christmas has always been a very big deal for me. sadly, with my family, it was all about the presents. steady on now people, we had a naivety display in our living room and we were all happy for joesph and mary and that fantastic story of theirs. but if we're being honest i used the naivety figures as foreigners in my barbie tales. i am a good and noble person but the biblical version of christmas didn't include any gifts for me. but santa on the other hand had flying deer and a sack full of toys. so, you see, don't be so fast to judge.
where i'm from, christmas was a community event. that was one advantage to being related to everyone in your village. well that and the wide spread present exchange. everybody gave everybody else a present. the gifts were not expensive - i remember my mom giving out boxes of kleenex. the gifts also had very strict gender lines. all the men received one sort of gift and the same followed for the women. my mom often gave each man a pack of playing cards and the women a pretty tea towel. children usually got mittens or a golden book. it was truly a lovely thing. small tokens of acknowledgement.
we also did a little thing called "see the tree". after christmas, families went from house to house seeing the tree and the gifts. each and every gift under the tree had to be shown off by the recipient and admired. men were sometimes reluctant to join in but once they got started they proved to be quite the showmen. you would have a bit of a lunch or "mug-up" at the person's house and then you moved on. it was an intricate ballet with villagers dancing to and fro to familiar steps. now please don't get the idea it was all dickens' like - the men often complained they didn't receive the much coveted knitted pecker warmer and there were frequent nips of the demon rum
ok, so then there was santa. during the holiday season he was on tv every night - right after the weather forecast. magically, there he was - in his grotto, beseeching us to follow the christmas pledge. the pledge had to be chanted aloud daily and it went as follows
i promise to be good in every way
so that i can help make everyday
almost as happy as christmas day.
ho ho ho
as a child i was rabid follower. now i think, absolute damn genius on the part of the canadian broadcasting corporation. our version of create a cult - scientology north. i'm here to tell you that while some may have said the pledge with absolute confidence, there were some of us that treated it as the ultimate hail mary. my anxiety level would sky rocket around the 1st of december. i mean to even imagine that i might be held accountable for all of my transgressions was enough to have me asking for pepto bismol every night. it wasn't enough for you to repeat the pledge and mean it, you had to actually plan to be good the next day. whatever your particular behavior might be - nose picking, fire starting, excessive talking.... you had to give it up, cold turkey. i didn't stand a chance - i was a chronic hard core talker. how the hell was everyone around me going to know what i was thinking if i stopped talking? strapping, dunce hats, corner standing, blackboard writing, head cuffs, knuckle raps with the ruler had all been tried. trust me, if the provincial school system hadn't been able to shut me up did santa really stand a chance?
the short answer would be no. i tried, i tried so hard but they snuck out, those little opinions, those little suggestions that surprisingly irritated people. and to make it all the more difficult, santa could apparently see into your living room through the tv screen. he sometimes gave a shout out to kids named bonnie or allan - good children. i never heard my name, not even something that could be mistaken for my name. he was watching me and he could tell i was a pledge dodger. so the build up to christmas was fraught with hand wringing and compulsive pledge chanting.
then the morning would arrive and i will say every year he came. but it would not always be immediately apparent, because that god damn, little, elfin bastard would hide my presents. that's right he hid my presents. he seemed to be saying, all right little missy i brought you that farm-set but you're going to have to hunt for it. some years it wasn't too difficult - the aforementioned farm set was in the hall closet under the extra tea bags. the dawn dolls in the spinner of the hover washing machine. but really, my giant barbie head with the silken hair you could style, was in fact in the trunk of the car. i nearly come undone with that one. i feel santa was truly being pissy that year.
so, whatever your motivations for this holiday season might be, i hope you have a good one