I’ve always hated Santa Claus. Santa who doesn’t look anything like my family. We couldn’t pass him off as our creepy uncle, even if we wanted to. Even if his first name is Santa, he’s no saint to me. When I was an infant in 1983, my mother took me to the Fashion Fair Mall to take my picture with Santa. In the picture, I’m wearing a sweat suit the color of sugarplums gone stale, and my dark hair is set against the white snow of a faux beard forest. My mother is laughing nervously on the other end with her feathered hair and brown anime eyes. In the picture, I’m screaming into the celluloid abyss.
Every Christmas, my brother and I always had a mass of presents under the tree with our name on the hand cut tag. The tag always said that the presents came from Santa. My dad grew up in the barrio and would shake his head at the way my mother’s family gifted us at Christmas. He thought we were brown kids rotting fast on the inside. During Christmastime, the adults in my mother’s family ate menudo and tamales for breakfast, while all the children ate reindeer-faced pancakes with bacon ears and whipped cream eyes and Maraschino cherry noses. At nightfall, we were hushed to bed with the looming threat of Santa. Santa won’t bring your presents until you are in a deep deep sleep. Lying still in the pitch dark of my room at my grandparent’s house, I could hear my mother and Tía Martha laughing in the kitchen and the blades in the electric mixer wheeling like women and the crush of glass ornaments in suicide falls. I could hear my grandmother yelling at my grandfather in Spanish I couldn’t understand, while his cowboy boots click clacked furiously on the midnight linoleum because Santa was coming.
In the morning, the milk was always half way gone and the cookies were always all the way gone. Crushed bits of candy cane dough and gingerbread man speckled my grandmother’s china. I’d pick at the leftover bits and wonder where the other parts of the men were. Their arms, their legs, and their heads screaming in the dark parts of some Santa I had never seen in the flesh before.
When I became a mother, I started to say fuck off to Santa. For years, Christmas was a financial set back for me because I wanted to make sure my son had a lot of presents to open for Christmas. And because it was hard, I taught my son to reject Santa. I wanted him to know that each and every one of his presents came from his family. I have always found power in rituals, but just because something is powerful doesn’t mean it is always empowering. The cult of Santa is a powerful ritual but it’s a waste of time and energy for me. I reject Santa because I find him oppressive. Santa is an incubus. Santa who came into my space without asking, trying to act like our Santo. I wish my mother and grandmother and tía told me that they were the ones who bought me those dolls and books and polka dot dresses for me. I wish I knew that it was my grandfather who was the annihilator of cookie cut men. I hate Santa because he reminds me of my assimilation and how I’ll fall short every day trying to resist it. I’m a red glass ornament sparkled with gold glitter, falling and breaking, over and over again. I keep hanging myself up on that tree again because I find it beautiful. Staying up late and keeping close watch this time.
Those are my milk and cookies, motherfucker.
Monique Quintana is the Editor-in-Chief of the literary blogazine, Razorhouse and the Beauty Editor at Luna Luna Magazine. She holds an MFA from CSU Fresno and her work has been published or is forthcoming in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among others. She is a Pocha/Chicana identified mother, daughter, sister, lover, and english teacher from California’s Central Valley. Her story ‘Sad Girl’ will be appearing in the upcoming CLASH Books anthology, Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey & Sylvia Plath.