In modern times, the Christmas season begins as soon as Thanksgiving is over with pine trees and festive ornaments decorating every home and store.

As I go to the shopping mall and see long lines of families waiting to meet Santa Claus, I can’t help but fondly remember back to the past Christmases when I took time to make cookies and write Santa thank you letters. Going to bed on Christmas Eve and waking up on Christmas morning to find that “Santa’s reindeer” had made a huge mess out of the carrots I left them was one of the most happy experiences in my childhood. Those magical moments were abruptly halted when one mix-up occurred one year.

I specifically remember waking up on another Christmas morning and walking into the living room only to find my dad sleeping on the couch at 8 a.m.. Being absent minded, I told him to go to sleep before Santa heads back to the North Pole. Around one week later, I realized that maybe Santa wasn’t the person I thought he was. After all, how could someone visit the homes of millions of children in a single night? Since I have lived in apartment complexes my whole life, I also did not have a chimney. My parents have always claimed that Santa would come in through my front door, but I always thought that was a little fishy since a friend of mine (who also lived in an apartment) told me Santa would enter her home through a window. This, to me, made more sense since Santa did ride a sleigh with twelve reindeer. I thought to myself, “How would Santa park his sleigh without causing a huge ruckus in my neighborhood?” These questions, along with small details that did not add up, have ended up killed my faith in Santa Claus.

[one_third]I thought to myself, “How would Santa park his sleigh without causing a huge ruckus in my neighborhood?”[/one_third]

For many years following that incident, I did not feel excitement when I heard holiday music on KSSK. When I saw seasonal decorations in restaurants and shopping malls, I found that there was magic lacking due to the fact I stopped believing in Santa Claus at such a young age. Holiday movies like “The Polar Express” and “Elf” did not impact me as strongly as they should have. However, I did enjoy feeling slightly superior next to my friends as they told one another about the gifts “Santa” had brought them. I recall one friend claiming she saw him with her very own eyes in the second grade and I knew not to trust her, although I secretly hoped she was telling the truth at the back of my mind.

It wasn’t until fairly recently that I realized having Christmas spirit is not based on whether or not you believe in Santa Claus. It really just depends on how you treat others during the holiday season. It’s important to be kind to one another during Thanksgiving and Christmas, since these two holidays are very family oriented in America. People do more kind deeds for each other. Why is there an abundance of Salvation Army bell ringers collecting donations during Christmas time? I believe this is due to the fact people feel more generous as the year comes to a close. After all, Christmas is all about giving to one another.

This December I plan on doing small deeds, like writing appreciation letters to my friends, or giving food to homeless people. I know this sounds pretty cliché, but I like to imagine that even the smallest gesture can make someone’s day. The smallest compliment can stay in my mind for a very long time (I still remember a few from three years ago), so I hope I am not the only one who truly appreciates even the smallest of compliments. And since it is so easy to make someone’s day a little brighter, why don’t we do so every day of the year?

Image credit: Orlando / Hulton Archive / Getty Images / Universal Images Group Rights Managed