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Christmas ‘Revelation’ Shapes Next Generation’s Traditions


Gregory J. Rummo 

            When I was a little boy, there were two traditions we celebrated during Christmas. 

            I was raised in a Christian home and every year we set up an elaborate Nativity scene complete with a hand-made wooden crèche. There were donkeys, horses, and a herd of sheep, not just two or three mind you, and a half-dozen shepherds to keep watch over their flock by night.

            The wise men were there too along with their camels, which had been gaudily adorned with blankets fashioned from small swatches of fabric on to which were sewn strands of costume jewelry. That was mom’s touch. She wanted those camels to look like beasts of burden fit for kings.

            There were at least five angels and hoards of other creatures, human and otherwise.

            Mary and Joseph knelt on either side of an empty manger. A red rooster perched precariously on its edge, awaiting the birth of the Christ child.

            Then, on Christmas Eve before going to bed, we would un-wrap the small, cherubic baby Jesus and place him into the manger in the center of the crèche.

            Mom and dad also thought it was important that I experience the Santa Claus phenomenon. Maybe it was because Santa Claus hadn’t visited their house too often when they were kids. They both grew up during the Great Depression and did without many things during their childhood.

            “I was lucky if I got an apple or a piece of chocolate,” I remember my dad saying on several occasions in response to some out-of-proportion whining coming from my mouth. 

            And so, every Christmas Eve, after the Nativity procession, I’d leave a glass of milk and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the coffee table in the living room.

            Sure enough, the next morning, there was the glass, now with only a small puddle of milk on the bottom. All that remained of the sandwich were scattered pieces of crust and a few bread crumbs.

            It was years later, as a six-year old, that my father sprang it on me that this St. Nick stuff was all a big, elaborate hoax.

            So traumatic was the experience that I remember the incident vividly to this day.

            We were driving together on our way to a department store to do some shopping when my dad asked me what I wanted for Christmas. I don’t remember exactly how I answered, but it was something like “I already wrote Santa a letter and he knows.”

            Dad must have not yet spoken to mom. He was fishing for clues and apparently had no idea what I was expecting under the tree.

            “Santa Claus doesn’t exist,” he said matter-of-factly. 

            Time stood still for an instant as his words slowly percolated deeply into my cranium. I caught my breath as that hollow feeling crept up in my chest cavity—the kind you experience whenever some horrible, inescapable, undoable realization comes over you. 

            I was crushed.

            Speechless, all I could do was burst out in tears.

            Jolly old St. Nick was nothing more than a big fat phony in a red suit.

            “Oh, I’m sorry, son,” he said, underestimating the depth of the psychological gash he had just inflicted by delivering those four words in one fell swoop of his tongue.

            “I thought you knew.”

            When our children were born we decided we would emphasize only one of my childhood traditions in our home during Christmas.

            We explained to our two sons about the One who “sees when you’ve been sleeping” and who “knows when you’re awake.” But instead of relying on a myth, we anchored those truths in something more firm, revealing to our boys that His name isn’t Santa Claus, it’s “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” as the Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote and George Frederic Handel set to music centuries later.

            And what’s really the greatest Christmas present of all to this dad is that I won’t ever have to worry about telling my children that The Real Giver of Christmas joy only exists in the imagination of a child’s heart.          


Gregory J. Rummo is a syndicated columnist. Visit his website;

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