The John and Tish Deus family practiced the same tradition each Christmas, which was handed down from his family: Santa would deliver the Christmas tree fully decorated, put up all the decorations and deliver all the presents, after the children went to bed Christmas Eve.
"It made for a long night for the parents, but it was a great treat for the children when they awoke Christmas morning and saw their house transformed into a holiday paradise," recalled Pleasanton resident John Deus.
"My parents did this for my brother and me (starting in 1942)," he added. "I did this for my three children (starting in 1967). My daughter and her husband have done this since 2005, and still do for our three grandchildren at Christmas."
The grandchildren -- Margaret (Greta), 11; Caroline, 9; and Pierre, 8, Laborde-Lagrave -- live in Sacramento but often visit John and Tish in their Birdland neighborhood in Pleasanton.
"One of their favorite outings when they are in Pleasanton is to attend performances at the Firehouse Arts Center," Deus said. "They've seen 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'The Little Mermaid,' and 'My Fair Lady' with their grandparents."
For three generations, the last thing the Deus children have done before they go to bed Christmas Eve is to put out cookies and cold chocolate milk for Santa at the fireplace and carrots for his reindeer.
After Christmas 1991, when John and Tish Deus lived in Annapolis, Md., John wrote about how they had surprised their daughters with special gifts when they were home from college for the holidays. He was happy to share it with Pleasanton Weekly readers.
Santa's Christmas gotcha
By John Deus
Christmas Eve tradition in our home had Santa delivering all the presents and festive decorations long after the children had fallen asleep. This tradition tested the resourcefulness of Mom and Dad who were Santa's principal elves. It was tough to hide the presents from the children in the days prior to Christmas morning. Small presents could easily be hidden, but large packages presented a more difficult challenge.
One Christmas, we decided to give our daughters, Missy and Catherine, each a 21-inch TV set. They were both in college now, and both wanted a TV for their dorm rooms.
They were also at an age where their curiosity usually got the better of them. They, along with their older brother Tom, would surely engage in a pre-Christmas present hunt when they came home from college for Christmas break. The challenge for Mom and Dad was how to hide the TVs in their small townhouse until Christmas morning.
Since hiding the large TV boxes was nearly impossible, why not just wrap them and put them out in full view -- except tag one box, "To Grandma from Santa," and tag the other box, "To Grandpa from Santa"?
The large wrapped boxes would be so obviously in view that they might be totally dismissed from Tom's, Missy's and Catherine's curiosity. A gamble, for sure, but we were dealing here with three college students!
Christmas morning came, and we all awoke to a home decorated with candles, wreaths, lights, stockings by the fireplace, and piles of presents under the Christmas tree. Tom, Missy and Catherine took turns playing Santa's helpers by passing out the presents to everyone.
At last, only two large presents remained beside the Christmas tree. Santa's helpers had decided to save until last the two big presents for Grandma and Grandpa Cangiano.
Missy and Catherine both went over to the tree and began wrestling the large boxes across the room. Then Catherine stopped at one point to look at the tag to see if her box was for Grandma or for Grandpa. She screamed in complete surprise, "Missy, this present is for you!"
Missy looked at her with a very puzzled expression and then looked at the tag on her box. She cried, "Catherine, this box is for you!"
They looked at each other in disbelief, and then both looked at Mom and Dad with quirky smiles on their faces. They had been tricked big time! The gift tags had been switched Christmas morning.
Their biggest Christmas surprise had been right there under their noses, and they had not given the packages a second thought.