Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why I Hate Santa Claus!

It seems that every year I start preparing for Christmas earlier and earlier. I'm not sure if it's because I'm living in a colder climate and it "feels" like Christmas or if it's the ever-so-early decorations in the mall, but I was inspired to tell you this story, early as it may be.

For Cubans, Christmas Day, other than being a religious holiday, is pretty much overlooked. Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) is the night to celebrate (and that we do in a BIG way). In Cuba, during my parent's era, presents were not exchanged until January 6th — Three Kings Day (El Dia de los Reyes Magos).

When we arrived in Florida in 1962, the idea of a fat man in a red suit secretly sneaking into one's home and leaving gifts under a tree on Christmas Day was a relatively new concept. My family knew of Santa Claus having been exposed to him in American movies, advertising, promotions and such, but the whole tradition just didn't click.

Although willing to plunge right into American culture, my parents just weren't quite sure how things worked. After all, it's not as if a handbook was passed out to newly arrived Cuban refugees to explain that (1) Santa Claus came from the North Pole, (2) he was transported on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer, and (3) he entered people's homes through their chimneys.  I remember a conversation at the dinner table between my mother and my grandmother that went something like this:

Mom:  "You know in this country, the gifts are exchanged on Christmas day."
Grandma: "Really?"
Mom: "Yes and the children are taught that Santiclos brings gifts. He comes at night and leaves presents under el arbolito de Navidad (Christmas tree)."
Grandma: "Ah, we're going to have to go shopping early then."

My father in particular was quite pleased to learn that Santa (the stalker) was always watching, lurching in the bushes.  For at least one month before Christmas we were constantly threatened into good behavior.
"Eat all your dinner, Santiclos is watching you!"
"You'd better behave or Santiclos won't leave you any presents!"
Santa didn't seem very friendly, but hey, we only got toys once and year, and we didn't care whom they came from!

I remember the first time (Dec. 1964) I became excited about Santa Claus' impending arrival. That Christmas eve my sister and I assisted my mother in putting sugar in our shoes for the camels (I sigh, what can I say?)  and leaving Coca-Cola on the table for Santiclos.  I remember waking the next morning to several unwrapped presents (my poor parents hadn't a clue!) sitting under the tree. 

Skip to a very lean 1968.  We were living in Los Angeles. I had recently turned seven.  By this time my sister and I were quite knowledgeable of how the whole Santa thing worked.  My mother informed us that Santa would only be leaving one present for each of us that year, and that we could choose whichever toy we wanted. 

I remember sitting in my second grade classroom, my hand under my chin, thinking long and hard about my decision.  I watched television every day after school to pick out the toy I would select from the commercials shown.  Finally I decided that the ONE AND ONLY toy I would ask for was a talking doll whose name I could not pronounce.  I quickly wrote the letter to Santa explaining that it was a doll that could talk, and that I had seen it on tv.  I placed the letter in an envelope, addressed it to SNTA, NOR POLL, sealed it, and placed an S&H green stamp on it. The next day on our walk to school I dropped it in the street corner mailbox.

My sister had made up her mind as well; she wanted a doll that could be fed. She was quick to point it out to my mother as we passed the store window of the nearby Sears.  For several days, my mother asked me the name of the doll I wanted:
"I'm not sure mami, but don't worry. I already sent Santiclos the letter, and he'll know which one it is."
"Okay," she responded, "but show it to me on television the next time the commercial comes on."
"Don't wooooorry mami! Santiclos will know."

That Christmas morning my sister and I ran as quickly as we could into the living room, and there sitting atop two brand new desks that my grandfather had built us (the poor soul, like we wanted to do homework, duh), were two sets of black patent leather shoes (yeah, yeah, where are the dolls?) and then... there was the doll that my sister wanted (unwrapped).... and on the other desk.....the doll that my sister wanted!

"Twins!" my sister yelped with glee.
"But... but... but where is my doll?" I asked.
"No, no" my mom exclaimed, her eyes popped out and waving her hands, "there's one for your sister and one for you!"
"Nooooooooooooooooooo! But I've been a good girl! How could you do this to me Santa?!  I hate you! I hate you sooooooooo much! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

As I bawled unconsolably I threw that doll down on the ground and stomped on it to my heart's desire. As far as I was concerned I got NOTHING for Christmas!

From that day on I divorced myself of anything Santa. I tore him out of my coloring books, defaced any Christmas card with his wretched face on it and cursed his stupid reindeer!  He became my arch nemesis.

To this day I do not buy Santa Claus decorations or cards.  When my daughter was born I initially refused to teach her about mean ol' Santa but was outvoted by her father's side of the family. (My mother already knew better than to mention his name).  Ironically, my little daughter developed a fear of Santa (I had nothing to do with it, I swear!), and would pee her pants whenever she heard "HO! HO! HO!"

So there you have it.... why I hate Santa Claus.  I think I'll stick with Frosty.


  1. Frosty is much much cuter! I won't buy Santa decorations or cards either. I prefer Christmas flamingos...and I make shell ornaments..:D What a nice story...or a sad one for little Irene. It's not just in the Midwest it happens here in Florida too. Christmas has pushed Thanksgiving out of the it's working on pushing Halloween out!

    Have a nice Sunday!

  2. Seems like Thanksgiving has become the day before Black Friday. And the actual Chrismtas Holiday has become a commercial money machine that determines the state of the national economy.

    As far as my story, I always laugh about it. Eventually I did play with that doll... my mother, horrified at my lack of maternal instincts, guilted me into being nice to it and she was relieved the next Christmas when there was no gift expectation. :)

  3. I.M.
    your feelings are justified.
    We lived in Mexico until I was eight and we received gifts the same way you did on Jan 6. dia de los reyes. somewhere along, santa clos came along via tv and commercials. I really only remember that he was the guy who would bring you special gifts. So one year I asked for a doll and I waited for christmas day. The doll never arrived. when I asked my Mother why Santa didn't bring me by doll, her reply "Santa didn't have time to come all the way to Mexico".

    I think it's a real pressure for parents to live up to santa's expectations. My eldest nephew is almost 7 and believes in Santa and I guess one day he will learn that he is not 'real'.

    Beli was scared when she saw santa here in Croatia.

    I'm flying out to the states next Month, we will see how she does when she sees the 'real' santa.

  4. Our stories are very similar. I never thought the story of Santa was a good idea. Children don't appreciate the effort and expense that their parents go through to get them their presents, and then they are so disillusioned to know the truth. Alhtough I think that children are now figuring it out at a younger age. We were very innocent back in the 60's.

  5. The real saint was a great and holy person named Vasilios,from Cappadokia.
    The red fat Santa Claus is a merketing product that sell too much!
    Regards from a sunny Thessaloniki.

  6. Kostas, thank you for stopping by. Yes, the fat Santa Claus in the red suit was created by Coca-Cola as a marketing device.