Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Keeping Santa's Secrets

When I was a little girl, my parents never made a big deal about Santa Claus. I knew that he gave me some of my Christmas presents and that my parents gave me others, and I knew that I had to go to sleep on Christmas Eve or Santa wouldn’t come. And we always left him milk and cookies by the fireplace on Christmas Eve. But that was about it. We didn’t write letters to Santa or go to the mall to sit on his lap and tell him what we wanted for Christmas.

When I got older, however, I realized just how much my parents had done to maintain the illusion of Santa Claus for me and my sister. My mom carefully block printed every gift tag from Santa so we didn’t recognize her handwriting. She was careful to never wrap a present from Santa in the same wrapping paper as one from her and my dad. My dad always remembered to drink Santa’s milk and eat his cookies before we got up on Christmas morning. And although some of the gifts from family were left under the tree before Christmas Eve, the ones from Santa never appeared before Christmas morning.

My son, at age 3, is just starting to have a concept of Christmas, and of how Santa fits into the whole scheme of things. He knows that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, and he recognizes a manger scene as being where the baby Jesus was born. And he also knows that Santa will come on Christmas Eve and leave him presents. We’ve brought him to visit Santa at the mall in years past with mixed results, so it will be interesting to see how he reacts this year. He was pretty indifferent when we introduced him to “Santa” in the lobby of our Christmas show last weekend, but a Santa decked out with the whole red suit and attendant elves may be a different story.
But already I am discovering that I have to be a bit stealthy this year. Instead of asking him what he wants for Christmas, I asked him what he’s going to tell Santa he wants when we go visit him. I bought a bunch of wrapping paper while he was with me, and then realized that now I won’t be able to use that for presents from Santa. I have a box in my bedroom with all the Christmas presents I’ve gotten tucked into it, and I’m realizing that I have to be more careful to hide it from prying eyes. I remind myself that on Christmas Eve I need to drink the milk and nibble the cookies. I make a note to myself to practice some disguised writing for the gift tags. And I am even considering figuring out how to leave a few reindeer footprints on the porch if there’s snow on the ground on Christmas Eve.
It’s a weighty responsibility, keeping Santa’s secrets. But I think I’m up to the task. After all, I learned from an excellent elf!

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