The lights. The decorations. The tree. The songs. The memories. It’s a combination of these and more that makes me feel nostalgic at Christmas time.

Childhood memories linger in my mind of special moments during this time of year.

I remember one Christmas Eve, I was waiting patiently for sleep to take me into a dreamland flowing with candy canes and enough Christmas magic to make my wishes come true when I heard a strange noise outside. Being ten years old my imagination was unrestrained. The chance that Santa’s sleigh or reindeer hooves had made that noise was credible to me and I was eager to catch a glimpse of the jovial man with his huge red bag of presents or the sleigh with the reindeer’s patiently waiting for his return. Swiftly moving my legs over the side of my bed I quietly edged to the door of my room. Turning the knob and pushing it open as quietly as I could I looked into the dark hallway. Nothing; no sound, no light, no scuffing of feet on the wooden floorboards. Curiously, I crept down the hallway into the loungeroom. The glow of the tree lights warmed the room. Butterflies fluttered in circles inside my stomach as the anticipation of opening presents loomed ever closer. The thrill of the unexpected enticed me.

It must be time for mum and dad to get up soon.

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The tree looked even more magical in the stillness of the night. It appeared to have bloomed; the smell of pine needles was alluring, it stood taller like a fresh shower of rain had made it reach its branches towards the sky praising the clouds for their deliverance. The presents under the tree had multiplied.

Santa has been!

My ten-year-old brain raced as the realisation that Santa could still be here struck me. My legs carried me back down the hallway faster than ever before. Rounding the corner into the kitchen I flicked the light on, expecting a ‘Caught ya!’ moment but I was too late. The glass of milk was empty. All that remained of the chocolate chip cookies my siblings and I had left out was a few crumbs.

Oh, my god!

The skirmish in my head of belief and disbelief left me struck with bewilderment as the evidence sunk in. Santa WAS real!

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Remembering the noise from outside I spun on my heels and raced for the back door.

“What are you doing up?” I heard my mother say startling the near life out of me.

“I heard a noise and… Santa’s been… look, he ate… cookies… milk is gone.” In my excitement, the words tumbled over one another not making sense but sense enough for my mother to smile and place a tender hand on the middle of my back and usher me to the doorway of my room.

“Go to sleep, soon it will be Christmas.” Placing a kiss on my forehead and swinging the door open wider she watched me climb into bed.

“Good night,” she said blowing me a kiss.

“Night.”

A loud commotion woke me from my sleep. Drowsily, I stretched tall pointing my toes.

“Wake up Santa has been!” I recognised my dad’s voice bellowing with excitement. Without a second of hesitation, I bounded off my bed and sprinted into the loungeroom. My brother and sister jostled and bumped into me as we hurried down the hallway like a pack of wild animals on the move.

An overwhelming feeling of excitement grew from the depths of my core all the way down to my toes. It seemed as though every fibre of my being was electrified with anticipation. I felt like I was going to explode with excitement. With eyes, wide open and a kooky grin on our faces the three of us stared at the spectacle in front of us.

Dad was sitting under the tree wearing a Santa hat surrounded by colourfully wrapped presents of different shapes and sizes. Secretly, I hoped mine was the big one in the corner wrapped in red and green paper with the words Merry Christmas written cursively upon it. The memory of this moment was etched by the artist in my brain as I captured this magical sight in my mind’s eye.

Later that morning, I was playing with my new toys, when my brother grabbed my arm and pushed me out the front door.

“Look at this!” he pointed to the ground.

My imagination sparked as my eyes lit up and my body tensed. Right there in front of me, as real as the pine needles on the tree, were footprints. Santa’s footprints. His boots in fact. For what felt like the hundredth time in the last few hours my brain back flipped leaving my body incapable of moving without causing chaos. My arms and legs wavered like octopus’ tentacles as I hurtled towards the house.

“Mum… Dad…” I screamed.

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Later in the quietness of my room, I reflected on the morning’s events. The sound I had heard. The cookie crumbs. The empty milk glass. The footprints in the driveway leading to the house. Santa was real; just as the wind is real, just as God is real. You can’t see them, or touch or even smell them. You just have to believe they are real and the magic comes alive.

Believe in what fills your heart with joy and love this season.  Encourage the mystery and magic of childhood.  And if one day you choose not to believe anymore, remember it never hurt you to believe. It made Christmas more exciting and magical.

Merry Christmas!

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