Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How to Catch Santa Claus

When you live in a country that has only just begun to celebrate Christmas (mostly for its commercial potential), it takes a little extra effort to generate holiday cheer. In my fervor to reintroduce the nativity set and the Advent calendar and the Christmas story, I somehow forgot about Santa Claus. He got lost in a flurry of holiday baking and decorating and online shopping. Now that the dust is settling, I've suddenly remembered him. I know it's hard to believe, but the portly old fellow slipped through the cracks.

I understand why some parents choose to ban Old Saint Nick. I also sympathize with parents who don't want their kid to be the third grade know-it-all who spoils the fun for everyone else. I probably should have stronger opinions, but somehow the grand Kris Kringle debate hasn't hit our household. Like I said, we live in the land of no-Christmas. If I want our boys to believe in Santa, it will take initiative--like buying a fake velvet suit and padding Daniel with pillows. It will also require creativity and storytelling genius. Unfortunately, I'm already too busy answering a million and one miscellaneous Christmas questions to add another topic to the pot. (Yes, Jesus had a dirty bottom. No, her name is not "Mary Christmas." Yes, the lights are pretty--DON'T bite them!) For better or worse, Santa is destined to be lost in the shuffle.

Forgetting Santa does make me a little sad since he featured so large in my childhood Christmases. We had a plastic Santa with a light bulb for innards on our front porch every year. I loved coming home to his friendly wave and glowing pink cheeks. He was our Christmas beacon. Santa also decked out our Christmas tree. Every year the branches were hung with a collection of dancing Santas that my mom originally bought because they were toddler friendly. Most of them had been well-chewed.

My favorite memories, though, are the schemes my dad came up with for catching Santa red-mittened in the act of distributing our loot. My dad went to great lengths to encourage our belief in the jolly, old elf, including braving frigid Christmas Eve temperatures to pass under our windows with a red light and jingle bells. Every year he came up with a new plan to prove once and for all that Santa was the real deal. Our chimney was clearly not large enough for a cat, much less a man of Santa's stature, so our schemes usually centered around other points of entry. One Christmas my dad taped a nail pointy-side-out in the frame of the front door. When we woke the next morning we found a piece of wool from Santa's coat snagged on the tip. Zonkers! It worked!!!

Another year my dad scavenged a pair of jumbo-sized snow boots. Just before we went to bed on Christmas Eve, he took a brand new bag of flour from the pantry and shook it out all over the front porch. We were lost. How could flour possibly trap the big guy? When we woke up the next morning the carpets were covered with massive, Santa boot prints. The path from the front door to the Christmas tree was especially well-traveled. Ha! Santa thought he was just walking though snow. Little did he know he was leaving incontrovertible proof of his own existence. We were a bit puzzled, however, when my mom seemed less excited about Santa's flour trail. My dad spent most of Christmas morning cleaning it up.

Ah, these are fun memories. Maybe someday we will get around to promoting Santa Claus with our own kids. Let's just hope I muster the energy soon. Before we know it, Santa will be a lost "Claus."

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