Why I go see Santa every year

A childhood activity has become a meaningful tradition, 30 years running

December 9, 2015 | Young Voices | Volume 19 Issue 24
Aaron Epp | Young Voices Editor
Aaron, Daniel and Thomas Epp with Santa in 1988. (Photos courtesy of Aaron Epp)

As Christmas approaches, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is heading to a local mall with my siblings so we can have our picture taken with Santa.

I have had my photo taken with Santa each December since I was a year old. My brother Thomas joined the fun in 1986, our brother Daniel followed two years after that, and when Daniel got engaged to his now-wife Anna-Marie in 2012, she joined us, too.

Thirty years of going to see Santa is something fun to mention when you’re making conversation at Christmas parties. People get a kick out of the idea of four adults doing this year after year.

Better yet is showing people the photos, which are humorous enough to create a Buzzfeed “listicle” that would undoubtedly go viral. The photos are too entertaining not to love:

  • There’s the terrified looks in our eyes when we were very young.
  • There’s the year we all wore our Sunday best.
  • There’s the year we all wore jeans and denim shirts.
  • There’s the shifting weight and facial hair styles from year to year as we made the transition from childhood to puberty to adulthood.
  • In recent years, we’ve adopted a different theme for every photo. Last year’s theme was Christmas ties.
  • Then there’s the year that Santa sat on my lap for the photo. To this day, I have never seen Santa do that with anyone else.

Our parents started the tradition, as many parents do. When we were children, our parents took us to the mall one evening each December. We ate supper in the food court and then visited jolly old St. Nick.

If not the antithesis of the true meaning of Christmas, Santa Claus can be, at the very least, a distraction from the reason Christians celebrate Christmas. At his best, he is a symbol of generosity and charitable giving. At his worst, Santa is a symbol of unfettered consumption and the desire for more, more, more. So why visit Santa year after year?

As I reflect on my personal motivation for keeping the tradition going well past the age when most people give it up, a few reasons come to mind:

  • First, nostalgia: Taking the picture with Santa each year reminds me of a time when life seemed more simple and carefree.
  • Second, there’s the fun factor I mentioned earlier: Friends and family get a kick out of seeing these photos year after year, and we have fun posing for the pictures.
  • Third, and most importantly, I love my siblings very much. They are not only my family, they’re my friends as well.

Thomas is the life of the party. Daniel is kind, compassionate and introspective. Anna-Marie has become a most welcome addition to our family, always upbeat and ready to push my thinking when it comes to topics like Canadian politics, food justice and creation care.

Our tradition of going to see Santa each year is an annual reminder to me of how fortunate I am to have these incredible people in my life.

Ironically, while Santa is a distraction for many from what is truly important about Christmas—the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to show us the way to God—visiting Santa is, for me, a reminder to focus on what’s important. The food and gifts that surround Christmas are fun, but each year they are less and less important to me.

What remains important, year after year, are the opportunities to gather together with the people I love. Visiting Santa with my siblings is one of those opportunities, and I hope the tradition continues for a long, long time.

Aaron, Daniel and Thomas Epp with Santa in 1988. (Photos courtesy of Aaron Epp)

Aaron, Daniel and Thomas in their Sunday best, 1992.

Aaron, Daniel and Thomas donned Canadian tuxedos in 1995.

In 2006, Santa decided to switch things up and sit on Aaron's lap.

Daniel's partner, Anna-Marie, made her first appearance in an Epp siblings Santa photo in 2012.

Daniel, Anna-Marie, Thomas and Aaron donned Christmas ties for their 2014 photo.

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