Here Comes (the Real) Santa Claus

Becky Sun - Minneapolis, Minnesota
As heard on the This I Believe podcast, December 21, 2015
Becky Sun

As a young immigrant to America, Becky Sun heard about a magical man who brings Christmas presents. Unfortunately, her parents didn’t know about the tradition, so Santa failed to visit their house. When she finally met Santa years later, he gave Sun a memorable gift.

Age Group: 30 - 50
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I believe in Santa Claus. No, I didn’t always believe, but nine years ago, on Christmas Eve, he knocked on my front door and handed me a stocking filled with candy and toys.

Unlike the majority of my friends, I wasn’t introduced to the jolly guy until second grade. My family emigrated from Taiwan to a small town in central Georgia, where my dad got a visa for his family and a job doctoring inmates at a nearby penitentiary. I had just learned English, and from what little I could gather from my classmates, there was this guy who would come down one’s chimney and put toys in one’s stocking on Christmas Eve! What a great country, I thought. After I looked up stocking in my Chinese-English dictionary, I knew what I had to do.

On that fateful night, after everyone went to bed, I took my longest, cleanest knee sock and attached it to a nail already on the mantel. Obviously, the previous owners of this house were no strangers to this Santa character. Unfortunately, my parents were.

I woke up before everyone else on Christmas Day and ran to the fireplace. To make a sob story short, I was hit with the reality of a flaccid sock and the biggest lie ever told. I indulged in a few tears, quickly took down the sock, and stuffed it in the back of a drawer. Santa was dead.

Every December since then, the topic of Christmas memories would inevitably come up, and I would regale my friends with my poor-little-me story. I had to make it as wry as possible, or else I would cry.

How could I know that Santa was just late? Nine years ago, on Christmas Eve, an older man with a white beard and a red cap knocked on my front door. He said, “I’ve been looking for you for twenty-five years.” He handed me a bulging red stocking, winked, and left. On top of the stocking was a card. It read: “For Becky—I may have missed you in the second grade, but you’ve always lived in my heart. Santa.”

Through tear-blurred eyes, I recognized the curlicue handwriting of Jill, a friend I had met just two months before. I later discovered that the older man was her father. Jill had seen the hurt little girl underneath the jaded thirty-something woman and decided to do something about it.

So now I believe that Santa is real. I don’t mean the twinkle-eyed elf of children’s mythology or the creation of American holiday marketers. Those Santas annoy and sadden me. I believe in the Santa Claus that dwells inside good and thoughtful people. This Santa does not return to the North Pole after a twenty-four-hour delivery frenzy but lives each day purposefully, really listens to friends, and then plans deliberate acts of kindness.

Becky Sun is a senior editor for Iconoculture, a consumer insights company. She now lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children, whose stockings are filled with care every Christmas Eve.

Independently produced by John Gregory for This I Believe, Inc.