December 30, 2014

Christmas Truth by Susan Barclay

Image from Pixabay

One of my most memorable Christmases reminds me a bit of the old television program, ‘To Tell the Truth’. The show featured a panel of celebrities who had to guess which of three contestants was telling the truth about his or her unusual career or life experience.

I was about five at the time. My four-year-old cousin, Donnie, and his family were visiting from New Jersey. His Dad wasn’t the easiest person to get along with. When Donnie and I were told to go to bed and go to sleep or Santa wouldn’t come, we did our best to comply. But the night was early and we were young. Besides, we were super-excited about what we might find under the tree the next morning, and sleep is impossible when you’re in such a state.

While the two of us lay side by side in my mother’s double bed, I practiced tying a bow in Raggedy Ann’s apron. Despite my mother’s efforts to teach me, I still hadn’t mastered the art.

My uncle passed by the open door and saw that we were still awake.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

"Trying to tie a bow,” I said, reasonably.

“Well, stop it and go to sleep,” he said. “Santa isn’t going to come as long as the two of you are still awake.”

I lay still, and Donnie did too. My uncle partially closed the bedroom door and couldn’t see that our eyes remained wide open. Quietly, I tried to make another bow. And just as I succeeded, we heard sleigh bells ringing outside the house.


But no. Suddenly I knew the truth. It was my uncle ringing those bells.

Belief in Santa died that night, though a stronger realization came. My uncle was more complicated than I knew. Given black and white, I’d painted him black, but perhaps he was grayer. And now I also knew I was capable of doing things. Big things. Bigger even than tying a bow in a doll’s apron string.

When I look back, I can still see that little girl, lying under the covers in a darkened room on Christmas Eve. And I know that the event didn’t destroy the magic of Christmas for me. While I discerned the lie, I gained a larger truth. The holy day isn’t about Santa, or about the giving or receiving of gifts. Saint Nicholas would agree.

Christmas is about the Christ child and what He came for. He wanted us to know who we are and who we can become.
He wants the truth to set us free.
This story was originally published on my friend Annmarie's blog in December 2013. For more of my writing, please visit


  1. This brings back memories. I am not sure exactly at what point I 'knew' there was no Santa - quite early I suspect. However, I played along for the sake of my mother and older siblings. They seemed to want me to believe and so I pretended i did. I am sure many wouldn;t agree, but we never tried to make our kids believe in Santa. We still 'played' Santa, but they knew it was just a game right from the start and that Jesus was the real superhero.

  2. I was never told there was a Santa. Our Christmas stories mostly surrounded the baby in the manger.

    Besides in my four or five-year-old mind, I figured as we didn't nave a fireplace, there was no place for a Santa to come down... and so I washed my hands of it and said, nope, there's no Santa. End of story.

    We played along with the folk-tale of it, and I visited Santa at the department store, but we never treated him as real or truth. For which I am so grateful to my parents.

    I so enjoyed reading your story, Susan, and you sharing your memory of this specific Christmas certainly opened a door to one of my earliest ones.

    So glad you allowed us a peek into your childhood Christmas.

    So, did you get the apron bow tied?

    Brenda Leyland :)


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