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half enough

Half Japanese Christmases

Christmas before finding out the truth about Santa

My father told me there was no Santa Clause when I was seven years old. I wasn’t completely surprised, though the little ounce of hope I did have that Santa Clause might exist was dispelled when he made the news official.

It was the year 1990 and my parents were struggling financially. My father sat me and my brother atop the toilet seat lid in the bathroom and turned the fan on. I think he was expecting the worst so he turned the fan on as background noise in case we might cry and storm out of the bathroom. He explained to us gently that all of the gifts we’ve been receiving at Christmas every year were really from him and my mom. It was difficult for him to break the news. Interestingly, we took it well. The conversation didn’t last for more than eight minutes and we didn’t storm out crying. I did half-heartedly attempt to defend Santa Clause’s existence by telling my dad about my Santa and reindeer sightings. And I asked him who, if not Santa, ate the milk and cookies I left out. “I did,” my dad said in a guilt-ridden tone. At the end of the conversation, my brother and I went outside to play.

Although I enjoyed the festive cultural traditions of the holiday season, I knew — even at seven years old — it was illogical to believe that an unaging 60-something year old man in a red suit floating in the sky in a sleigh with nine reindeer could possibly exist. At the same time, I was also convinced that the story of Santa Clause had to have some factual evidence. Mainly, I was just disappointed that now I knew who my Christmas gifts were from. What made Christmas fun until my seventh one was that the gifts were from someone I’d never met but always had a magical hope toward meeting. Not being able to personally meet and thank Santa every year made every Christmas a challenging adventure to look forward to.

That year my brother and I set up the plastic Christmas tree ourselves and decorated it with the stored ornaments in the closet. We received one gift each from our parents. My brother got a brain buster flashcard set and I got the Candy Land board game. On Christmas Day, after we opened our presents and ate breakfast, I looked out the window and swore that the tiny shadow behind the cloud in the sky was Santa sleighing his reindeer.

Christmas after finding out the truth about Santa

Christmases after my dad told us the truth about Santa have all been quite similar. The only change is that I’m a year older, a little more cynical about cultural traditions being confused with religion, and more hopeful that the next year will be better than the last. I don’t receive as many gifts and the ones I do receive come from unexpected people and friends and family.

Christmas no longer has anything to do with Santa. From high school on, Christmas just becomes a time of year — when students are on winter holiday, workers take their vacations, the weather is colder, green and red colors line the streets, and Christmas carolers (I have no idea where they come from) sing on main streets and at a participating Starbucks. The most recent group of carolers I saw was at the New Otani Starbucks in Little Tokyo a week after Thanksgiving.

I grew up in an actively Buddhist household. Buddhists don’t believe in God, celebrate the birth of Jesus or hail Mary at Christmas. I’ve always been fine with that. Christmases in my household were celebrated solely for the fun of it all thanks to American cultural traditions and of course, television. My family never had discussion on the relationship between the way we and most people we knew celebrated the holidays and their religious backdrop. We just had fun with celebrating the end of the year with family and friends and exchanging presents. The way I celebrate Christmas can be considered superficial, but I can’t see myself spending the holidays any other way.

I guess the only thing that makes my Christmas half Japanese is that I’m half Japanese.

© 2006 Victoria Kraus

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Sobre esta serie

"Half Enough" is Victoria's first regular column series. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Discover Nikkei.