“Have I been a bad boy, Mami? Is that why Santa didn't bring me any gifts?”
That's the beginning of my relationship with Santa Claus, a relationship that using Facebook terms I'd describe as “It's complicated”. As much as I would love to consider myself the troublemaker, I did not start the beef with the old man. No, the roots are much deeper and go well before my time, about a century ago or so. My family, both on the paternal and maternal sides, have lived in Puerto Rico for as far back as I could trace their histories. They were there before the Spanish-American war resulted in Puerto Rico's current political status, and they've been quite proud of their resistance to some of the American traditions, mostly the ones regarding Christmas. To them, Santa Claus is not just against their Roman Catholic view of Christmas (exclusively Jesus-centered), but he's a direct reminder of the conflicts brought by the assimilation to American Culture, and a threat to their deep-routed cultural heritage.
As a result, during my first few Christmases I did not receive Christmas gifts. Those were reserved for what it's arguably our biggest Holiday: Three Kings Days, on Epiphany day (January 6th). Not only they bring you gifts to your house while you sleep, but they also drop off gifts for you in your neighbors', and your relatives' houses. All you have to do is to be good kid, and bring grass (the lawn-kind) in a shoe box as food for the Camels the Kings ride.
However, it didn't matter how much my parents hated and resisted Mr. Claus; there was no stopping him. Many, if not most parents reasoned that their children would have more time to play with their toys before school started in early January if they received their gifts in December. As a result the people around us started teaching their kids about Santa, and they received presents from him. My parents tell me that I started wondering why I didn't receive any gifts for Christmas, and the other kids pointed out that Santa did not bring gifts to naughty kids. Ashamed and full of sorrow, I cried and went to my parents, telling them I knew I was a naughty kid, undeserving and unworthy of gifts. Heartbroken, my parents felt they had no choice but to allow Santa access to our living room and our lives from there on.
Don't get me wrong. We never got much for Christmas anyway. Most of the toys, the good ones I would say, were reserved for Three Kings day. Still, my parents' doing was a gift in itself. They taught us that in a world that can often be harsh, a little bit of magic and wonder is always welcomed. Hopefully we all have a chance to make someone happy this Christmas Day. No gifts are needed, just your own way of bringing some of the Season's magic to someone's life.