood the meaning of being thankful for what I had when others didn’t after finding out about the truth.
It is a sensitive subject to think about the haves and have not’s during the holidays.
There are many people who go without basic necessities, let alone a present for Christmas. Children all over the world write letters to Santa and get nothing in return. So, it is understandable that the joyful myth can also produce some sadness.
However, Santa is much more than a myth or a man with the ability to hand out millions of presents.
Santa represents magic and a sense of belief in what we cannot always see. He brings a little bit of wonder and fascination to the season.
We only stay innocent-minded children for so long. I, for one, would much rather write my wish list to Santa than fill out a FAFSA form and rip open his reply than tear apart a bank statement. These childhood feelings last just a short while, but the memories of them last a lifetime.
Parents shouldn’t be discouraged to let their children believe in Santa simply because they are worried their kid will turn into a greedy little monster.
Santa can teach children at an early age that it is a wonderful thing to give to those you don’t know. We should all aspire to be like Santa — someone who gives back to those who bring good into the world.
Presents in moderation and an appreciative attitude can help kids enjoy the fun of the myth, while still engaging in the charitable aspects of Christmas.
Instead of making the holiday about Santa or no Santa, make the season about giving a little more than we receive, being thankful when we do and allowing ourselves to believe in the good, even if we can’t always see it.
Hailey Stewart can be reached at email@example.com