“I once bought my kids a set of batteries for Christmas with a note on it saying, toys not included.” – Bernard Manning
I don’t about you, but I love Christmas, always have. I know as a kid everyone loves Christmas, but I couldn’t help myself. The excitement of counting down the days until the fat guy came down the chimney, the anticipation of what would be under the tree would drive me insane. Had I been good enough for Santa?
But the Jolly Old Fat Man in the red suit wasn’t the only thing I loved about Christmas. I know it might sound a tad cliché, but I loved Christmas as a kid because of our family.
We only had a small immediate family (I guess that’s the same for most people) but I grew up with out my Dad or even my Grand Dad. My immediate family consisted of myself, my sister and my Mum. My Nan, lived just around the corner and we saw her all the time. Most of the bigger family unit lived in areas too far out for us to visit.
That is except for Christmas.
When I was a wee lad, the bigger family Christmas was always held on Christmas Eve at my Great Gran and Gran Dad’s place. It was huge, or at least it seemed huge for me as a little tacker. Our family drove from everywhere, including interstate to be there. And this excited me no end. I loved catching up with my cousins and playing with those guys, seeing the crazy uncle that always called me Dazzarel and would pull 5 cents from behind my ear (how in Jimminy Crickets did he always find that there? It was never there when I washed! Mystery of the universe I guess!)
I really loved it, being Australia in the middle of Summer it was always hot, but the nights were sweet. And it made a family gathering, where everyone put aside their differences for a few days just that bit sweeter.
As the sun went down (and the beers and good spirits started to set in with the adults) and twilight would give way to darkness, something magic would happen. In the distance you could hear a bell clanging (and was that a ho ho ho?). Usually this kind of noise meant the ice cream man was about to rock up and shower kids and the adults alike in it’s frosty goodness.
But not on this day. For at this time, one of Santa’s helpers (who looked uncannily like the fat guy himself) would walk down the road, carting a red sack slung over his shoulder (he obviously had to park the sleigh and reindeer down the road way back, it was always hard to get a park near Nan and Pop’s place on Christmas Eve!)
Santa’s Helper would make his way down the street, collecting a gaggle of kids from the street behind him, everyone of them excited to see Santa. Turns out Santa and my Nan and Pop are pretty tight, because he would send one of his helpers to their place every Christmas Eve just to see us kids. You wanna believe that made us feel like a million bucks.
He’d stay for about half an hour and talk to all of us, asking us what we wanted for Christmas, then he would hand us a Christmas Stocking with toys and and lollies in it. We’d run off with grins so huge you could park a car in our mouths.
I remember as the years went on and I got older (and smarter) I started to put the pieces together. Santa’s Helper sound suspiciously like my dear old Mum. And Mum never seemed to be around when Santa’s Helper would arrive.
One year when I was about 10, I called Santa’s Helper out on it. As brazen as 10 year old can get, when he asked what I wanted for Christmas, I said to him, “I know your my Mum!” There were gasps from the adults who had heard, which only confirmed my suspicions.
Then as if by magic, my Mum rounded the corner with a plate of food. Yup, you’re a crafty old bugger Santa!
One of the other cool things that used to happen on this Christmas Eve show was a magic bowl of coloured pop corn. My Nan and Pop didn’t have money to buy the entire family a present each, so they would buy something small, costing around 1 or 2 dollars. Then my Nan would tape some red ribbon to the present and on the other end would tape a person’s name to it. The presents would all be put in to the bowl with the name tag hanging over the edge. She would then fill the bowl with the coloured pop corn. Once Santa’s Helper had fired up the reindeer and headed back to the North Pole, everyone was invited up to the bowl (kids first) to find their name and pull out their present. It was a great little tradition that I just loved. That bowl had a great air of mystery about it all night until everyone finally pulled their name tag.
Unfortunately, once my Nan and Pop passed away, that family event died with them, along with that magical pop corn bowl. It’s a tradition I have wanted to bring back for years, at least with my small family. It’s yet to happen, but may next year.
’tis the season to be jolly! I’d love to hear your memories from Christmas, let me in know in the comments section below or on the Classic Westley Facebook page.
For now though, let me wish you all a Very Swanky Christmas and a wonderful New year.
Please be safe on the roads.