When I think back to the Christmases of my childhood, I always smile at one particular memory. For as long as I can remember, our extended family would gather at the home of one of my aunts on Christmas Eve. We would enjoy a lavish potluck dinner with the host family providing the main course while everyone else brought side dishes and desserts. Afterward, we would catch up on family news—coming babies, recent graduations or promotions and other milestones, small or grand. Before the families would separate to attend church services at their own particular denomination, the children would anxiously await the arrival of one special guest—Santa Claus. My uncle (who recently passed away) would dress up in full costume and arrive with great fanfare down the staircase. (He would leave his sleigh and reindeer on the roof.) Over his shoulder, he carried a velvet sack filled with wrapped gifts for all the good girls and boys from infants through college-aged. Since I was the youngest of my generation, I was the last child who still believed in Santa Claus after my cousins discovered the truth about the man-in-red.
But my mother and aunts didn’t want anyone spoiling my fun, so they instructed everyone to keep quiet about who really wore the silken beard of white. Yours truly continued to believe the myth longer than average. However, someone at school or perhaps a neighborhood kid finally burst my bubble. Once I overcame my initial shock, I thought about how pleased the old folks were that I still believed. So I played along with the subterfuge for several more years, becoming wide-eyed with anticipation for the jolly man to arrive. My aunts would watch my reaction from the corner of their eyes, pleased that the deception continued for another year. Finally, when Santa arrived and presented a middle-schooler with her treasure, I had so say: “Hi, Uncle Louie. Thanks for the gift.”
Everyone moaned, while my mother looked broken-hearted. But all good things must come to an end. Now that my dear mom and uncle are gone, I still remember the joy they preserved for me because of their love. And because of the unending love of the Father and the gift of His son…once again I have something to believe in. Merry Christmas! May God’s blessings rain down on you and your family during this special time of year.
The latest in Mary Ellis’s Secrets of the South mysteries, Sunset in Old Savannah, will release in March and may be pre-booked now.