The #SantaHat Tradition: What It Means to Me

If you ever get the chance to know me, you'll find that I am the most sentimental person you'll ever meet. I love remembering anniversaries and key dates. I love keeping a detailed journal and large albums of photos for memories. I love traditions and what they stand for. I love tweeting things like, "Exactly one year ago"¦"

If you've known me in the past four years, you'll know about my most favorite thing to do during the holiday season — the #SantaHat Tradition!

I can't take credit for the idea. I got the idea from a messageboard back in like 2004, where graphic designers volunteered to put Santa Hats on everyone's avatars. I thought it was the coolest idea ever so I held on to that #SantaHat image and tucked it away for a few years.

In December '08, when btvfam started growing together and Facebook took over Myspace, I thought to myself, "how cool would it be to wake up to a ton of Santa Hats all over Facebook?"

So that first holiday season, I made it happen"¦and it was a hit!

  • "Whoa, I thought that Santa Hat was real!!"

  • "Where the hell are all these Santa Hats coming from?!" —@DerekPortea

  • "I want a Santa Hat!" —@AndrewAGarcia

  • "I don't remember them wearing Santa Hats when I took that picture"¦Oh wait a minute, I see what you did there!" [email protected]

But there is one reaction in particular that I will always remember:

@micah_moo randomly broadcasting on BlogTV, wearing a Santa Hat (a real one), rocking out to the 'NSync Christmas album with the biggest freakin' smile on her face. "Mel totally got me excited for Christmas!!"

That right there, out of all the reactions I have ever gotten, is the one that I hold closest to my heart.

The tradition became more to me than just the novelty of seeing Santa Hats all over Facebook"¦it became about spreading Christmas cheer! And spreading it to as many freakin' people as possible. Not just to my friends, but my friends' friends/followers as well.

So with each passing holiday season, I would do more and more Santa Hats. The first year I did 79. The second year I did 190. Last year I did 446. This year I didn't double my previous record but I topped off at a new personal best of 532.

(In case you're wondering how I decide who gets a #SantaHat, I honestly just do it at complete random. I'll sit at the computer, see a name pop up on Twitter or the Facebook Ticker, and I'd slap a #SantaHat on it. I don't create a mega checklist of names or prioritize certain friends over others"¦I just make a butt load of 'em.)

Doing this over 1,000 times in the past two years alone, I realized a couple things:

  1. I am truly blessed to have had so many awesome people come into my life. Truly, truly blessed.

  2. There are so many people that I have slowly lost touch with over the years.

As much as I look forward to doing this every year, it's become a little bittersweet. Here I am, bouncing around Facebook looking for photos to use, smiling at each memory along the way"¦And then for many of you, it hits me, "Holy crap, I haven't seen you in over a year"¦"

Some of it is life getting in the way, throwing complicated priorities on us, pulling us in different directions. That's totally understandable.

But there are also faces I hadn't seen in a while, not because life pulled us apart, but because we pushed each other away. Some of us may have hurt each other, either intentionally or unintentionally. Or we picked different sides in our friends' dramas. Or we just flat out didn't get along. Whatever the reason may be — no matter how legitimate or irrational or petty it was — we decided to push each other away.

With something as simple as photoshopping Santa Hats, it'd be easy for me to be all passive-aggressive about it. "This fucker said I have fat ankles so no Santa Hat for this bitch ass!"

But then I see playing on TV, one of my all-time favorite childhood movies — Home Alone 2. That old creepy shovel man that saves Kevin's life at the end, finally makes amends with his family after so many years. That scene always brought me to tears as a kid"¦and its message still resonates with me today:

Christmas is a time for forgiveness.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that one point, we were all good friends. Some harsh words may have been said (to each other's faces or behind each other's backs), bridges may have been burned...but once upon a time, that bridge was there. And it was good! For a while, it was good.

Nothing should ever take that away.

We may never be able to get things back the way they were"¦but is it really worth holding on to those grudges so tightly?

Sometimes I have to remind myself that it's okay to let my guard down a bit. It's okay to lower those walls I've built. It's okay to cease fire and take a moment to just breathe. At least for a moment. At least long enough for me to be able to look the person in the eye, see past the hurt they once put me through, and say with absolutely sincerity, "I hope you have a Merry Christmas."

It's not an easy task though. I have a stubborn heart and sometimes it takes even years for me to forgive someone. I still have a list of people to truly forgive, and an even heavier list of people that I'm hoping to someday forgive me. Someday"¦

So that's what the #SantaHat Tradition means to me. It's about spreading Christmas cheer to as many people as possible. It's about letting people know I still value the time we share or once shared. It's about taking the time to look into myself, finding forgiveness, and expressing it in one of the simplest ways possible.

As much as I look forward to doing this every holiday season to spread Christmas cheer, the #SantaHat Tradition is very much a humbling experience for me too.

To all my friends that received a #SantaHat this year, whether we've stayed in touch or not, I just wanted to say thank you for being a part of my life. And to those of you who made your #SantaHat as your default picture, thank you so much for helping me spread Christmas cheer.

To each and every one of you out there"¦I know I've typed this over 500 times in the span of one week, but I've always meant it every single time, from the bottom of my heart"¦

Happy Holidays, everyone. <3

-Mel

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