Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 17:12
I am 8 years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
Virginia, your little friends are right. When I was a couple years younger than you, I, already a curmudgeon, leaned over and whispered to my best friend Dalton, “Do you believe in Santa?” We sat crisscross, apple sauce in a corner of the room, propped up by a mountain of throw pillows. I stared at the back of our first-grade classmates all ears to Mrs. Schneider reading the Polar Express. He turned to me and with a gravitas I never expected from him, stated “Yes.”
Then, in an even tone, I threw out four words that reduced him to tears.
Santa. Is. Not. Real.
Like Rodion Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment, I yearned to exercise my capacity for evil; the very right belonged to me and I did the deed with glee.
After all, Christmas Eve at my house saw an invisible tree, ornaments that never left store shelves, and milk and cookies in the fridge. My parents grew up in Communist China, where the concept of an obese home invader dressed in red never took hold. The Cultural Revolution guaranteed old customs, culture, habits, and idea were wiped away. Santa Claus not only fit down chimney, but into the Four Olds. Besides, living in a house sheltering fourteen families and more than a couple of chickens meant no room for a tree and bourgeois, western ornaments. Wrapping presents seemed like a waste when the pages of my mother’s high school textbooks were worse than toilet paper. When they immigrated to America, they found no such luck in assimilating the holidays. Instead of celebrating, they put in long hours at work for a little extra pay. By the time my father proposed to her, both owned couches they found thrown out on the curb, ate expired food, and were naturally merry. He popped the question with a ring bought from Wal-Mart.
She said yes, then promptly returned it, because $24.99 was too pricey and could buy a week’s worth of groceries.
This penny-pinching sensibility never left them, even when they attained the American Dream. Maybe they held secret vendettas against the notion of Santa, who handed out toys for good behavior. Regardless, my family never observed Christmas and Santa never left presents or even a lump of coal that would send my sister and me galloping down the stairs in our pajamas. I knew I was missing out. Come late November and wreaths hung on doors, ugly sweaters came out on our teacher, and an inflatable, life-sized igloo perched on a neighbor’s lawn. By then, I was well-versed in holiday movies, watched in July, with no sense of season. These voyeuristic hours taught me everything positive there was to know and I was disinterested. To me, Christmas seemed tedious and I’d rather sleep in.
The concept of a naughty or nice list troubled me, even before I was aware of the suggestive connotations plastered on Hollister shirts. For a month and a half, parents are able to coerce their kids into pushing in chairs, saying “please” and “thank you”, and everything short of carrying the groceries of elderly women as they crossed the street agonizingly slowly. Or swooping in and rescuing girls from speeding cars, if Twilight’s your thing. What if you don’t? Well, Father Christmas sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake. The Patriot Act seems a lot less creepy in comparison.
He doesn’t care if you have ulterior motives in mind, such as getting your grubby paws on an Easy Bake oven or a scooter or every item on your alphabetized seventy-nine page list.
A true Christmas miracle is if the Barbies stop coming, but the manners remain. Conversely, a dearth of Legos is a mark of naughtiness.
The past few Christmases were marked by the economic downturn, leaving no doubt more than one report of chimney problems, or an elf’s goof up on the first day on the job. Children shouldn’t have to be acutely aware they lack the hottest new toy, a playground of social status, much less any financial struggles.
Avarice is not limited to the seven and under demographic. Otherwise, why would anyone camp outside stores, hide their drooled-over goods the day before, even devise hand signals, all for Black Friday? I, for one, profess my reservoirs of gratitude for whomever gives me a one-size-fits-all turtleneck costing an upwards of 75 cents and the trampled-upon bodies of other shoppers.
To offset the atrocity, a shiny bow the color of Santa’s flannel flame-proof two-piece suit and nice wrapping paper strategically keeps me from being exposed to the sheer crappiness until the giver is out of the room. After all, the true meaning of Christmas is receiving.
No wonder the elves are neglected. Santa takes all the credit, but they are the ones who fulfill childhood dreams by being assembly-line manufacturers pro bono.