I’ve Lost Track! What Day of Christmas Is It?

ThSanta, sleighis time of year always reminds me of “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

The famous poem, first published anonymously in 1823, was actually written by Clement Clarke Moore. It’s the seminal verse which formed the modern-day image of Santa Clause from early Victorians to present day. I grew up loving this poem and memorized it as a young child.  For me it embodied all of the mystery, excitement, and magic of the holiday.

My earliest Christmas memories were formed in Berlin, Germany, where my military father was stationed from 1950-1954.  This was before the Berlin Wall went up in 1961.  Berlin before the wallListening to adult talk, I became very familiar that “danger” in West Berlin was only an afternoon’s walk away from my home, a lovely confiscated German Colonel’s three-story home with brick walls surrounding it. A lovely hanging tree draped over the wall from my front yard.

Still, the looming presence of the Cold War couldn’t take away my brother’s and my determination to figure out the reality of St. Nicholas.  Traditionally, German children put their shoes in the window for the jolly man to fill with candies or a lump of coal.

Credit to Jantoo Cartoons

Credit to Jantoo Cartoons

That first Christmas in Berlin, my brother and I decided to test the myth, having just had a long argument about whether this person named St. Nick, was real or a figment of our parents’ trickery.

We told no one, absolutely no one, of our plan.  At the last moment before bedtime, we put our shoes in the window of our shared bedroom, each of us promising we’d stay awake to see the truth for ourselves.  I was seven and my brother was six.  Of course, we fell immediately asleep.

But we felt we had a rock-solid plan for revealing the reality of the generous, but impossibly vague person who brought presents to us each year.  We were in the land of the Germans, after all, and everyone knew they were practical and stern, not fanciful and imaginative like us Yanks.  If Santa managed to get past the west-east borders, he must have magical powers.

The next morning, much to our surprise, our shoes were filled to the heels with little German candies.

credit to timbutu.me

credit to timbutu.me

That was proof enough for us to believe in Santa long after most children no longer did. Even when the real Berlin Wall went up, I figured my red-suited hero could still find a way to get presents to children in all parts of Germany.

My father enjoyed Christmas more than any person I’ve ever known.  He was more thrilled to give presents than receive them, and often “Santa” visited our house late on Christmas Eve before we children went to bed.  Dad manufactured delightful theater for us kids. He’d “heard jingles,” he claimed as he ran out the front door!  He’d just seen Santa Mistletoedashing off in his sleigh. Maybe we could catch him if we hurried!

While we raced down the street, trying to catch a glimpse, Mother, of course, “delivered” our Santa presents.

This little game became a family tradition that my father relished most of all.  My father was a tough, military man who could be hard on his three children, but at this time of the year?  He played Santa and the befuddled father perfectly!

What about you?  How old were you went you gave up the magic of Santa (if you have).  Is there a story behind that event?  What holiday tradition did/does your family share?

ARe JO ROBERTSON MALICEI’m so proud of my new release WITHOUT MALICE, which returns the reader to Bigler County from Book #1, The Watcher, that I want to give a free download of WITHOUT MALICE to everyone who answers the question about learning “the truth” about Santa! The book is only available in e-format.

Without Malice is a story featuring lots of characters who have lots of secrets.  I hope you’ll have fun unraveling the mystery!

Contact me at jo.lewisrobertson@yahoo.com to verify your email address and receive your free copy!


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  • Jane says:

    Congrats on the new release, Jo. I think I was still in elementary school when I realized Santa wasn’t real, but it didn’t stop me from pretending that he was the one who left presents under the tree. Don’t remember how I found out about the truth regarding Santa, but maybe it was hearing classmates say that he’s not real.

  • Amy Conley says:

    I still believe in the magic of Santa. My poor Grandson #2 has a father who told him Santa does not exisit! I was furious (he was 6 at the time). I tell all my kids and grandkids and ever my Scrooge of all Scrooges SANTA IS WATCHING on a regular basis this time of year. Hey, if you can’t believe in anything, you can still believe in Santa.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Oh, no, that’s sad. One of my daughters did the same thing, but they were wise enough to replace the magic of pretend Santa with the magic of the birth of Christ. It worked for their family, and they were able to instill a sense of the true meaning of the holiday, rather than the materialistic event it has become to so many people. Plus they were smart enough to keep their practice to themselves and not ruin Santa for the cousins!

  • catslady says:

    Can’t remember how old I was but I had a sister 3 1/2 yrs. older than me so she told me early on. I had my 2 girls convinced longer because Santa would bring them gifts that mom would never approve of lol.

    I started a tradition of having a tree trimming party – lots of friends, family, food and fun!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Love that tradition, Catslady, making the trimming of the tree a big party! How clever!

      I never thought of having Santa bring the kids presents Mom wouldn’t have approved of. Very smart!

  • Jo – I didn’t realize you lived in Germany. What a life you’ve had!

    I don’t know when I learned the truth about Santa, but with two older brothers, I’m pretty sure I know where the “news” came from. 🙂

    As for a holiday tradition, we always leave a plate of Christmas cookies for Santa on a special plate. Santa always leaves crumbs or a half-eaten cookie behind. My mother made some beautiful Christmas plates in her ceramics class that feature the 12 days of Christmas. We always use those for our Christmas dinner (mainly because they’re bigger than regular plates. LOL.) I display them year round because they’re beautiful. Come to think of it, I have a framed counted cross stitch picture of Santa in the same room. HEY – we celebrate Christmas year-round!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      You can always count on the older brothers, right? Little buggers. Same with my kids, but the third (my oldest girl) protected the little ones from the “truth.” My mom always said, “If you believe in Santa, then he’s real.” A nice way to put it.

      How talented your mother is and how much joy you must get using her plates for your Christmas day. We also use my mom’s china. It’s Rosenthal and was smuggled out of that same East Germany in the 50’s before the Wall went up. So, yep, my mom was a black market dealer, ha ha. It’s lovely and I’m excited to pass it on to my daughters. It’s over 60 years old!

  • Helen says:

    Hi Jo

    What a lovely story 🙂 thank you for sharing I was about 12 when I stopped believing and that was only because I caught Mum putting all of our presents in the pillowslips we used I got up to get a drink and there she was in the lounge room it was a sad day although I have never and will never forget the magic of Christmas and having children and now grandchildren the magic is there.

    As for traditions we still have a pillowslip at the end of the kids beds and presents under the tree 🙂

    I have a copy of your new book and am very much looking forward to reading it hopefully I will be falling into it very soon

    Merry Christmas to you and your family Jo

    Have Fun

  • Lianne says:

    I still believe!!

  • Ki says:

    How sweet! I remember my days as a toddler and the magical season of Christmas. I never really knew what it was but that we got presents during that time of year when snow fell. I’m a first generation so my parents didn’t know what it was but that Americans put up and decorated the tree with lights and on the 25th, presents were placed under it. Because we were on the lower branch of the economy we used to go to a church where they gave us presents and food packages, plus tell us the story of Jesus Christ, which I found fascinating. I really do miss those childhood memories even though sad as it may sound, they were filled with lots of joy and happiness.

    The story of when I gave up the magic of Santa was sad. My older brother told me one night when I was about 7 that Santa wasn’t real and that our parents were the one that got us our gifts. I was adamant that it wasn’t true but he told me our parents were in the living room currently wrapping our gifts. I did not believe him but he got me to leave my room and sneak out to peek. And sure enough they were on the floor wrapping gifts! I was so mad and didn’t want to talk to my brother. But I still want to believe him. But a few years later I found wrapped presents in the closet and told my parents and siblings. My parents had us all go play outside and when we came back asked me where I saw the “presents” again to which I pointed it out to them and clearly saw that the bag wasn’t where it was before. Everyone made fun at me saying that I was seeing things. Although I enjoyed Christmas time, they were also filled with irritating memories about the reality of Santa Claus.

  • Minna says:

    I don’t think there was a time when I wouldn’t have known that Santa really isn’t real.

  • flchen1 says:

    Jo, I don’t recall exactly when we figured out the whole Santa thing, but I do give my immigrant parents kudos for participating in the fiction at all! We did have stocking and Santa gifts for years, as I remember… No elaborate theatrics for us, but what they did do is part of our happy childhood memories!

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Where did your parents immigrate from, Fedora?

      I think it’s such a loving gift for parents who don’t believe to pass on the joy of it anyway.

      We were quite poor while I was growing up, but I don’t remember ever being disappointed at Christmas!

    • flchen1 says:

      Jo, my parents were both born in China, and came as teens to the Canada and the US. It was huge adjustment, especially as they did not have the benefit of today’s ESL programs!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Good morning, everyone! It’s a beautiful day to go to church where my daughters and their daughters are singing, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s a chilly 40 degrees here, but I’m not complaining. I know many of you are snowed in or, worse, freezing!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Whether you’re sleeping in, facing the madness of the five days before Christmas, or enjoying the peace of your favorite place to reflect and meditate, I hope everyone’s Sunday is perfect!

  • Enjoying a lovely cup of hot chocolate on this chilly morning here in Alabama. Sorry, but 42 degrees is COLD in the Deep South !

    If memory serves, and it often does not, I think I was nine years old when I discovered my parents’ hand in delivering our Christmas presents. Some spoil sport at school told my brother and me there was no Santa. The villain suggested we search the house for the things we’d asked Santa to bring us. We dared to venture into our parents’ room – something we NEVER did – and discovered our gifts in the back of a huge wardrobe. (This was during the time we lived in England.) We made a pact not to tell our baby brother who was three at the time.

    My Mother still addresses some of our gifts – From Mother and some of our gifts – From Santa. Dad was always such a huge fan of Christmas and Santa he started this tradition and Mother has carried it on.

    My niece and nephews are grown now, but my two grandnieces are two and six months so we have lots of Santa joy to come!

    Having visited Berlin both before and after the wall came down I can understand how magical the traditions of Santa were during those frightening years.

  • Colleen C. says:

    I do not recall exactly when I learned the truth, but even all these years later I still get presents from Santa! 😉

  • Shannon says:

    My Mom says I discovered it late. I suspect the brother that is only 15 months younger than I broke it to me. I guess I loved the fairy tale and happy endings even then.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    A lady from my church visited me tonight and brought the most delicious candy! It’s Oreo cream balls. She crushes Oreos finely and mixes with cream cheese, rolls the mixture into balls and dips them in white chocolate. These are so rich and wonderful and she brings them to me every Christmas. Thanks, Judy!

    They’re very time intensive, so made with love. What’s your favorite Christmas cookie?

    • Amy Conley says:

      OH My! Those cookies sound awesome!

      Btw, I found out for sure when I was 10. Our babysitter told me, but she also told me to never forget the joy of Santa. I never told any of my siblings, ever! And everyone in my family gets gifts from Santa, every year.

      My grandson #2 has a pure german grandfather and grandmother from his father’s side and they always celebrate the Feast of St Nicolas. And I’m super glad they do that for him. Family traditions are the best!

      • Jo Robertson says:

        How special for your grandson, Amy. Wow, you had a very wise babysitter. I love when the children get old enough to “know,” and are drawn into the secret of Santa and making it special for their younger siblings.

  • gamistress66 says:

    think that’s a wonderful santa tradition to have had as a child 🙂 finding a present beforehand that ended up under the tree christmas morning kinda put the kibosh on the santa believing thing (i suspect my mom planned it)

  • Jo, I’m sorry to be so late to the party. We put the tree up today and were scrambling with other holiday activities.

    I love this peek into your childhood, and the Santa unmasking scheme is great! I don’t remember how old I was when I realized it was a myth, so no cool story from me, alas.

    • Jo Robertson says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Nancy. These days leading up to Christmas Day are so hectic. I just want to stop and breathe sometime. Our family is all here this year. I made a huge pot of chili this morning and kids just kept stopping by!


  • Cassondra says:

    Jo, I’m late commenting, but I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this story of your memories from Christmas in Germany. That personal connection, told from a child’s perspective, really brings home the contrast….living in that former German military man’s house.
    Thank you for sharing that with us.

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Thanks, Cassondra. I’m so glad you had a minute to stop by. I know how hectic this week is for everyone!

  • Jo Robertson says:

    Happy holidays from the Robertsons to all of you. We are so lucky this year to have all 27 members of our immediate family in town. Wild times!

  • Sally Schmidt says:

    Just catching up on posts I didn’t read before Christmas and wanted to say what a delightful post this was. We, too, hung on to Santa for as long as we could and were lucky to have a Mom who said Santa was forever – and if you didn’t believe then how could he bring you gifts? ;-). We had many Santa Sightings with our children. One year my sister and I got so enthused watching my little ones opening gifts after hearing Santa’s sleigh bells we almost forgot poor Santa outside in snow in Indiana! And when our granddaughter came to us to be raised we would be on our way out the door for midnight church service when Grandpa would suddenly remember something he had to do for a minute or didn’t feel well so had to go inside. And after church miraculously Santa had arrived. Happy Holidays. The week after Christmas is a favorite time, no rush so relax and read.