People often say that Christmas is not the same once Santa ceases to exist. Christmases cannot simply be broken into ones with Santa and without. There is a longer progression from childhood Christmases to adult ones that take in various different stages.
The most magical ones were when all of the siblings believed in Santa. There’s the 3 a.m. wake up call from the eldest brother who has already spent some time in the sitting room making sure that no one had a better present than him. You fight off the urge to sleep come 6 a.m. when all the toys have already been sufficiently played with and there’s nothing left of your chocolate Santa but his wellies. You lie in bed doing Kriss Kross and word search that your mother got for you in your stocking and wonder how Santa can get all the children in the world such amazing presents and your own parents give you a puzzle book and some chocolate. You’d spend a considerable amount of time wishing Santa and Mrs. Claus could be your parents. This thought leads you to hum “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”.
You watch The Den Christmas Special and are amazed that Zig & Zag, Dustin, and Ray D’Arcy would give of their Christmas Day to work and get themselves into such crazy capers. You get excited that there are no ads on RTE today meaning you can sit through all of Chicken Run without interruption after dinner. You get bored a couple of hours before dinner and want to go to the turlough up the field to see if it’s frozen.
You have orange juice as your starter for dinner, turn up your nose at the mixed pickles but wish you could be the one to open the jar for your mother, although you seriously question why she eats them because they are disgusting. The hat in the Christmas cracker is too big for your head so you wear it around your neck. You gag at the sight of the Brussels sprouts, eat far too much of everything else after drowning it in gravy and collapse on the couch for two movies in a row. You have some form of dessert and are so tired that you fall asleep with the Kriss Kross book on your face at 9 p.m.
Years later, the penny finally drops and you realize that it is impossible (for many reasons) for an obese man in a big red suit to make it into every child-bearing house in the world, on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer. It’s not the betrayal from Santa himself that hurts though. After all he is not real and is faultless, much and all as you would like to apportion the lions share of the blame to him. It’s your parents. They perpetuated the lie. They, like fucking martyrs falling on their own swords, insisted that the man existed and that he was a far better role model to you than they were. Then you think on it and realize there is a far bigger betrayal here. You have a brother and sister who knew all along. THEY KNEW. It doesn’t matter that your older brother told your sister as soon as he found out, shattering her entire universe and stealing her innocence long before time. You’re too young to reason this and resent them for not letting you in on the craic they’ve been having
Instead of dropping hints all these years they played games.
“Let’s see if we can get Santa’s autograph.”
“Do ask for a snooker table. Sure he’s Santa, of course he’ll get you one. Sure didn’t *random rich neighbour* get *extremely over-the-top expensive gift* last year?”
“Did you hear something? It sounded like it was coming from the roof. I guarantee you it’s the reindeer but we better not check in case it scares off Santa.”
It becomes painfully obvious brutally quickly (like, straight away) that you preferred the lie. The magic begins to fade from Christmas. As a middle child I was lucky. I got to milk the Christmas Cow for a few years after, while the younger brothers still believed (Unfortunately, I also had to milk the literal cows on Christmas Day on more than one occasion). As the years went on, we really started to phone in the whole Santa thing, pulling presents out from under the bed after midnight mass as a younger brother slept noiselessly across the room. You had the perks of Christmas minus the magic. It wasn’t the same but it was good enough.
You enter Christmas with a healthy skepticism, questioning whether Ray D’Arcy really does spend his Christmas having all sorts of adventures with space puppets and a talking turkey and pig. After all, it’s not even the real Santa they meet BECAUSE THERE IS NO REAL SANTA. You get bored even earlier in the morning now and venture to the turlough which is shit and not frozen. You pretend to be a soldier behind enemy lines on the way home and come home covered in shit. There’s no hot water for a shower. Somebody is crying because they’ve used up all the batteries in the house and their talking globe won’t work any more.
You older brother gives you a go at opening the jar of mixed pickles just so he can watch you fail. You still have orange juice as your starter and your loathing for Brussels sprouts has somehow increased from last year. The Christmas cracker hat finally fits on your head but you do not see this as reparation for the years of being lied to about Santa. Your gravy intake decreases slightly with each passing year as you develop a taste for stuffing. You switch to the gravy with the turkey juice in it and include a spoon of carrots and parsnips.
Sunk into the couch, disgusted at the sheer volume of food that is attempting to churn in your stomach, you become engrossed in a Harry Potter movie that you think is the third one. That Hermione one would get it. You lament the fact that there are no ads today as you have no opportunity to piss or contemplate dessert without missing a vital plot point (Stuff happens during the year leading to Voldemort’s return, nobody has to do exams). You start one of the many books you have received and take a nap that could be more readily described as a food coma. You wake up well into the evening, finally ready for dessert and the beginning of Titanic. You strategically get up to piss very shortly before the nude scene (if a parent is present), beating your siblings to the punch, most of whom will have to shift nervously in their seats and endure the awkward silence. You fall asleep reading your book again and wake up wondering if it’s even worth reading.
The presents dry up. The magic dries up. Somehow, even the turkey dries up. Alcohol is there to keep things nice and wet. No longer do the presents outnumber the needles shed under the tree. No longer is there any reason to go to bed early or get up an hour after your parents go to bed. The older brother who used to wake you up at 3 a.m. is now keeping you awake at 3 a.m. as he experiments (with very poor results) on your younger brothers’ DJ equipment. Nobody is up before 11 except for the person who has to put the turkey in the oven. It is at this time that the person who is milking the cows stirs, attempts to find help, fails miserably and trudges out even more miserably, now intent on making sure everyone’s dinner is delayed.
The Den no longer exists as it did when you were a child and if it did, you wouldn’t watch it. You wonder if you should roll back the years by going to the turlough and playing the endangered soldier. You think better of that idea and look at your snapchats, complain about all the people wishing each other a happy Christmas on Facebook, and ask anyone in the vicinity when dinner will be ready. You contemplate mass to break up the day, only to realize you’ve already missed it. You ask the same person if dinner is nearly ready.
You drink your orange juice, question whether you will ever try egg mayonnaise or any one ingredient contained in it. The Christmas cracker hat no longer fits on your head and everyone else laughs as they comfortably slide theirs down their freakishly small heads to their necks. You break multiple hats attempting to be like everyone else. You die a little inside. You have 2 different types of stuffing on your plate and more carrots and parsnips than you do mashed potato. You eat with both a fork and knife now. You are the only one who can open the mixed pickles but that doesn’t make up for the cracker hat embarrassment. Brussels sprouts still look like giant sheep shit and you assume they taste accordingly.
You’ve given up looking at snapchats of peoples’ dinners as your own has starting repeating on you. You fall into the couch and do not stir until it is time for the post-Christmas-dinner dump, no matter how many Harry Potter movies you have to sit through. You do not return to the couch until you have eaten dessert. You agree with your father when he comments that Kate Winslet has a fine pair of tits. You wish the pubs were open. You count down the hours to Stephens’ Night which begins earlier every year. Stephens’ night is now your Christmas morning.
* Originally posted January 2014