Feature Writer Ann Chiapetta – Cookies and Reindeer

My fondest yuletide holiday memory was of dreaming of reindeer. Sure, I wanted Santa to climb down our chimney and deposit gifts, but I wanted to meet his faithful hoofed servants even more. After all, I was an animal lover and I wanted to meet those gifted arctic antelope. I made sure we didn’t forget the carrots, which were placed alongside the milk and cookies on the kitchen table before going up to bed. It was torture trying to fight off sleep while waiting to hear the sled land on our roof.

The next morning I ran down the stairs to the kitchen table, delighted to see that the jolly man’s companions had left the end of the carrot, complete with bite marks. To me, the leftover carrot, cookie crumbs and gifts under the tree proved Santa and his fuzzy friends had visited.

Fast forward a few decades and I found myself gnawing off the end of the carrot, leaving it on the plate in the dining room for my kids to discover. My husband, always blunt and often painfully honest, would say, “You know that’s deceiving them into believing something that’s not real, right?” I would always pick up the cookie and hold it to his mouth, “Just eat the darn cookie and don’t be such a bah-humbug.” “What about the milk? I hate milk.” I would snag a cookie and dip it into the milk as I ate it, smirking as he grossed out.

I’m not sure when, exactly, I made the dreaded discovery that Santa and his hoofed friends weren’t real. It wasn’t something I felt was horrible, but at the same time, I did wonder why people went to so much trouble keeping up appearances.

Later on, after the truth was out, I heard a myriad of explanations, like Santa was a marketing ploy for people to buy more Coca-Cola products, or that Santa was created to be the non-denominational representation of the birth of Christ and God’s message, representing “good will” to agnostics and atheists. The best and most unique explanation I heard was that Santa was the American conglomerate of many sectarian/non-sectarian and cultural beliefs all rolled into one jolly belly, representing a worldwide icon for what’s best in us all. It didn’t matter what religion you practiced or who you worshipped, Santa transcended it. I think even my skeptical husband would agree with it. Christmas is a magical time of year and part of me still wants to hear the clattering of hoofs near my window.

Happy Holidays to all.

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