by Dish Staff
Readers join Dish staffers in sharing their stories:
Around age 5, my father took me to the mall for some shopping and the ritual Santa visit. Whatever it was he needed to buy, the journey was unsuccessful on that front, and we traveled directly to another mall to try again. Of course, there was at this second mall another Santa, one with somewhat different facial features and proportions. I quickly deduced these could not both be Santa, and, QED, Christmas was a fraud.
Pinned with the sudden outburst of my doubts, Dad didn’t miss a beat. “Well of course Santa can’t be at every mall,” he said nonchalantly. “He’s a busy guy, making toys. He has a lot of helper Santas he sends out to find out what people want for Christmas. They’re called ‘subordinate Clauses.'”
Maybe he’d been waiting his whole adult life to make that pun. Maybe it came to him in a brilliant flash. Needless to say I didn’t get it for many more years. But I bought the substance when it counted, and the benevolent illusion was preserved.
Not for this reader:
I believed in Santa until I was five or six. Then I learned about gravity, and I wasn’t sure how the sleigh could fly, since reindeer don’t have wings or jets. The more I thought about the logistics of Santa, the more they bothered me. How did Santa get around the world in one night? The Polar Express, which I loved, implied that he didn’t even get started until after midnight, and that made the whole thing seem even more implausible.
This story has an unexpected twist:
I have an older brother, by 3 years. As with most older brothers, mine delighted in ruining anything I believed in or liked.
Knowing this, one year my dad took my brother aside and told him, “I know you don’t believe in Santa anymore, but don’t ruin it for your brother.” As my dad tells it, my brother’s bottom lip started quivering, and with tears in his eyes, he looked up at my dad and said, “There’s no Santa??” He was certain my brother no longer believed and felt so guilty for ruining his eldest son’s Christmas that year.
Santa was revealed to me as an empty suit the Christmas I was 5. We were at my grandparents house when the adults informed me that Santa had decided that I should open my presents before Christmas morning (I have no idea why other than they just wanted open presents early) so he was making an express delivery. This announcement was followed by a big ho ho ho on the porch that sounded just like my uncle and my gifts magically appeared. I got suspicious.
But I still wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, so the next year I wrote my Santa letter and asked him for a Dancer Ballerina doll, which I got, only to have her twirl one time and break. My mother told me that they must have made a mistake in Santa‘s workshop, so Rudolph would probably fly back in a day or two to take it back so the elves could repair the ballerina’s twirl. But the next day I found the box she came in – in my mother’s bedroom hidden under some quilts, and the sticker on it didn’t say North Pole; it said Sears. And I was done.
Weird thing though: I didn’t tell my parents for another year or two. They seemed to get such a kick out of Santa that I didn’t want to ruin it for them.
I don’t have any recollection of losing my faith in Santa, but I do have a quick anecdote about my daughter, now eight. Mid-October, as we are eating dinner, she asks, “So, when are you and Mom going to give KJ (older brother) and me The Talk“? The capital letters were quite clear in her speech. Having already explained to her how she arrived on this world, I was a little confused.
“The talk where you tell us there is no Santa Claus, you’ve been buying all the presents, and then lying to us so we wouldn’t ask you for more?”
“Oh. Next year.”
Another got both Talks at once:
I believed in Santa for an almost embarrassingly long amount of time. I was 13 years old when my mother sat me down and informed me that if I was going to start learning about sex, I might as well learn the truth about Santa. The problem for me was a combination of too clever parents (I was regularly required to put toys and clothes out on the porch in early December for Santa to “recycle” so that when my younger siblings or cousins received them it wouldn’t be weird), and a stubborn need to believe in magic that has unfortunately followed me into adulthood. Well, that, and as I repeated told my classmates, “My parents are way too poor to buy that stuff, so Santa has to be real.”
Another older believer:
I was relatively late to the game of realizing Santa wasn’t real (I think I defended his existence to numerous doubtful friends). But my realization happened as a result of just thinking too hard one car ride with mom. I started to think that if Santa were real, my capacity to receive presents would be limitless – I could have not only a Nintendo, but every game they ever produced. I mean, if he’s got these elves making toys and magical powers, why couldn’t I receive everything I possibly wanted?
I realized that deep down I knew this was impossible, that there were economic restraints on Christmas. So I just turned to my mom and said “there’s no Santa is there,” and she replied “no.” And that was the end of it.
(Image via Cess Padilla)