When someone asks you to describe Santa Claus, you might conjure up an image of a white-haired, bushy bearded, old man, sporting a big grin, a red suit and black boots. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think the same. However, you see, I play Santa for my niece and nephews and I assure you, that’s not whose reflection appears in the mirror everyday. Yes, this brown-haired, hazel eyed, averagely built, long distant Aunt disguises herself as Santa and no one is the wiser. Why? Because I’m only him on paper.
At this point you might be questioning why someone with no kids would even consider taking on this role that’s usually reserved for parents. Before I even get into that, let me give another description of Santa. He’s a distant figure-head who serves as a moral compass to children and symbolizes love, compassion, and accountability. Children look up to him, look forward to his arrival, and get excited at the mere mention of his name. I can confidently say, that description also sums up how my niece and nephews view me. I was Santa before I even started signing his name.
In 2012, my niece Layla was three years old and I had become pretty comfortable in my role as her long distance Aunt. I visited her frequently, checked in with her on Skype, and scheduled “just us” time whenever we were together. I was making the best out of what I had, but was wondering if there was more I could do from so far away. I was told Layla loved going to the mailbox every day and always asked if there was anything for her to open. My sister felt bad so she would give her credit card offers and other generic mail just so she’d have something to open. It reminded of when I was a kid and how I’d collect the mail each daily hopelessly searching for anything with my name on it. I didn’t want her growing up and thinking that Visa was her only pen pal, so I started sending her cartoon drawings and writing her little notes. She loved it. I loved it. It was a win win.
By Christmas time of that year my sister called to ask if I’d draw a picture of Santa and send Layla a letter since she loves getting mail so much. I’d never played Santa for anyone before, but before I knew it, I was deep undercover, firing off weekly Santa letters, and patiently awaiting a phone call from Layla yelling “Santa came!” I didn’t know how much I’d love being her Santa until I started, and then I couldn’t stop. Before I felt like I was limited with what I could do from far away, but now the distance was working in my favor. It was also keeping me accountable to stay up to date with what was going on in her life. I couldn’t drop the ball now, I’m Santa.
My sister and brother-in-law have maintained their roles as the Santa who eats all the cookies and leaves presents under the tree. I haven’t taken anything away from their experience, but in fact I’ve enhanced it by personifying him on paper. Over the years I have a written A LOT of letters as Santa, but by far my favorites ones were on two particular Christmas mornings. In 2012, Santa broke the big news that Layla would no longer be an only child, because she had a baby brother on the way! Then again in 2014, Santa wrote to Layla and Jayden, and said “I left you gifts under the tree. But there’s bigger news you see! Mommy’s carrying baby #3!
Now that I am Santa to three, I write to them monthly to say hi, give them an update on North Pole life, and mention a few things that he’s seen happen around the house. I love it so much that I created my business, North Pole Notes, a subscription letter service to allow for others to do the same. I know that there will come a day when my niece and nephews will no longer believe in Santa, but in the meantime, I’m creating memories for us and that can never be outgrown.