Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Year Without a Santa Claus

My husband's favorite children's Christmas special is "The Year Without a Santa Claus." It's probably because as a meteorologist, he gets a kick out of the Heat Miser and the Cold Miser.

One thing I find myself dreading as the kids get older is our first year without a Santa Claus. A bonus of having children as spread-out in age as ours are is that this sad event is delayed for a while.

My children have been taught to believe in Santa Claus.

I only have one "believer" left and I hope he believes for a good long time. The Christmas Eve tradition we celebrate with my husband's family depends on the kids' belief in Santa.

I've always loved the fact that the Big Kids in the extended family work very hard to make sure that the magical experience of the visit from Santa is preserved for the little ones, year after year. One of my favorite Christmas Eve memories centers on the length some of the teenagers would go to in this regard. A certain Boy Cousin was about 11 or 12, and smugly began to broadcast the fact that it was really Uncle K in that Santa suit. Fortunately Boy Cousin wasn't too close to any of the little ones, and Teen Girl Cousin grabbed him none-too-gently and informed him that he was not going to ruin Christmas for the Little Kids or there would be consequences. He kept it up for a while anyway, despite her warnings, but I was one of the few people who even noticed. Well, Teen Girl Cousin took her place as one of Santa's Helpers that year. Sometimes Santa needs help reaching packages and reading gift tags, and the Teenage Cousins stand by to assist him. Boy Cousin's name was never called to go to Santa's lap and receive his gifts. It is a trademark of this party that every guest, even the ones who show up unexpectedly, and no matter what their age or size, must sit on Santa's lap and receive a gift. Boy Cousin didn't get any gifts. Finally Santa was finished handing out gifts, the last songs were sung, and Santa collected his jingle bells from the littlest child and went on his way. After Santa was gone and dessert had been served, Teen Girl Cousin pulled out a Hefty bag with Boy Cousin's gifts and said to him, "Merry Christmas."

I was so impressed with the way this girl handled the situation. She did not tattle to any adults. She did not let anyone know what she was doing. I'm sure she was aware that if she had done that, the Little Kids would find out. She kept things close to the vest. None of the other adults in the family even remembers this happening--I must have been standing in just the right spot to notice it all.

A couple of years ago it became obvious that the Santa costume was not going to be available to the family. Phone calls were made--it was 2 days before Christmas Eve. Every branch of the family offered to chip in toward the purchase of a new costume, someone found one, and the tradition was able to go on.

The Visit From Santa is a magical part of my husband's family's tradition. Children and adults alike look forward to the event. Once the children are old enough to stop "believing" they are told that they are now Santa's Helpers and they need to make sure they don't ruin things for the little ones. Remembering the fun they have had, they usually don't have a problem graduating to this new role. The Santa tradition brings out the best in all the members of the family.

It looks like ours is not the only family to enjoy this magic: a fire truck has just pulled up across the street, and Santa and several elves are knocking on the door of one of the houses. I'm on my way outside to wave to Santa--I'll see him in 2 more weeks!

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