Every kid loves Christmas and as a kid I was no different, I can remember not sleeping at all waiting for the very first glimpse of the sunrise so that I could rush downstairs, wake up mom and dad and tear open the presents with my name on them.
My Mennonite traditions surrounding Christmas looks a little different than most Canadians, instead of presents wrapped up under the tree, we set a large bowl in our place at the table and as Santa made his way around the world he would stop at our house, walk in through the front door and place our gifts in, around and under our spot at the table.
One year we had relatives over from Mexico and I had to give up my bed so they could have a comfy place to sleep. That meant that me and some of the other kids slept on the living room floor on Christmas eve.
Well the living room and the kitchen were right next to each other, the doorway in between was a large arched doorway and I knew that since we were able to see right into the kitchen I would undoubtedly see Santa that night so I positioned myself closest to the door so that I would be the first one to see him.
We weren’t supposed to see Santa so my parents hung a big blanket across the doorway, they warned us that we need to be sleeping or Santa would not stop here, he sees us when we’re sleeping after all. The blanket wasn’t quite long enough to reach all the way to the floor so I could see the floor of the kitchen and just as I was about to fall asleep I heard the squeak of the front door and then a loud slam of that front door, Santa was here! I tried really hard to keep my eyes closed but he stomped so loudly around the room and I knew it was him because he wore those signature Santa boots that I could see through the gap between the blanket and the floor, and then… he left.
Now I know that it was actually my uncle or my dad wearing those boots though neither have ever admitted it, I know the blanket was hung with a gap on purpose and I know that we had to sleep on the living room floor so my parents could keep the Santa thing going a little longer.
But I will always cherish that memory, I will always see that night as the peak of my childhood Christmas memories.
Now as a parent I want to keep the mystery alive, and I know as a Christian there is a little bit of controversy about whether or not to continue the lie that is Santa Clause, and part of me agrees but another part is like what’s the big deal? We let them watch Disney movies with make believe characters and we never debate whether or not to tell them that Cinderella isn’t real, or that Woody from Toy Story doesn’t actually get up and run around when their not in the room.
This is a child’s imagination, one given to them by God their creator, it’s children that come up with the silliest stories, children are the ones that make us smile when we don’t feel like smiling, it’s their innocence combined with their imagination that makes them so special.
I know people will tell you stories that they were devastated when they found out Santa wasn’t real, but for me it was a coming of age thing, I never resented my parents for lying to me, I thank them for keeping the mysterious Santa alive as long as they could, even if part of the reason was so I would behave.
Maybe Santa is about as real as Shrek, but I don’t make a point of telling my boys that Shrek isn’t real, let them grow their imagination, that is where our creative side comes from, it’s where the greatest artists and musicians will tell you they pull from before they come up with their best work.
So I may put a little less emphasis on the big guy in the red suit, and I will absolutely use this season to teach my boys the reason we celebrate the birth of a baby in a manger, but to destroy their imagination is most definitely not in my agenda.
Another tradition my family had growing up was on new years eve we were all allowed to stay up and ring in the new year. While the adults sipped on their alcohol, us kids played with whatever Santa brought us and most of us didn’t last until the moment the ball dropped. We woke up on the other side of the night and carried about our busy childhoods unknowingly some of the luckiest kids in the world.
Our families were together, we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. We were able to go to school because mom and dad made enough money to provide, though sometimes I don’t think I realized how close they came to rock bottom.
My childhood was blessed and I will be forever thankful for it. Not all of the traditions that I knew growing up will make the cut into my kids’ memories but the love will, the mystery of Santa will and hopefully the fondness of the memories will also.
Christmas and New Years Eve will be those days when I look back with a nostalgic happiness, and since I’ve become such an emotional wreck anymore I’ll probably shed a tear or two of joy, a few more when I think of the less fortunate and more still when I think about that Baby born in a cold manger, as the lumps in my throat grow as you read please take a minute right now to look around you and realize just how much God has looked after you, remember that a Baby was born so that He could die… for you.
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