I mentioned my Theology on Tap writing class in an earlier post, and this is our assignment for week 1. Take one specific memory about going to church during the holidays—where you didn’t hear anything said because you were thinking of what Santa might have brought. Or, write about what your family did to prepare for Christmas, and what those traditions looked like. How have they shaped you? Your understanding of what you believe?
Here’s what I wrote (editorial note: I’m torn in wanting to add a whole second section where I unpack the story, but I also kind of like the mystery of just ending it without theologizing or sentimentalizing about what it all means).
And I Believed, A Christmas Story
I was by this time too old to believe in Santa. I had heard the rumors. I had friends with older siblings—siblings who teased us for still hoping that Santa was real. I even had some concrete proof: Santa didn’t like egg nog, and surprisingly, neither did either of my parents. But I couldn’t quite not believe. Not yet.
So that year, I devised a plan. Santa’s reindeer—if they really did have to get Santa all around the world in a single night—might get hungry. But everyone just leaves out food for Santa. The reindeer are normally forgotten, relegated to a single carol and even then it’s really just Rudolph who gets most of the attention in that song. But not that year. Not at my house. Beside Santa’s milk and cookies I left a plate of carrots out for the reindeer. I didn’t tell anyone about my plan, not even my parents. I knew that if Santa and his reindeer were truly real, the reindeer would eat the carrots on Christmas Eve.
I woke up early that Christmas morning, but like every other Christmas I remember, my parents were awake before me. I rushed to the front of the house and headed straight for the fireplace to inspect the remnants of milk and cookies—and carrots. The carrots were gone!
Much later that day, after the stockings were emptied of their candy and the paper removed from the presents and was burning with flashes of red and gold and green in the fireplace, I was playing outside with what is now a long-forgotten toy. Then I saw something in the grass. Little bits of carrot everywhere. By the chimney, in the grass and down the driveway.
And I believed.