Friday, November 12, 2010

Being Santa

Christmas time, as a kid, was always magical. It was everything -- the smell of the Christmas tree, twinkle of lights, the taste of cookies and hot cocoa, carols and the story of Christ's birth. Of course, those are all things everybody knows. What I remember most is sneaking out with Tyler on Christmas Eve to ask "Elwood the Elf" if Santa had come yet, which of course, was this three foot tall Christmas doll my mom kept in the entryway, which I promise, was way less creepy than it sounds. I remember oranges in the tips of stockings and my brothers with new legos every Christmas morning. There was always a series of church parties, service projects, Christmas books and arts and crafts. And always, jello ribbon salad and reflecting on the true meaning of Christmas at Grandma's. I remember Mom's surprise when she found a ruby ring from "Santa" in her stocking -- Santa being Dad.

The culmination of sights, smells, tastes, traditions and people always made Christmas one of the best times of year. Nearly every Christmas, I would keep a countdown of one form or another. The anticipation always killed me. Even as I got older, the magic of Christmas never faded. Mom told me when I was in high school that when people stopped believing in Santa, Santa stopped coming. Naturally, I never stopped.

Before we got married, I told Nathaniel I wanted to spend Christmas as just the two of us. With me, a white girl from a Sacramento suburb, and Nathaniel, a Cuban boy from Miami, (how we met right dab in the middle, I'll never know), we both felt it was important to start our own traditions. We both hated the idea of bickering back and forth, of doing "my" tradition on Christmas Eve and "his" tradition on Christmas Day. We both felt it was important to start the "Hannah & Nathaniel Cruz Family Christmas Tradition" -- I don't know what that is yet, but we're working on it.

Nathaniel and me last Christmas at the capital building in Sacramento.
But as I considered what we will do for Christmas besides staring at each other, I felt overwhelmed. As I considered the sweet, magical, nostalgic feeling I had always felt during Christmas time, I realized it was a culmination of a considerable amount of effort. Surely, Elwood wasn't the one who decorated the house. The presents under the tree didn't appear over night. Somebody had to make all of my favorite holiday foods. And at some point, somebody came up with all the traditions I enjoyed.

And for the first time since I've been married (take that how you will), I was struck by the speed at which I was leaving childhood behind. Don't get me wrong, I was and am perfectly aware of the responsibilities of marriage -- but for whatever reason, the idea that I was the one who had to create the magic of Christmas was a little intimidating. And of course, my mind goes from point a to point z. I think of our first Christmas being just us, and then somehow, my mind ends up 50 years from now. Can I seriously live up to the challenge of being Santa?

Of course, I always felt Christmas was so much more than the decorations and the food -- it was the lessons I had learned about service, charity and love. It was the sense of appreciation I had grown for the solemnity and sacredness of Jesus Christ as my Savior. It was the feeling of gratitude and peace I felt with my family. That was what had me feeling overwhelmed. I didn't know if I could actually re-create that. 

Listening through my tears and blubbering last night as I considered tackling Christmas on my own for the first time without my family, Nathaniel reminded me of how special the Christmas season will be this year -- our first as our own little family. Though we won't have much in terms of stocking stuffers or gifts, we can begin to lay the foundation of our very own family traditions. I felt a sweet sense of understanding and nostalgia as I thought of my own parents and grandparents as newlyweds as they considered being Santa and beginning their own family legacies. It's strange to think of Nathaniel and myself plus an unknown amount of children during the holidays in the future, but it's nice to know...we all have to start somewhere.

I can only hope I can create the same magic in my home, that always existed for me growing up. But my goodness, Santa sure does have large shoes to fill.



Sherms said...

This is a nice entry. It's great that you two are starting your own traditions which one day you'll be sharing with your own children and grandchildren. And of course, you can include a little of your individual family trations. I love Christmas, hands down my favourite holiday. There is just something in the air that I love.
You are lucky though, my husband doesn't believe in Santa...guess there are no big shoes to fill in our house! xx

Hannah said...

Does that mean you aren't doing Santa at your house -- ever?!

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