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What it's Like To Grow Up Without Santa

Photograph by Twenty20

It was Christmas Eve and we attended our church service as usual. I sang along with the carols and listened to the Christmas story, but it was all that I could do to contain my excitement. The pinnacle of the year was almost here—it was almost Christmas! We went home and I was sent to bed at the normal hour, though I was anything but sleepy. As an only child, I had nothing but my thoughts and imagination to lull me to sleep. This was quite ineffective on a night like Christmas Eve.

I heard noises out in the living room, and as I stared into the blackness of my bedroom ceiling, I tried to imagine what was going on out there by the Christmas tree. I wondered what wonderful toys might be waiting for me under the tree in the morning. I wondered what goodies and trinkets I might find in my stocking. Eventually, sleep would come and finally, so would Christmas morning.

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My eyes opened. It was actually here. Christmas!

I stumbled out of my bed and hurried to the tree, looking over all the beautifully wrapped presents underneath. My stocking was full to overflowing as it was every Christmas morning. The living room glowed with the shine of tinsel and wrapping paper. Of course my parents were still asleep, and, as I was not allowed to wake them, I began to rustle up some breakfast and do so quite loudly. After a few minutes of "accidentally" shutting the cabinets a little too hard, my parents would shuffle out and make their way to the coffee maker. It was torture waiting for my parents to get ready for presents. It was like they drank their coffee extra slowly on Christmas morning just to watch me suffer.

But finally, I made it through Christmas Eve. I made it through a sleepless night. I made it through the morning routine, and now it was time. Christmas was finally beginning. Santa hadn't come, but he was the furthest thing from my thoughts.

So, yes, I grew up without Santa Claus. But even without St. Nick, I had Christmas. I had Christmases that taught me how much my parents and relatives loved me.

None of my presents were addressed to me from Santa Claus. I knew that he wasn't real, as that was something my parents had always been upfront with me about. They never told me that Santa Claus was bad or that believing in him was evil or anything like that. I just knew the facts, and knowing the truth didn't take away from my Christmas experience in any way.

For me, Christmas was—and is—the time of year to see magic. It was the time when people reconnected and showed the best sides of themselves. In our home, it was a time to look for miracles and remember the miracle that founded our faith. Because, seriously, God turning himself into a baby human is way more miraculous and mystical than the idea of Santa Claus. But even for those who don't believe in the virgin birth, Christmas time is loaded with miracles of the human spirit and the magic of love and connection we find with our family and friends—magic and wonder hiding in plain sight.

So, yes, I grew up without Santa Claus. But even without St. Nick, I had Christmas. I had Christmases that taught me how much my parents and relatives loved me. When I got older, I knew that every gift under the tree represented a sacrifice made for me. For my happiness. Just because they love me. Not because I'd been good enough or because I deserved it. Just because… love. Knowing that my parents spent what little money we had on playthings for me made that time and those gifts exponentially more special.

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I will never forget one Christmas after we had opened all the presents. My mom told me to close my eyes because "she had forgotten to put one gift in my stocking." When they told me to open my eyes, before me was a bright, shiny red Huffy bicycle. I remember tears coming to my eyes and feeling awestruck as I asked my parents how we could afford it.

That bike was much loved for many, many years and even now that I am in my 30s, it still sits in my garage. I smile every time I pass it. Having at least a small understanding of the sacrifices people make for you helps you to appreciate the things that you receive. In this way, I think that knowing the truth about Santa Claus from a young age turned out to be a precious gift for me and something that drew us closer as a family over time.

I have nothing against Santa Claus, and I don't judge any family partakes in the Santa Claus tradition, but for me, I'm glad that he wasn't a part of my childhood. The reality of Christmas was quite magical enough for me.

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