Thanksgiving is past, Christmas trees are up, and students everywhere are ready for their break. At this point in the season parents begin telling their young children to be good because "Santa is watching." To them, this is a true statement, especially as Santas have been set up all over the place for about a month now, waiting for the next little boy or girl to hop on his lap and whisper exactly what they want for Christmas.

If you pay attention to most Santa themed movies nowadays, it usually boils down to a couple of kids helping restore the belief of Santa Claus in order to save Christmas. So, the question arises of how do you believe in something you know isn't real when you aren't under the age of 7? Up until four years ago you could've asked me.

Here's my story of how I believed in Rudolph and Santa Claus until my freshman year of high school, and in a different way, still do.

Growing up, my parents hurdled obstacles to keep me believing in St. Nick and his special reindeer. We hung our stockings, we set out our plate of cookies and milk, we wrote letters, and we tried to stay up on Christmas Eve. They never failed to fill Santa's every role and combat my theories when at times, I clearly had them caught red handed. This included writing me letters from the duo to answer the ones that I had written for them. As the years grew on and I became more skeptical, as every child does, I began asking for signs of actual existence. Every year I would ask, and this sparked a tradition we still carry out today: every year, I look forward to receiving a Rudolph themed tree ornament.

Now of course my beliefs began to get me teased at even a young age because for some reason intermediate schoolers just love to tell everyone that Santa is in fact, not real. Come middle school, I kept it to myself altogether. Finally, a day came during my freshman year of high school when it just so happened that a friend was going around asking everyone if they believed in Santa. Of course, everyone said no and followed it with some brag-filled story about how young they were when they came to the conclusion… and then it was my turn. I told them I did. As a group of four other high school students stared back at me in disbelief, I realized I couldn't defend why I believed this. I just did.

This past week in our Odyssey group message we were asked to share our favorite Christmas traditions and I told my community of my Rudolph ornaments. This got me thinking on what they meant to me and why it is that I believe in Santa.

I believe in Santa Claus, not in the way that most would expect however. Sadly, as everyone does, we lose our childhood innocence in what seems like a blink of an eye. Therefore, I no longer possess the ignorance to believe in the physical person of Santa. But I believe in his presence, his spirit. The second we as children accept that our fantasy of any being, whether that be Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, or any other persona does not exist, we surrender more and more of that childhood innocence.

As we lose this childish outlook on the world, we are left with nothing but how terrifying it can actually be and I find that unexciting and to be frank, sad. So, call me childish because I love cartoons, I believe in improbable miracles, fantasies and fairy tales, and on Christmas Eve, I believe that Santa Claus will slide down my chimney to deliver me a gift.

Christmas has always been my favorite holiday and my ornaments remind me of my childhood and what I loved so much. I believe in Santa Claus because I refuse to give up that lightness and optimism. I may grow older, but I will never grow up.