The excitement of Christmas, and all ita wonders, can dwindle for some of us, as we age. Rather than embracing a time for rejoicing, or devotion (should one reflect on the actual meaning of Christmas), the season can become a drudge of extra chores that nobody needs to add to their overloaded agendas. Often, at this time of year, people become cranky, depressed, and envious of their associates whom do not partake of these traditions. My friend Vanessa, a Jehovah’s Witness, manages to look fresh as a daisy throughout the entire month of December and feels not a smidge of stress. I love her, but sometimes that really pisses me off. But I digress…
I noticed a sag in my own Christmas enthusiasm beginning in my teens. By then, I well knew the “real” story behind the origin of those gifts under the tree. And rather than waking up before the sun and bouncing around until we were allowed to rouse my parents (6:00 a.m. and not a minute earlier), my siblings and I would shuffle into the kitchen whenever, put the coffee on, and wait for the last slug-o-bed to emerge (always my brother Michael, even to this day).
Then, in my thirties, something truly magical happened…I had a child. Not the second Christ child (although my mother might disagree) – just an ordinary baby boy, born in a Manhattan hospital rather than a manger. Seeing Christmas through my child’s eyes reignited all that joy and anticipation and contentment. I was obsessed with creating Christmas traditions and memories that my son, and later my daughter, would want to share and repeat with their own families…caroling, midnight mass, Advent calendars, gingerbread houses…
One of the biggest rituals involved Santa Claus. The first year that my son was old enough to comprehend old Saint Nick, I insisted that the one and only true Santa was at Macy’s in Harold Square. All those other “Santas” were actually Santa’s helpers because the one and only true Santa was at Macy’s. Did I mention Macy’s? The only true Santa…there…at Macy’s (no, they aren’t paying me to say this). When we’d see a bell-ringing Santa on a street corner, I’d remind my son, “He’s Santa’s helper because, you know where the real Santa is, right?”
“At Macy’s!” my boy would squeak.
So, on an early December Monday at about one o’clock, my husband and I took our impressionable toddler to Macy’s to meet the one and only true Santa. I was so excited I nearly wet my pants! I had never been to Macy’s Santaland before. It was everything I dreamed of and more. We had strategically chosen a time to go when it wouldn’t be crowded. Let there be no distractions! I wanted him to feel like we were the only ones in this enchanted place, so he could really take it all in. We were all giggles and jitters. What a moment!
After strolling through this fairy tale, our time had come. All the build up, all the picture books we’d poured over, all of our (my?) dreams were about to become a reality. We were ushered in to see the one and only true Santa Clause. And that’s when this happened…
The one and only true Santa Claus was a gentleman of color. He was not the image of Santa pictured in our copy of A Visit From St. Nicholas, or the one that sat atop of our Christmas tree, or the one on all the Coca Cola billboards! Now readers, I would never lie to you. So I have to say, this was something of an “oh shit” moment for me. I had spent weeks telling my son that all the other Santas were bogus and only the one true Santa was this man sitting before him. It was all very confusing (for me). My mind started racing now what do I do? What must he be thinking? How will I explain?
Well, I learned a big lesson that day. I didn’t have to do or explain anything – and I was ashamed of my reaction – because my little boy didn’t skip a beat. He climbed up on Santa’s lap, had a sweet chat with the jolly old elf, told him what he’d like for Christmas and gave him a warm hug before parting. To children, at least mine (and I’d bet most), Santa is Santa, plain and simple.
Since that year, we have seen many Santa’s at Macy’s and elsewhere. They have come in every possible shade a human being can be. So, regardless of what you may have read, or heard on Fox News, there really is only one true Santa. And he looks like love and peace, harmony and joy.