What can you say about Santa Claus anyway? He’s right up there with all the top religious, political, and entertainment icons. When we were kids, he’s was almost a god-like figure in our life (until we learned he wasn’t real of course, then we just were bitter at our parents for a few days).
When I was little, Christmas eve was almost magical. Mom would have the cardboard fireplace setup and the stockings hung on it ready for Santa. Every year, she would make homemade chocolate chip cookies (hers were still the best ever) and put them on a plate with a glass of milk for him to eat when he dropped off our presents.
We would go to bed and try to sleep, but it seemed almost impossible. Somehow, she would find a place to hide those presents from Santa in that small house on 229 Knapp street. Back then, she would have us put together a Christmas list for Santa with presents carefully picked out from the JCPenney catalog. I would spend hours, if not days, looking through it circling just the right present; not too much money (didn’t want to ask too much of Santa) and not something I could just get at the Ben Franklin’s store downtown.
Every year, whether we had money or not, Mom would find a way to make Christmas special and keep the Santa dream alive (at least until we were about 7 or 8 years old). I found out years later that she kept a ‘Christmas Savings Account’ at the local bank and would deposit a little bit every few weeks so she would have enough when it was time to buy presents.
Michigan helped to keep the Santa theme alive with all the snow (especially West Michigan where we got a lot of lake-effect snow). Our downtown was always lit up with those old-fashioned Christmas lights and a huge tree right in the center of town. Back then, downtown was still a great place to shop from the local businesses (before the big box stores moved into area towns). And, it was a great place to enjoy the Christmas parade.
As the marching band Drum Major, I remember leading them through the cold, winter weather through downtown each year playing ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’. Candy canes were flying, and the kids were all excited. The instruments about stuck to everyone’s lips because it was so cold, but no one cared.
Today, most kids realize Santa is just a story at a younger age. Some parents even feel it’s a bit cruel to tell kids he’s real. For me, I’m glad to have had those times just being a kid waiting for Santa to come and eat those cookies (which Mom thoroughly enjoyed). I'll never forget the excitement of Christmas morning seeing the tree surrounded with presents and tearing them all open in a matter of a few minutes thinking Santa had left them for us. It was something I’ll always cherish.
So, tonight, here’s to Santa. Whether some think he’s from the devil or just a stupid story, I will always cherish having enjoyed those years growing up. I’ll leave you with a clip below of the song, ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ by Gene Autry (something I was listening to just tonight while I was cooking up some chicken on the grill). It’s a classic…
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