SantaCall me the trusting sort. When my parents told me that a fellow in a red suit traveled the entire earth in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer and distributed toys to good little boys and girls in a single night, I saw no reason to doubt. After all, the Jolly Old Elf had always been very good to me and my sisters. Who was I to reject the evidence of my own eyes?

So I almost came to blows with a twerpy little boy in my third grade class who had the audacity to claim that Santa Claus was just my parents. Imagine my horror when I asked my dad about it, and he confirmed the twerp’s story.

I was crushed.

And I didn’t believe Dad one bit. After all, Santa visited me twice every year. He very thoughtfully left gifts beneath the tree early at our house. You see, he knew (part of that whole “he sees you when you’re sleeping” bit) we made the annual trek over the river and through the woods to my grandmother’s house for the real Christmas Day. At that time, St. Nick filled our stockings in a second appearance.

Even though my eyes had metaphorically been opened, I was reserving judgement. Sure enough, Santa still came early to my house. So at my grandma’s, I decided seeing would be believing.

cardboard fireplaceMy grandma’s home was a perfect Christmas house–a big two story which she decorated with sweet-smelling greenery on the bannister, wreaths with candles in every window and the biggest tree she could shove through the door. It was festooned with angel hair and strings of those mesmerizing “bubble” lights. The only thing missing was a fireplace. However, my grandmother solved that problem by erecting a surprisingly sturdy cardboard fireplace in the living room each year. Its corrugated fiberboard mantle was lined with all our stockings.

How Santa managed to enter the house through that fireplace was one of the great mysteries of my childhood. However, as you’ve already guessed, I was willing to take it on faith.

That Christmas, I waited in the bed I shared with my younger sister till the rest of the household finally quieted. When I heard a rustling in the living room below, I knew the moment of truth had arrived. I slipped from bed and crept down a few steps so I could peer through the fir boughs on the bannister.

There before the cardboard fireplace was my sweet little grandma. She was filling the stockings–a juicy orange in the toe, a handful of nuts still in the shells, some candy canes and foil-wrapped butter rums, a small toy or a doll, a package of hair ribbons for the girls and a comb for the boys. Everyone would love pawing through their new treasures the next day.

I padded back to bed, taking care not to be caught wandering. I felt older. Wiser. I knew for certain that there was no Santa Claus, but surprisingly I wasn’t sad. I had something better.

I had a grandmother who loved me.

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How did you learn the truth about Santa? Or do you still believe? Share and you’ll be entered in the drawing for Mia’s My Lady Below Stairs!

My Lady Below Stairs

Read an excerpt!

Nobody misses Lord & Lady Hartwell’s Christmas Ball, but they all go for different reasons. When Lady Sybil runs off with an Italian portrait painter, her bastard half-sister Jane Tate goes in her place. Lord Eddleton plans on proposing to “Sybil” under the mistletoe. Lady Darvish is on the hunt for her fifth husband.

And Ian Michael MacGarrett, the head groom with more than horseflesh on his mind, is determined to show Jane that love doesn’t have to pretend.

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41 thoughts on “How I learned the Truth about Santa Claus

  1. Mary Anne Landers says:

    Thank you, Mia. Your story brings to mind what happened one Christmas when I was a kid.

    I can’t recall how old I was, but I was beginning to have doubts about Santa Claus. Was he truly for real? And at our place, there wasn’t even a fake fireplace, let alone a real one.

    So on Christmas Eve my mom set a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa, a snack to refresh him during his long, hard night. Then my brother and I went to bed.

    Sure enough, when we awoke in the morning, there were lots of presents under the Christmas tree—and the glass and plate were empty! I took this as proof positive that Santa Claus is for real.

    The moral of the story: think carefully about what you consider proof. Does it really prove what you think it does?

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      That’s the thing about the scientific method. It tends to reinforce your original hypothesis. Well, it would, wouldn’t it?

  2. Minna Puustinen says:

    It was a bit hard not to know when the Santa who came in through the door was either my dad or my brother. Here in Finland Santa doesn’t bother with a chimney.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      How handy. And how much more believable. When we were in the Netherlands a few years ago, we learned their Sinter Klaus arrives by boat from Spain instead of by reindeer sleigh. Much more sensible.

  3. girlygirlhoosier52 says:

    I actually don’t remember when I figured it out… but I had two older sisters who worked at keeping me in the dark.. They knew that if the baby of the family didn’t believe in Santa…. well they’d be out of luck at the stocking line.
    We’re all a great deal older and continue the tradition by giving each other Santa gifts at the Christmas breakfast table. Little things that everyone can use or need, candy, special soaps and sachets… More fun that presents because we’re all at that age when we can buy what we want and don’t need much anyway..

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      My girls often have their stocking filled with . . . well, socks. Everyone needs new ones from time to time.

  4. Shana Galen Shana Galen says:

    I could read when I was pretty young, and I found a present to me from Santa. Oops! Mom forgot I could read!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      That’s what she gets for having such a smart kid!

  5. Jesse Hayworth Jesse Hayworth says:

    An early CSI moment: One year I came down Christmas morning to find the cookies gone and the carrot eaten down to a nub. Except the carrot end clearly showed the marks of human teeth, not reindeer! There was no way I was blaming Santa for filching Rudolph’s treat. Ergo, my parents (as I had suspected) were clearly putting me on.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Couldn’t put one over on you, could they? Seriously how old were you that you recognized the difference between human and reindeer teeth. You must be a savant of dentition! ;-)

  6. MaureenE says:

    When my friend with older siblings told me that Santa Claus was not real I told my younger brother and then looked for proof. After I had my proof I confronted my mom, who admitted the truth and asked that I not tell my brother but sadly it was too late. When I had children of my own my daughter did the same thing, telling her younger brother so I have to wonder if there are older siblings who are able to keep their mouths closed.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I kept quiet because I wanted the gravy train to continue. Greed strikes young, I’m afraid.

  7. Sarah Rosenbarker says:

    My brother and I never believed in Santa Claus. My mother never let us just as her parents didn’t allow it as well. I do remember being told numerous times that we were not to tell other children that he wasn’t real. To this day I am still not a Santa fan and my husband grew up the same way, so our kids know that Santa isn’t real but they are also admonished to not spill the beans to their friends. I do think that my 12 year old twins, who have autism, sort of believe in Santa because they hear about him at school and they tell me that they have to be good or Santa won’t bring them presents. My eight year old just rolls his eyes at them.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      You know, we did the same with our kids. We told them Santa was a fun story, but it was only fiction. I didn’t ever want my kids to think I’d purposely told them something i knew to be false. The real Christmas story is the birth of Jesus–even though I told them we don’t know for certain when he was born. Just that He was and we picked this date to remember it.

  8. Katherine_Garbera Katherine_Garbera says:

    I love this story. How sweet that is. I never questioned it until my middle sister–the snoop found some presents in my parents closet and one of them was for Christmas so we knew that mom and dad had to be Santa.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Guess I was extra gullible or not curious enough. I never suspected.

  9. Vanessa Kelly Vanessa Kelly says:

    Mia, such a sweet story! I’m glad that Santa’s place was taken by something even better – a loving granny! In my case, one of my jerky old brothers let the cat out of the bag! Took me months to forgive him.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I was so blessed to have her in my life for a long time. She thrived well into her 90s and for the last four years of her life, she lived only a couple of blocks from my house. She loved Mary Higgins Clark mysteries. ;-)

  10. catslady says:

    My parents weren’t big on the myth and I had an older sister so I don’t think I believed for very long. My mom would leave wrapped presents in plain sight but I never looked because I wanted to be surprised. I did the opposite with my 2 girls and I think they believed for quite a while. Even when they probably knew better my answer was always – as long as you believe there is a Santa Claus. I would always buy some gifts that mom and dad would never buy them lol.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      My first question for Dad after he confirmed the awful truth was “What about the poor kids whose parents can’t give them anything?” He said, “I think there is a Santa for them.” At the time my little “crap detector” pinged–a crap detector is something all kids are equipped with, BTW–but now I realize he was right. I am Santa for those kids. And so is everyone else who takes a star off an angel tree and buys a gift or drops change into the Salvation Army bucket. In giving, we are blessed.

  11. Kim Vaccaro says:

    As a parent, I wish more than ever that Santa was real. I learned the truth about Santa when I accidentally found some gifts in my mother’s closet. I showed my sister and we decided not to say anything and wait and see if Santa brought these same gifts. Sure enough he did and we had our answer.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Brilliant detective work, Kim. ;-)

  12. How sweet, Mia! I honestly don’t remember when/how I found out. I had an older sister, though, so I suspect she had a hand in it! :)

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I’m the oldest kid in my family. In the case of this volatile truth, I was a vault. My sisters never heard boo from me about it.

      1. Alexisa N says:

        That’s how my older sister and brother were. If anything they encouraged the belief in me and my younger brother.

  13. Marcy Shuler says:

    I can’t remember how old I was when I learned the truth. No traumatic stories. And actually, I like to think the spirit of Santa is still alive and well in each of us.

  14. Alyn Yang says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I remember these boys doing the same thing to a girl in 4th grade. They laughed at her for believing in Santa. I always think of that whenever Christmas rolls around. I know sooner or later I will have to tell my 5 year old that there is no Santa. I don’t want him to have to experience what the girl in my 4th grade class did.
    As for me, I found out about Santa at an early age. I happen to have “awesome” older siblings who told me there is no Santa.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      It wasn’t the first or the last time I was laughed at in school, so that didn’t bother me. Like I said, the little boy in question was a twerp.

  15. Janie McGaugh says:

    I overheard my mother and older brother talking one day. I was crushed!

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Secrets can do that to you.

  16. Laurie W G says:

    I learned from a classmate at school when I was in third grade. I didn’t believe her and confronted my mom. She then told me the truth. I still believe in the magic of Christmas. My favorite movie is PRANCER which highlights this faith.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      I’ve never seen Prancer. Guess I was always a Rudolf enthusiast.

  17. Alexisa N says:

    I don’t really remember how I determined the truth. I guess it was one of those things that you grow into. But I can tell you this I do still beleive is the spirit of Santa Claus.

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      It’s always fun to see how other cultures depict Santa. And then there’s the source of the legend–St. Nicholas himself who had a truly giving heart.

  18. Kristan Higgins says:

    I’m embarrassed to admit how old I was. Let’s just say I got into my car and went straight to a bar. ; )

    1. Mia Marlowe says:

      Hope you’re over the trauma now, Kristan. ;-)

  19. Glenda says:

    Love your story Mia! I began to suspect about Santa around 2nd grade but had no proof. I talked to my grandmother about him….

    I was confused, how could Santa be at so many different places before Christmas when he was needed at the North Pole to help the elves with the toys??

    Grandma explained to me that Santa couldn’t do his job without a lot of help from a lot of people. She told me that when kids got older they became Santa’s helpers to make his job easier and that fortunate people needed to help out more so that Santa had more time to make sure people with less got something for Christmas. Helping others and giving time or gifts is what Santa does. By helping others we were just like Santa. SO Santa does exist as long as people have the Christmas spirit and give gifts to others.

  20. Donna says:

    Not really sure when I found out Santa was my parents. I know I found Girl Scout Soaps under my grandmother’s bed and then they appeared from Santa. And, once Daddy slipped and said something. BUT Santa came for my sister and I even after I was in college. His last gift to me was a baby doll, my first or second year. The next year, Santa came for my Mama and Daddy (courtesy of sis & I).

  21. Michelle Fidler says:

    When I was about 12 we started opening presents up on Christmas Eve, so I don’t know when I stopped believing. I’m an only child.

  22. Rhonda says:

    I can’t remember when I learned that Santa wasn’t real but I believe children in school were talking about it.

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