Kitchen table chaos: mealtime bad manners, piles of still unpenned Christmas cards now tastefully texturised with crumbs, chat about clever packing for our second Spanish Christmas.
“I think you put too much in our Christmas stockings last year, Mum.” offers No. 2.
I am grateful for his helpful attitude (in suggesting an easy way to lighten the luggage).
BUT No. 4 is sitting right next to No. 2. He believes in Santa. Or did.
His fork stops mid-air, grains of rice agonisingly stuck between its prongs. He stares at No. 2. challengingly.
“Are you telling me Father Christmas isn’t real?”
This is turning into a double whammy. Only a few weeks ago did I console a tearful No. 4 during a truthful Tooth Q&A session. He had woken with a toothless grin, felt confidently under his pillow to find … a panicked-looking parent pretending that her arm was not simultaneously slipping under the same pillow with a guilty fistful of coins.
No. 2 looks at me, stricken (I’m behind No.4). I glare back, raising my arms in a question – *what the ????*.
We seek to change the subject – No. 2 reaches for his amazing Christmas joke repertoire.
Way too bad … No. 4’s not in a joking mood. Gaze firmly fixed on a squirming No. 2, he demands the truth.
“Is Santa not real? Is it … Dad?”
“No need to typecast just because Dad’s … cuddly.” responds No.2.
“Huh?” (both me and No. 4).
No. 3 falls off her chair squealing with dizzy delight.
A change of tactic – No. 2 tries to distract and lessen the sorrow of an unfolding truth with some historical facts about the original Father Christmas/Santa Claus (St Nicholas – or Nicholas of Myra who lived in the 4th century). It’s pretty interesting stuff, but the wrong time for a history lesson.
“I just want to know,” pleads No. 4, “Is Santa Claus really Dad?”
I settle down beside my youngest son and ask him if he wants me to lie or not. A pause. He utters an emphatic, “not“, and his eyes begin to light up with an expectant twinkle.
So I confirm that Father Christmas isn’t real – it’s us, his parents, who munch the mince pies and drink the brandy, and leave a trail of destruction betraying that Santa dashed by to drop presents deep inside his stocking.
He grins and hugs his shoulders in a pleased sort of way. He whispers that I mustn’t tell my husband that he knows, so that the pretence can go on. And he concludes by declaring that Santa is Dad and I’m the forgetful Tooth Fairy (typecasting again).
A curious Christmas charade
Our pantomime is arguably just as odd as many others around the world, such as
- Rollerskating to Christmas mass in Caracas, Venezuela (roads are blocked off to traffic especially for worshippers).
- Flocking to KFC in Japan for a feast on Christmas Eve – despite the fact that Christmas is not even celebrated there with a national holiday.
- Never forgetting to include a defecating man called the caganer in your family nativity scene in Catalonia. Obviously he signifies fertility and good fortune.
- the evil Krampus (men dressed up as him) chasing children in Austria ready to abduct especially bad ones and spirit them to hell. Nice.
All a bit weird, but people love to enact them year after year.
Just as we relish in telling appalling cracker jokes – is that just a British thing?
No? Is this any better?
Okay, I hear you groan. So I’ll leave you while I start packing for our second Spanish Christmas, chucking in the stockings (but fewer presents) so we can play out the usual charade in Andalucía. Although now I know about the defecating Caganer I’m a little disappointed we’re not heading to Catalonia. Apparently he’s kept company by a defecating log called a Tió de Nadal. Blanketed up to keep warm in cold December, poor Tió then has the s*** beaten out of him with a stick so that he can poo presents.
There’s now’t so queer as folk, wherever they live.