Shocking, I know. But sometimes, the truth hurts.
When asked about something that shocked me, my first thought was the truth about Santa Claus, and the other made up figures of my childhood (Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc.). I thought back to how I found out the ugly truth… My mom asked me to go up to her closet one day in December to grab her slippers. She always kept all of the presents for Christmas in her closet, but they were usually pretty well hidden. When I got into her closet, however, I saw “Horse-opoly” sticking out between her shoe bins (a horse version of Monopoly). Flash forward to Christmas day. I saw my little sister open the game and she was so excited about it. I asked her, “Oh, is that from mom and dad??” And she replied, “No, it’s from Santa!!!” Needless to say, I felt confused, shocked, and betrayed at the same time.
I found myself wondering about the history of Santa Claus–how had this myth come to be? Why did parents go along with this myth and let their children believe in Santa Claus? As it turns out, Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, lived in Turkey in the 4th century. He was remembered for helping people in various ways, but some stories seem to have been blown out of proportion. After his death, French Nun’s would apparently leave gifts at the homes of children at night in his honor. This is where the idea of Santa Claus leaving gifts came from, I’m guessing. There was also an annual feast held in his honor on December 25 after his death, so there is the connection with Christmas day. Eventually, the tradition was brought to the United States by Dutch Settlers. This is a very brief (and likely butchered) history of Saint Nicholas, but finding reliable sources on the matter was fairly difficult. In some way or another, Saint Nick managed to become a part of Christian culture and ended up being idolized by children who believed in him. I’m definitely guilty of writing letters to Santa when I was a kid, and I do not know which is more embarrassing to me: the fact that I wrote them, or the fact that my dad answered them (telling me that, in fact, I could NOT ride in Santa’s sleigh tonight).
This tradition is likely to continue, which I think is fine. Part of the magic of Christmas as a child is believing that Santa climbed through your chimney to bring you presents at night. While this is a large misconception that I held as a child, I know that my children will probably be tricked into thinking the same thing. Christmas has transformed into something different for my family now that my sisters and I are old enough to know the truth, but it was fun while it lasted. After all, what’s wrong with a little Christmas spirit?