It was the eleventh hour before the clock struck midnight. I was fast asleep, but woke up to the sound of wood creaking in the home. “Who could it be I said to myself?” I heard footsteps through the house and I wondered to myself: “Is he really here?” I wanted to get up and peek. But what if, just what if He saw me peek? I didn’t want to get into trouble, but the curiosity was killing me. So I decided to get up. I wanted to know—was there really a Santa Claus? My parents said there was. My friends managed to convince me otherwise and instilled doubt in me.

I wanted to find out for myself and know the truth. So I put my sock on because they wouldn’t make any noise with the wood and slowly got out of my bed. I was proud of myself for tiptoeing. No one heard me and I made my way to the living room. I hid behind a couch in a corner. I peeked up slowly, and there he was. I had to blink a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming—because this is not what I pictured in my head. This was not a man dressed in red. And he wasn’t fat. He didn’t have white hair. I could only see the back of him and a little of his profile. He looked really familiar. He had thick black hair, and he had a beard. He was sitting on the floor with a sack full of gifts.

The sack was red. I watched him as he pulled each gift out, and began wrapping it, and writing on each gift. There was a glass of red wine next to him, and a pen. He sipped some wine and began writing his greeting on the gift box. He was humming to himself. I thought to myself—could it really be him? Yes it was—this wasn’t Santa—it was my DAD. The moment of truth was out. My friends were right. There was no Santa.

For that one moment, I wasn’t disappointed, I wasn’t upset, I was touched. You see he worked hard. He owned a men’s clothing store and Christmas Eve was the biggest day of sales for him for the entire year. He would keep the store open until 10 p.m., sometimes 11 p.m., depending on the inflow of customers. And after that long day, here he was doing his duty and keeping the spirit of  magic going. He did his shopping the day before Christmas, but he was continuing the tradition of wanting us to believe. I wondered what he was writing. Then I remembered all the notes that I got through the many Christmases from him—poems, stories and there were pieces of advice. All this time I was in awe that this mysterious Santa knew so much about me—but in fact it wasn’t Santa—it was my dad. He was my Santa.

He helped me believe in magic. The spirit of giving and the spirit of love. It wasn’t about what we received, it was about his unconditional love for us that taught us to give. I wanted to leap out and give him a hug, but then I said, let me wait. Tomorrow is Christmas, I don’t want to spoil it for him. he has kept this magic going, let me keep it for him. I slowly got up, and tiptoed back upstairs to bed.

I woke up the next morning to the sounds of wind chimes and carols. Waking up to the sounds of carols was a tradition laid out by him. This time, I see that he bought us wind chimes. I jump out of bed and see my father in his robe and slippers, sipping his coffee. “Merry Christmas” he says. I leap into his arms and give him a big kiss on his cheek. “Merry Christmas SANTA,” I say to him. He looks at me with a grin and we share a special look—a secret that only two of us knew. “Now come along, he says—let’s see what we have here for you on this day.” The spirit of this holiday is just that: he taught by example how to love and give. The following quote says it all: “The Christmas spirit will elude you until a selfless love consumes you and the joy of giving moves you”- Richelle E. Goodrich

image 1: Beautiful holiday decorated room with Christmas tree via Shutterstock; image 2: Christmas morning, a little girl in pajamas via Shutterstock