|Christmas Eve in front of the Christmas tree the year before I started school. I got my uniform and backpack for Christmas that year.|
This year, for the first time in my whole life, I'm not with my parents on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve is our family's big celebration. Based on European tradition, the 24th of December is the time we have always gathered for a special feast and given presents. While Christmas Day is still special, in my family it is all about the night before and it is a very strange feeling being away from those traditions. I know that a thousand kilometers away my Mum and sister will be cooking up a storm. There will be no room for table decorations because the giant mostly cold smorgasbord of salads, meats, cheeses, seafood and more will fill the entire table. Most years, even with the table extended, we can't fit the bread or something similar on it. There are a heap of other traditions, but I want to reflect on one that, due to the lack of small children in the family, doesn't really happen at the moment - the Santa hunt.
As the majority of children receive their presents on Christmas morning, Santa has plenty of time during the night to deliver all the presents while they are asleep. However as we got ours on Christmas Eve, he had to sneak into the house during the evening. The time was pretty well known, so after dinner my sister and I, accompanied by a number of adult guests, would head out of the house to see if we could spot Santa as he came to deliver the presents.
We would search along the street, scanning the skies, looking for the telltale red light of Rudolph's nose. However he always managed to elude us and after awhile we would look up at the house (which is high above the street) and see the curtains were open and the candles lit on the tree and the Christmas ornaments which meant Santa had been there.
We would charge up to the house to find a mountain of presents had suddenly appeared under our Christmas tree. My sister would interrogate Dad - did he see Santa. Unfortunately Dad always seemed to have been in the toilet at the crucial moment of Santa's arrival.
The Santa hunt was really made special by the adults who accompanied us. As the youngest in the family, and with special guests in always attendance, there were plenty of people on hand to take us looking while Mum and Dad "cleaned up from dinner".
My cousins were brilliant at helping with the search, one year they even managed to find sleigh tracks and reindeer footprints in the dirt at the end of the street. But the best person to take us on the Santa hunt was Uncle David. David was a slightly curmudgeonly ex-electrician. He was a smoker and would use his cigarette lighter to illuminate dark spots where Santa might be hiding. I can clearly remember crouching next to him looking into the drain, wondering why Santa would be hiding down there. He would nearly always spot a red flashing light in the sky that he assured us was not a plane, it must be Rudolph. He made those night walks absolutely magical.
As we grew older and Santa stopped delivering to our house the Santa walks were replaced with a stroll around the neighborhood to check out the Christmas lights. The walk also doubles as an attempt to digest some of the excessive amounts of food we have eaten before having presents and dessert. I really enjoy that post dinner walk, but somehow it lacks the excitement that only a 5 year old searching for Santa can have.
I'm extremely happy being with S's family this year, but it is strange being so far away from my own familiar traditions. I think I might need to encourage S to take a walk to hunt for Santa tonight anyway.
|Me and my sister, I'm guessing aged about 6 and 4 in traditional German dress after a Santa walk (you can see our excessive mountain of presents behind us).|