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John Homan: Pulling back the curtain on Santa Claus

By John Homan
updated: 12/12/2018 11:54 AM

How old were you when you learned the Santa secret?

Thoughts about Christmases past came racing back into my mind when I was taking some photos for the newspaper Saturday.

As I looked for those perfect photo opportunities, I saw these children -- from toddlers to early elementary age -- look on in wide-eyed wonder as Santa Claus listened to them recite a list of potential presents.

Some may have been a little nervous as they sat or stood next to the jolly old man in red. Others weren't the least bit frightened.

As for me, I honestly don't remember any specific meeting with Santa (after all, it's been half a century), although I am told there were a few such occasions.

I just remember preparing for him mostly. Placing strings of popcorn on the tree with some store-bought and homemade ornaments.

Setting cookies and milk out on the table for him overnight.

Hearing every little noise outside my bedroom walls and visualizing Saint Nick and Rudolph making their way onto our roof.

It was almost too much to bear. How could I possibly sleep? How could I not take a peek?

And yes, some Christmases from a gifts standpoint, were much better than others. When I was a third-grader, we lived for a year in Pennsylvania and I got a BB gun. My dad and I would walk to the rock quarry for target practice. That was also the Christmas that my sister, brother and I got a sled to share.

The winters were more snow-packed there than here in Southern Illinois, so we got plenty of chances to test out our new toy. And while we were completely wet from the rides, the excitement was well worth it.

I guess I started doubting old Kris Kringle as something beyond mortal in the fourth grade when I saw the miniature pool table that I wanted so desperately for Christmas unwrapped underneath my parents' bed.

The deal was sealed by my fifth-grade year when our homeroom teacher asked us to answer letters written to Santa by our school's kindergarten, first, second and third-grade students.

The dream had been shattered for good. Santa was now a mere illusion.

So when did you pull back the curtain on that jolly old elf?

When was your innocence lost? And even more important, did you tell younger brothers or sisters what you suspected?

Believe it or not, I didn't blab. I kept my mouth shut and let my siblings find out about Santa in their own sweet time.

One good thing that came from learning this special secret was finding out that while it's fun to open presents, it's even more fun to watch someone else open them who still believes in the magic of Christmas.

I hope you can relive that joy in a couple of weeks.