The first and last time I wrote a letter to Santa was when I was around eight years old.
In late November 2004, my tita gave my brother and me identical Christmas stockings to hang by the stairs in our house. They looked like your typical decorations — stocking versions of a Santa hat, complete with red velvety material and white fluffy cuffs.
One feature, however, stuck out from the rest. Across the stocking’s front side was a small pocket with the words “Letter to Santa” embroidered on it. I’d never really put in much effort in previous years (none of that silly cookies and milk business in our household), so those three words made me want to try writing a letter.
I was mainly curious about two things: Would Santa actually read my letter? And if so, did he really have the power to give me exactly what I wanted?
And so I spent a chunk of time in my room that morning, drafting a heartfelt letter on fancy stationary to explain why I wanted a new cage for my rabbit, and nothing else. It was a brief manifesto of how Bingo the rabbit deserved a new cage because he was growing too big for his rusty old one. Needless to say, I took this letter very, very seriously.
Once I was satisfied with my selfless story (which was 100-percent genuine, mind you), I folded it up, crept downstairs, and placed it in the pocket of my new stocking.
Fast-forward to Christmas morning. When I came downstairs, there it was! A big shiny cage that could’ve probably fit three rabbits Bingo’s size. Never mind that it looked like one of the cages from the pet store near our house — what was important was that the Santa Claus read my letter and gave me what I wanted.
It’s been 11 years since then, but I still can’t forget how real Santa was for me at that moment. The magic of that rabbit cage was so strong that when my parents finally told me the truth (though I’d had an inkling for some time before that) when I was 12, I thought Christmas would lose its sparkle.
When the holiday rolled in the next year, I discovered that life without the jolly old man wasn’t all that bad. We still did the same things as a family — complete with noche buena and opening gifts on Christmas morning, but without the element of surprise. Thanks to tradition, Christmas was the same for me then and the years that followed.
Now, as I get older, I find it just as magical to play Santa for my family and friends. The whole exercise of trying to find something that they will genuinely like is fun, because you know it’ll go to someone you love. Personally, I find it even better when I’m broke and I end up having to DIY everything. In a way, the transition from receiver to giver was smooth, and the look on peoples’ faces when I give them something that they really like always makes up for my (mini) Santa-induced void.
The other day during lunch, my 11-year-old cousin announced that she wouldn’t be getting a “Santa gift” anymore after a quick Google search prompted by a KJ (killjoy) classmate left her with definite answers.
While part of me is sad that that she isn’t a little kid anymore, I’ve also come to accept that letting go of Santa is just one of the marks of growing up and evolving as a person.