It is funny how some of the worst moments in your life can help you understand things later on down the road. With the holiday season now in full swing, I remember two moments which helped me understand the true meaning of Christmas.
The date was Dec. 24, 1983, and I will remember it for the rest of my life, because it was the day I discovered Santa Claus was not a jolly old man from the North Pole who delivered presents to children around the world.
It was the worst Christmas of my young life. It all happened when my family and I were going to another family’s house for a Christmas party when I remembered I forgot something back in our house. Going back inside the house to retrieve whatever I had forgotten, I then decided I wanted to put on some of my father’s cologne. As soon as I opened the door to my parents’ room I knew I was not supposed to be there, because all of the presents my sister and I asked for Christmas from Santa were in my parent’s room. That is how I ruined Christmas for myself. I felt as if I had cheated myself by finding this cache of presents from Santa.
For the rest of the night I could not understand why there were all these unwrapped presents were just sitting in my parents’ room. It was the only thing I could think about.
The hardest thing for me when the time came for my family to open our presents was acting surprised to what Santa brought because of what I had seen Christmas Eve in my parents’ room. Two emotions went through my body, I was in a stage of denial because I did not want to believe that old St. Nick did not exist. To a kid, Santa is the world and I had destroyed a holiday which is geared for children, for myself. The other emotion I experienced was guilt because I had this secret about who the real Santa Claus was and I had seen all my Christmas gifts in advance.
The moment I discovered the truth I decided I was going to keep it to myself so I would not ruin Christmas for my little sister nor my parents. So until my freshman year of college, I never told my parents of what I had seen Christmas Eve of 1983. However, the strangest thing about the Christmas of 1983 was I enjoyed watching the expressions on the rest of my family when they opened their gifts. It showed me that Christmas was not only geared for me but for the rest of my family, which eased the pain of discovering the truth about Santa Claus.
Another experience which helped me understand the meaning of Christmas came in my freshman year. Going to college as a freshman is hard to begin with, but during the holiday it can be a living HELL. As my first semester of college came to an end and the surrounding communities filled the air with Christmas cheer, I became increasingly homesick as the weeks went by and Christmas neared because it was the first year away from home for such an extended period of time. I felt like I was missing out on what was going on at my house because I was at college.
What made those final weeks of school before the Christmas Break so tough was I was not the only one who felt this way. My roommate and I both seemed to talk and reminisce about how much fun we had in the past during the holidays and what were going to do during the vacation. We got to the point to where we had the big countdown of the days before we were done with finals, which made the days pass even slower.
When the day came for me to go home I discovered my parents had adjusted their Christmas traditions to include me when I returned home. I had not missed anything. Once again I was only thinking of myself, instead of the whole picture.
Those past two Christmases, I have learned a great deal about the holidays, which in turn has made me appreciate the season much more.
I learned not to be so selfish and to enjoy the companionship of loved ones and friends during the holiday season, because what they should mean to you outweighs any gift.