Deconstructing the "Santa Trap:" A true story of drama and intrigue
Bleary-eyed, I stumbled down the stairs to where the Christmas stockings hung, my Target bag stuffed with goodies to fill them.
“Strange,” I thought. “No tripwires, no kids ready to jump out at me, no traps…”
The Power of Christmas Traditions
Most cultures have Christmas traditions, even if not specifically Christian. In fact, most families set up their own unique traditions. Ours, for example, does a Christmas cookie baking time a couple weeks beforehand. Not so unique, you think? Well, instead of decorating the cookies as what they really are, we try to make them into something they're not. For sure, it gets pretty creative.
In the U.S., some families read the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke together every year. Some have a tradition of opening one Christmas present on the night before Christmas, Christmas Eve. Others have specific foods they eat on Christmas or a time to go out and sing Christmas carols around the neighborhood.
One tradition many American families have is for the parents to play Santa Claus for their kids. The children leave out empty stockings hanging near the Christmas tree when they go to bed on Christmas Eve. In the night, the parents get up and stuff the stockings without the kids seeing them. In the morning, the kids get up early to find their stockings overflowing with treats and sometimes a special gift from Santa as well.
It's Just a Fib, Right?
Of course, there is a little white lie involved. The parents must pretend that Santa brought the presents and that they are as surprised as the children to see the stockings full on Christmas morning.
This works great when kids are small, but, as they get older, they begin to question: “How does Santa get into our house? He’s too big to fit down the chimney!”
“He’s magic. He can shrink himself if he wants. I open the door for him.” These are examples of the further fibs I employed as the years went by.
Santa Buster (Like Ghost Busters, but with Santa)
My youngest son Luke, however, began to question the Santa story at a young age. It just didn’t make sense to him that a stranger would be coming into our house late at night and leaving presents. So, when he was 7, he decided Dad was Santa, and he was determined he would prove it.
His first attempt was just to try to stay awake long enough to catch Santa in the act of filling the stockings. He convinced his older brother Justin to stay up with him. Mom and I said our goodnights and wished them good luck, then I set my alarm for 3 a.m.
I found two snoring boys under the Christmas tree as I quietly delivered the presents.
A couple years later (after we returned from our family's year in China where we changed the role of Santa a bit), Luke was more determined than ever. This time he had a nerf gun and was well armed to encounter Santa in case he ended up being dangerous.
As the years passed and Luke entered his teens, the attempt to trap Santa became more sophisticated. Even though Luke, by this time, knew there was no real Santa, he was still consumed with the idea of catching me in the act.
One year, I found a little trip cord across the bottom of my bedroom door. I guess he was hoping I’d trip and make enough noise to wake him up.
The next year, he just put a small piece of tape across the outside of my door. Early in the morning, he came in our room and confronted me with evidence I had left the room since I went to bed. “I just went downstairs to see if Santa had come yet or not,” I lied.
Another year, he made a real teenage attempt to stay up all night. He succeeded and found nothing in the stockings and no presents. I came down and told him that Santa probably skipped our house this year because the children were being naughty.
When Luke went upstairs to take a shower, I quickly filled the stockings and put out the presents. “Wow, look at this, Luke! You just missed Santa. He rang the doorbell shortly after you got in the shower and apologized for running a little late this year!”
Technology Led to the Downfall of Santa
I knew something was strange. No kids downstairs guarding the stockings. No elaborate “bucket of water” trap to pour on my head when I left my room. It was all too quiet with no evidence Luke had been doing anything.
I listened quietly at his door and heard him snoring quietly. “Maybe he’s given up his yearly quest to catch Santa,” I thought to myself before descending the stairs to fill the stockings.
The next morning I came down for breakfast to behold Luke’s smug face as he said, “Finally, I caught you fair and square!”
“What do you mean?” I responded. “Did you catch Santa?”
“No, I caught you pretending to be Santa! And here’s the evidence!” he exulted, holding up the iPad to show a grainy photo of my ear as I went down to fill the stockings.
“How does a photo of my ear show I’m Santa?” I fumbled.
“See the time marking? It’s 3 a.m. I attached my iPhone to the wall across from the stockings after downloading a motion sensor app that would take a photo when motion occurred. It also sent a message to the iPad which I kept in my room last night.”
“Darn technology!” I thought.
“So how does it feel that you’ve finally proven there is no Santa?” I asked.
“I knew I would get you one day.”
“Well, you know what this means now?”
“Huh, what do you mean?”
“From now on, you get to fill the stockings!”
Do you have a fun Santa-related story to share? Please do in the comments!