Okay, do all of you guys remember that Christmas song, "Up On The Housetop?" The one that was burned into your brains as a kid, constantly chanted as a harmless Christmas carol?
"Up on the housetop, reindeer pause. Out jumps good ol' Santa Claus. Down through the chimney with lots of toys. All for the little ones, Christmas joys. Ho ho ho, who wouldn't go? Ho ho ho, who wouldn't go? Up on the housetop, click, click, click. Down through the chimney with good Saint Nick."
It's not that harmless. When I was a kid, I was told by a number of my friends that they found Santa Claus to be a bit creepy or even frightening, but I had always thought otherwise. That is, until I found out that (SPOILER ALERT) there never was a Santa Claus. But, if Saint Nick never existed, why did our parents tell us about him in the first place? Were they preparing us for heartbreak with such a lie? Or were they just telling us another lie, possibly to protect us? I came up with such a theory when I had a terrible experience myself.
On the Christmas Eve of 2006, I had just turned nine. I was so excited for the morning the next day that I couldn't sleep. I had already found out earlier that year that Santa Claus was a hoax, but that didn't diminish my rabid love for the holiday itself. I was laying in my bed, staring up into the pitch blackness of my bedroom.
Usually, I slept with the door open, because I was scared of both the darkness and separation. This night, though, was different. My mother had to close the door, because she didn't want me sneaking a peek of the presents she had gotten for my older sister and me. So I accepted the darkness just for once, my mind too distracted by the thoughts of tomorrow to think about what could be lurking in the pitch black that engulfed my room.
I was concentrating on my mother's conversations with my grandma, hoping to hear something about what they got me. At the age of nine, eavesdropping was my expertise. But the sound of gift wrap and the tearing of tape drowned out their voices. That and another faint sound. It was familiar. I focused on that sound for a while, trying to figure out what it was, although almost imperceptible. It was a song! A song I knew very well, one that comforted me for a moment. "Up on the housetop, click, click, click, down through the chimney with good Saint Nick," I hummed along with it.
But then, I realized something off-putting. Maybe it was my imagination, or possibly sound being thrown across the house. Our house does that often. But, it sounded like, for whatever reason, this faint music was coming from inside my room. Starting to get scared, as I usually did when forced into the darkness, I turned on the lamp on my nightstand. I relaxed to find that nothing was there, aside for my dresser and a pile of clean laundry that I had forgotten to put away. The music also abruptly stopped as I did this.
Suddenly, I heard another sound. It was a knocking sound, coming from above me. Well, more like footsteps, I realized. As if a bunch of animals were walking around on the roof of my house. Reindeer? I was shocked. I thought Santa didn't exist! Yet, here it was, the tell-tale first sign of his arrival - reindeer on your roof. I heard the music start up again, this time at a slightly louder magnitude. I could hear the words now, sung by an unknown chorus of children. Again, though, it was coming from inside my room.
By now, I was intensely confused and equally as frightened. Where is this sound coming from? Why are reindeer on my roof? Am I alone right now? Do Mama and Grandma hear this? Countless questions flooded my thoughts as I heard the thumping from above me and the music surrounding me.
They both stopped abruptly.
I listened, tense, to see what would happen. I was frozen, and now clutching the Bible that I kept under my pillow to ward off bad dreams. It was a common exercise that most of my family practiced, as we all were raised to be ferociously religious.
But the Bible did not help me as I looked in horror at a new sound coming from inside my room - directed inside my closet. I heard my clothes on their hangers start to rustle, and then the doorknob jiggle. I was frozen in fear. None of my body could move, no matter how much my mind screamed, "Escape! Escape! Whatever it is, get away from it!"
The doorknob turned slowly. The door gradually opened all the way, creaking intimidatingly. I looked into the darkness that was my closet. The only emotion I felt at the moment was pure terror. I saw white eyes stare back at me. They didn't glow. There was nothing especially terrifying about them, despite the fact that someone was inside my closet! The music started again, paralyzing me even more - if that was even possible. It was very loud now. I heard the chorus of children singing the song again, yet they sounded different. Shaky. Maybe even frightened. Did they feel the same way I did?
I saw whoever was in my closet emerge from the darkness, into the light of my lamp. I felt tears wetting my face, my throat burning. I felt like I could scream. I wanted to scream. I needed to scream. But he did not allow me to. I don't know how. His silent stare just told me not to. It was Santa Claus. But his face was not sweet, cuddly, or caring, as depicted in the many pictures and movies about him. He looked at me with a grim look, as if he was extremely upset at me. But that was an understatement. His overly disdainful stare was what was making me cry, not him being inside my room. The music now sounded like it was melting away, fading into the background. It got quieter and quieter, until we both were staring at each other in complete silence.
"Down through the chimney with good Saint Nick," he said behind gritted teeth, his voice low and hateful.
"...What?" I choked out in reply. I didn't understand. Why was he telling me the lyrics to his song?
"You," he uttered. Suddenly, he lunged for me, but I jumped back in surprise. I nearly fell off the other side of my bed. Realizing the ability to move again, I sprinted toward the door and threw it open, nearly breaking it down. Santa moved quickly, grabbing hold of the shoulder of my pajama shirt. I pushed the opposite way with all of the force I possibly could in a desperate effort to make him let go. Thankfully, he did, and I ran down the hallway.
"MAMA!" I screamed, my voice finally coming back. She whipped around in confusion, sitting on the couch with a half-taped present. I jumped over the couch and hid behind it. Usually, I would never even attempt to jump the couch as I was terribly un-athletic. But, in this situation, it was the best idea possible. She stood up, a look of both fear and fury washing over her. Grandma sat on the floor next to the Christmas tree in shock.
Mama immediately started toward my bedroom. Santa stood motionless in the hallway, that look of disdain on his face. He never moved until Mama charged at him with all her force. She locked her hands around Santa's throat, gripping it with so much force that it seemed impossible! She must have been powered by adrenaline and the motherly instinct to protect us. Santa fell to the ground within a matter of seconds, and it was only then that Mama let go and began kicking him in the stomach repeatedly as she screamed, "BITCH! DON'T! EVER! TOUCH! MY! KIDS!"
All the while, that song was playing, so loud it rang throughout the entire house. He began singing along as he coughed up blood, his evil expression never changing no matter how equally evil my mother was to him. Her sudden power and strength was ridiculous, and somewhat amusing. Yet he remained unchanged, singing along with hate until passing out.
My sister opened her bedroom door to find Mama still beating Santa senseless, which must have frightened her as much as he did me. Grandma had called 911, and was describing an apparent break-in and our address. Soon, the police came, long after Mama had determined that he wasn't waking up anytime soon. The music had stopped, and just before the sound of police sirens came, we heard the sound of footsteps on the roof again.
Later, the police determined that he was just some crazy old guy who had sneaked into the house earlier, and had been hanging out in my closet for a while. He was delusional; either he thought he actually was Santa, or that Santa was just a Scooby-Doo-esque costume that covered up his identity. But that still didn't explain the footsteps on the roof or that song. I don't think I'll ever know what really happened that night, but Christmas has never been the same for us.
And I will never, ever, sing that song again.