I came to the U.S. when I was only 2 years old. As an Asian American immigrant child in a family where money was stretched thin, there wasn’t even the hint that Santa could be real in our household. We knew Santa wasn’t coming on Christmas eve, and the only presents we’d be getting under the artificial Christmas tree were the sweaters, pants and new coats from our parents. We did watch all the same Christmas specials that other kids watched, so we understood that they believed in Santa, and we knew who Santa was, and we knew all the American traditions around Christmas; we just never believed in Santa ourselves. There were some early Christmas eve nights that I had hope that Santa would come; but the morning after would always prove to be a disappointment. Unlike Lisa Ling from The View, who learned early on that Santa liked Caucasian children better than Chinese children, we didn’t even believe in Santa.
I didn’t mean to come off sounding so cynical in just the first paragraph of a story about Christmas. I really do have the Christmas spirit. I’m the one person in my family that arranges an annual family get together for Christmas, I make sure everyone who is coming for Christmas has a present, and now that I have my own 4 year old daughter I do make sure she believes in Santa. It hasn’t been easy, as she’s already asked how Santa fits in our small little fireplace and how come one mall Santa isn’t the same person as another mall Santa. I’m just glad she hasn’t asked why Santa isn’t Chinese. (And for those of you that think otherwise, you can always get the “Santa is Asian” t-shirt [no I’m not affiliated with this t-shirt], watch the Asian Santa in Family Guy, or become a fan of the Asian Santa is Better Facebook group).
As we run around doing our holiday errands, I realize she thinks of Christmas as a time to get presents and not as the holiday I’ve come to see it as; which is the holiday to spend with your family. But I know that’s part of the process of growing up, and I’ve still got to get through plenty of Christmas get togethers in her teenage years. But at least in her youth, she still has some innocence, and does have the magic of believing in Santa.