WARNING: This article contains Santa spoilers. Children and the young at heart beware!
The truth is ugly.
It’s especially ugly when your childhood dreams are blown wide open with the realization Santa isn’t real, and he never was.
Everyone has a story, their own personal tale from this unfortunate rite of passage. While the details vary, most stories seem to align under three general patterns: learning in the most traumatic, startling way possible, gradually piecing the ruse together or hearing the news from someone else, usually on the playground.
Even the most elaborate facades can be shattered in a moment. Plenty of students experienced this type of trauma when they learned the truth about Santa. It only takes one poorly-hid gift or slip-up from a parent before all is lost.
Jessica Park, a junior at Wellesley College in Boston, learned the truth about Santa with one swift trip downstairs on Christmas Eve.
“I snuck downstairs to see if the cookies were gone; that’s when I saw my dad in his underwear, eating all the Oreos my sisters and I had left out for Santa,” Park said.
For Mallory Seibers, a junior from Canton, Conn., studying broadcast journalism, learning the truth was quick, despite extensive efforts from her parents to prove Santa was real.
“Every year Santa wrote us a precious letter about all the good things we had done that year and then he put them in our stockings, wrapped in curly ribbon,” Seibers said. “On Christmas Day in 2001, I went on to our 1997 Macintosh to play my new Barbie Explorer game and there was a strange document entitled ‘Santa’s letters’ on the desktop.”
Haley Miller, a senior from Portland, Ore., studying English, has collected these personal stories throughout the semester for a an English folklore class. From the series of stories she’s heard, Miller has found the more elaborate the efforts of the parents to prove Santa is real, the more traumatizing the truth.
Stuart Himmer, a junior at BYU Idaho, is the poster child for this type of heartbreak. When Himmer was four, the video camera that was set up to record the opening of presents had been left on, catching Santa and Mrs. Claus in the act of putting out presents.
“I had proof, I was convinced,” Himmer said. “I was convinced for 8 more years and then my dad and brothers brought that Christmas up and were laughing about it. My dad had planned the whole thing and got an older couple in our ward to play Santa and Mrs. Claus. I was 12 and not very happy. Its a great laugh for me to think about now though.”
Lindsey Frey, a junior from Portland, Ore. studying advertising, learned the truth gradually, finally realizing Santa was a sham when she was old enough to recognize Santa’s handwriting as her dad’s. This is the story of many, when a slight oversight from a parent blows the scheme.
Some parents choose to forego the tradition, figuring honesty to be the better route. Melissa Connor, a senior from Fayetteville, Ark., studying public relations, grew up without a clear impression of Santa.
“They never said anything one way or the other, the presents were just there on Christmas morning,” Connor said. “My parents didn’t tell us about Santa because they thought if we found out they were lying about him we would think they were lying about Jesus.”