Most of my friends stopped believing in Santa Claus when we were 8 years old. Unlike so many kids who hear the cold and harsh truth from a neighborhood bully, nobody ever told me that the big guy from the North Pole was actually my parents.
Sure, I heard rumors, and my friends and I would talk about it at our lunch table. They would tell me stories of what their parents had said to them during "the talk," but the truth is, I pitied them. I felt like they were outside of this warm and colorful circle that I was in no rush to leave. I also still genuinely believed in Santa - something that lasted for a solid four years after everyone else stopped. And that's because of my mom.
My first kick in the gut came when I asked for a Discman for Christmas. I opened the box on Christmas morning, which was labeled "From, Santa," and I could hardly contain my joy. Then my mom accidentally said, "I'm so glad you love it! It took me forever to find that." My face (and my heart) immediately fell. I realized then that all the Christmas magic I had been so desperately holding onto was gone.
As we've gotten older, my mom has even come up with new ideas to keep Santa alive, because she can truly never reach her cap on filling our lives with magic.
I was devastated, and I decided to confront my parents about the truth. They insisted Santa was real, which is something they still do to this day. I am currently 30 years old.
While Christmas wasn't the same for me after that year (I was 13, which is probably an embarrassing age to stop believing in Santa but just shows how much my mom wanted to keep it special), I realized that the magic didn't really have to go away. I knew Santa wasn't real, my parents knew that I knew, but I also realized that the "magic" I cherished as a child had more to do with the traditions we did as a family than Santa himself.
My sister and I would write Santa a letter every Christmas Eve, my mom would put out some of her famous sugar cookies, and we would look out the window for any signs of a sleigh flashing across the moon. While we don't do the letter or intense Santa-watch anymore, cookies are still left out, we track ol' Saint Nick online, and half of our presents are still labeled "From, Santa."
As we've gotten older, my mom has even come up with new ideas to keep Santa alive, because she can truly never reach her cap on filling our lives with magic. In recent years, she (sorry, "Santa") has started putting a few presents under a small Christmas tree on our back porch. Just when we think Christmas morning is over, she smiles and says, "I think I saw Santa leave a few more things outside." My sister and I (and our husbands) all race to the other tree like excited kids, because on Christmas morning . . . that's exactly what we are.
I recently asked my mom why it's been so important to her to keep Christmas so innocent and wonderful, and what she told me is something I will cherish forever. "Christmas is our family's favorite holiday, and no matter how old, mature, and responsible you get, I want you to know that you never have to grow up or stop dreaming. Christmas is magical, and as a mom, I always want to make sure you feel that. My mom did it for me, and I know you'll do it for your own kids someday . . . no matter how old they get."
It was magical, Mom. And it still is. Thank you.