Wednesday, December 08, 2010

White lies and whispers by Kandy Shepherd

I love writing fiction and I love reading it. I know you do too, or you wouldn’t be visiting this blog. As a writer there can be no greater fun than to make up stories and people my plots with characters conjured from my imagination. And I love escaping into the fictional worlds created by other writers.

But what about that other story we spin at this time of year? You know, the one about the jolly, white-bearded gentleman in the red suit who parks his reindeers on our rooftops while he slides down the chimney to deliver presents to those of us who have been very good all year.

As a child, I fervently believed in Santa Claus and have no memories of the day of disillusionment. Not so my daughter. When she was eight years old she confronted me with an angry little face. “The kids at school say that Santa Claus isn’t real, is that true?” I hesitated. Her scowl grew deeper. “Tell me the truth.”

So I did. She howled her outrage and betrayal that we had lied to her. That the rest of the world was in on the conspiracy to fool her. No matter how we explained that the Santa story was a lovely thing that made Christmas fun for children, a wonderful tradition started by St Nicholas, about the spirit of giving and sharing, all she could see was our dishonesty.

She stomped away, leaving me and my husband staring at each other with mirrored “what have we done?” expressions on our faces. We had fallen into celebrating the Santa thing with her without even thinking about it. When she queried the number of department store Santas, we thought about telling her the truth. When she asked tricky questions about the logistics of simultaneous around-the-world present delivery by flying-reindeer-drawn sleigh we thought about telling her. Instead we found ourselves getting deeper and deeper into the white lie of it.

But we loved the Santa story—the whispers and the tip-toeing around the house on Christmas Eve as we delivered Santa’s bounty. The kick my husband got out of creating a masterful reindeer bite out of the carrot we left out beside the milk and cookies. We smothered our giggles and reminisced about our childhood Christmases. And we loved the look of wonder next morning on her face when she discovered Santa had visited.

But our daughter was right. White lies are lies all the same. And we had no rejoinders. Especially when she stomped right back into the room. “If Santa is a great big lie, then what about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy?”

Do you have any Santa experiences to share? Any special holiday traditions? Please leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of my latest novel HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS. Include your email address if you would like a chance to win.


Vanessa Barneveld said...

Merry-almost-Christmas, Kandy!

Oh, your poor daughter, finding out about Santa the hard way!

My sister and I were just discussing this very subject. Her young children are about three years apart in age. One knows the truth about Santa because at her school, children are told when they're about eight, when kids start to question the Santa concept. (Ah, the Dutch--so practical!)

The younger child still believes. His big sister has made a pledge not to tell him what she knows about Santa. My sister dreads the day she won't be able to bribe him with, "If you don't eat your dinner, Santa won't bring you presents!"

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Vanessa, yes, she really suffered. She was so angry with us for weeks, her grandparents too, all those who had conspired in the lie.
The thing is that, like your niece, the children then find themselves drawn into the conspiracy to protect the myth for the younger kids!
Thanks for the Christmas wishes--it's sneaking up on me as usual! Best wishes to you too...

Sharon Archer said...

Oh, Kandy, how traumatic for all of you! I hope it's something that you'll all be able to look back on in years to come and maybe have a bit of a chuckle about but for now it's obviously been very painful.

You know, I can't remember learning about Santa not being real. I do remember the excitement of Mum and Dad leaving the Santa snacks and a good bit of Santa tipple... come to think of it, if there had been breathalisers back then, poor old Santa would have been in all sorts of strife! Drunk in charge of the reins!

I hope everything settles down for you soon!

Merry Christmas, Kandy!


Kandy Shepherd said...

LOL, Sharon! If Santa did imbibe all those alcoholic beverages left out by thoughtful parents there might not be a lot of presents delivered. Thank heavens the dads step up to the plate...

Daughter is a teenager now so I hope her scars have healed!

Have a wonderful Christmas...

ev said...

There's no Santa?? Says who? What do you mean? My parents never told me. And I refuse to disillusion my 25 yr old daughter. Stop this nonsense right now dang it.

The nerve of some people, trying to tell us there's no santa.

I hope you get coal.

pageturner said...

I don't remember finding out about Santa but I do remember when my baby teeth were coming out, I put them under the pillow for some money from the fairies. This went on quite happily until I had one tooth come out and it had a cavity inside. I put it under my pillow and it was still there the next morning!
I went sobbing through to my parents 'The fairies didn't come!'. I was truly distraught - looking back now, my mother probably didn't realise I believed so implicity, but she quickly suggested the fairies wanted me to keep it to show the dentist, because it has a cavity.
And it really wasn't the money that motivated me (of course it was a bonus) - I genuinely believed the fairies came for your teeth and I was heart broken that they hadn't visited.
Now, what do I tell my daughter?

petite said...

Loved your post. Santa is here for all who are young at heart and love life.

traveler said...

Enjoy your holidays and best wishes. I never knew that Santa was a fantasy but realized it later when my kids wanted the truth. They faced it bravely.

Ey Wade said...

Guess I was always the tradition buster in the family. I told my daughters the truth about holidays as toddlers, but we enjoyed the stories and played along with the family.I guess learning the truth must have been heartbreaking for me subconsciously and I didn't want them to go through it. My sister thought I was mean, but my girls were happy. The excitement for the holidays are just the same as with any other family.
We bought gifts, talked about what we could afford and which gifts they really wanted. Lol we always opened the Christmas (even birthday)gifts sometimes a week ahead of time. None of us have the patience to wait. I always held one huge gift back as a surprise, but they have never complained.

One thing though, they had to respect others beliefs.

Nas Dean said...

Merry Christmas.

My daughter is seventeen now and she knows about Santa, but I don't really remember telling her. She must have figured it out somewhere along the line. Now she tells her niece, my grand daughter( two and half yr old) about the gifts santa will be bringing. She's teaching her to say Santa Claus, Christmas Father and Christmas tree!
It is fun the way traditions are carried forward.

nas_dean@ ymail. com

Kandy Shepherd said...

Ev, you're right, I deserve my christmas stocking to be stuffed from toe to top with the blackest of coal!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Pageturner, your tale of the tooth shows how quickly a parent has to react. I truly believed in the Tooth Fairy too, in fact I was convinced I saw her when I was five years old and can remember to this day her shimmering translucent body and red ballerina dress and wings...

One time my mother must have been short of cash and the Tooth Fairy left the tiniest little envelope on my nightstand with a hand-drawn stamp that said Faerie Post and an IOU inside written in miniscule writing. It didn't look like my mother's writing and I was enchanted by it. I kept that tiny envelope for years afterward but it wasn't really until my own daughter started losing teeth that I appreciated the love and care behind it.
Good luck with whatever you decide to do with your daughter.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Petite, I agree with you entirely!

Kandy Shepherd said...

Thank you traveler. I'm glad to hear your kids learned the truth without trauma as most see to do.

Kandy Shepherd said...

I loved your post Ey, I suspect my daughter will do just as you did when she has her own family one day. In the meantime, she is careful not to burst the bubble of belief in the children she knows who are following the Santa tradition.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Nas, I'm glad your daughter wasn't traumatized by the truth as mine was! It's lovely to hear how she is carrying on the tradition in your family.

Estella said...

No Santa experiences.
The only family tradition is a family dinner on Christmas Day.

kissinoak at frontier dot com

Asylumgirl said...

Only that I asked Santa repeatedly for a pool, trampoline and a horse and I never got any of the three. lol

deidre_durance at hotmail dot com

Annie West said...


All the best for the Christmas season! I remember working with a dear man who had 4 daughters (at that stage ranging up from about 16 years). In his house they always said 'if you believe in Santa then he'll come and visit you.' Worked a treat. We do the same here and I have to say our kids (now just out of school, still leave a stocking out for Santa's little goodies. Any why wouldn't you? We love Christmas and enjoy the traditions. In fact my daughter has just helped me this morning mixing Christmas cakes for us and our parents. Why did I choose a day when it's so hot to have the oven on for hours? Should have done it weeks ago!

Elizabeth Lhuede said...

Merry Christmas, Kandy. I hope Santa brings you and your family lots of peace and joy. And I hope your daughter has forgiven you!

It was only when my dad died that I truly appreciated the wonder of Santa Claus. Dad was a very private man and had trouble showing his emotions, but he absolutely adored going all out for us kids for Christmas morning. He used to go to a toy warehouse and buy toys for every age group from 17 down to naught, for both boys and girls, knowing there were so many of us kids that we'd all be well catered for.

We had candy stockings and spinning tops, board games and books, flippers and goggles for swimming, and always a new outfit and beach towel. It was the most magical feeling waking up to find this huge sack at the end of the bed. What was inside wasn't half as important as the feeling that there was some generous, kind spirit out there who loved us.

It was only years later that I realised that Santa's love was a lot closer to home than we'd realised. With such lovely memories, it's still a very special time of year.

Kandy Shepherd said...

And what could be a better tradition than family dinner on Christmas Day, Estella. I hope you have a wonderful day this year.

Kandy Shepherd said...

LOL, indeed, Asylumgirl, your comment really made me smile!
I never got the pool or the trampoline either--though I have ended up with my daughter's horses!
I hope there is something nice under the tree this year...

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Annie, what a clever slant on Santa. I think many kids pretend they believe long after they no longer do just to ensure a supply of presents. I mean when you think of it, we have to supply both presents from Santa and presents from parents--how did we get roped into that!.
I hope your festive baking is successful and that you have a wonderful celebration this year.

Kandy Shepherd said...

Hi Elizabeth, what a beautiful Christmas story--and so poignant. What a perfect way to sum up the true spirit behind the Santa myth: " the feeling that there was some generous, kind spirit out there who loved us. "
Thank you for sharing and I hope that you will be surrounded by love and generosity this Christmas.

host said...

Hi! I have only now had time to read your post. And you did strike a nerve. My niece (and goddaughter) is nine and children in school started to talk about the fact that Santa doesn't exist. She still believes he does but she has become suspicious. I want her to have one more of those magical Christmases so I ordered a letter from Santa from North Poll (of course). She was very happy when she received it but my father was very angry about that letter. He thinks we should have let her find out the truth. I'm not sure what was the right thing to do - let her know the truth or let her believe. But I think that all of us should believe in magic of Christmas - the joy, the peace and love it brings in our lives, not through presents but by making us think about each other in this busy, busy world. Merry Christmas!

Mary said...

I knew from a young age that Santa wasn't real. My parents were alcoholics and really didn't try to hide the fact that right after me and my little brother went to bed they started pulling the presents out of the closets.

I tried to tell my little brother that they were Santas helpers but he didn't believe me either.

SiNn said...

honestly every year we all get stockings and decorate the tree and every year each of us gets fruit in our stockings as well as chocolate

whenwe were younger everyone got to open one small gift on christmas eve every year
then durring christmas dinner we hadthe traditional fixings

Michele L. said...

Hi Kandy,

I just love the wonder of Christmas! My dad was orphaned when he was little and he made sure us kids had a great Christmas! We always had lots of toys, food, cookies, a nice tree with decorations, and lots of love. My mom and dad would stay up late wrapping packages so when we got up in the morning it was like magic, Santa was at our house and left all these presents.

My brothers and I have a lot of good memories. My dad also never had any toys as a kid so he was always in the center of everything, playing with the boys and me, having a good ole time! My mom took movies of him playing with all the toys. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking of it. He is gone but I will never forget how good he was to us.

One thing I will always remember which I think is such a precious tradition is believe that Santa is really alive. My parents would drive a half hour to Grandma's with us kids in the back seat. On our way home, we would fall asleep in the back. Then my dad would yell out, and we would all be craning our necks to look out the window. My dad would say, "look! See that light up in the sky? That's Santa! You just missed him flying by with his sled!" We would all murmur, "Oh wow! Where?! Where?!" while craning to look out the windows to see that light.

Have a Merry Christmas Kandy! Your book sure sounds great! I love the cover!

Michele L. said...

Forgot to include my e-mail address, deseng @
Thanks Kandy!

desere_steenberg said...

Hello Kandy

Great post and the book sounds really interesting and very intriguing !

As far as Santa experiences go the one that stands out for me is when my son was 2 yrs old he is 5 now , we sat him down on a santa's lap to pose for a picture and he started crying so the picture was not a very nice one as it makes me sad to look at it ,don't like my son to be unhappy !

But the funny part of the story is even after that incident he still believes that every person dressed as a Santa is the real thing and noting is ever going to scare him off again !

I believe that when it comes to white lies then yes a lie is a lie but if that lie (to certain limits off course) puts a smile on your child's face and a sparkle in his or her eye and makes them believe in dreams coming true then let it be !!

Merry christmas to you and your family !!


Kandy Shepherd said...

The winner of the signed copy of HOME IS WHERE THE BARK IS is Michele L.

Michele please email me on with your snail mail address.

Thanks so much everyone who posted. Wherever you are, you have my best wishes for a wonderful festive season!

Michele L. said...

Yippee! Thank you so much Kandy! I sent you an e-mail with my mail addy. Merry Christmas!