A Tale of Two Santas

When I was a child, waiting up to catch a glimpse of Santa Claus, or to listen so carefully for the sound of his sleigh, was probably the single-handed most exciting thing that could possibly occur, matched only by my mother weakening in a pet shop. Every Christmas Eve, my sister and I would go to Mass with our childhood best pals, who were also sisters, and who, quite unlike us, were staunch Catholics. Then we would all go back to our place, the parents would crack open a bottle, and we would run wild with Christmas Eve excitement. This excitement culminated in the annual shout-singing of a self-penned song called ‘Tonight’s the Night. (Tomorrow We Open the Presents).’

Here, in north Germany, children are visited by Santa Claus – the Weihnachtsmann – and not the Christkind like the rest of Germany, although no one can tell me why. They all murmur something vague about Coca Cola and leave it at that. Over our first Christmas, SG and I shared the usual childhood tales of Santa, and I told him I was so sure I had heard Santa’s sleigh on the roof one year. ‘Well I actually saw Santa,’ SG said. I smiled wistfully. ‘Oh, we all saw Santa, SG.’

Santa-Claus

Turns out he actually did see Santa, because here Santa comes to your house in broad daylight. You see in this corner of the world, a relative, neighbour, friend or gormless student looking to make a quick buck, pop on the red suit and deliver the presents to the children who are either terrified, ecstatic, or mildly suspicious as to why Santa is wearing Uncle Christoph’s shoes. There is no standing guard for what feels like hours and is in reality about 20 minutes before you pass out from sheer Christmas adrenalin overload. There is no one-upping your sibling that they may have heard Santa, but you absolutely saw a reindeer in the backyard. There is also no staying up late as parents, waiting for the last of your stubborn brood to call it a night, so you can bite the carrots, eat the biscuits, and fill the stockings. While I was camped out at the end of the hallway at what I thought was surely 4am (and was about 10pm) SG was looking patiently outside his bedroom window, waiting for Santa. He recalls seeing Santa on more than on occasion, vising his various neighbours.

When I raised this completely odd way of doing things, SG countered with how equally odd it is that we even have Santa in Australia, a country on the other side of the globe with no snow and Christmas in summer. Furthermore, him coming down the chimney is unnerving. I coolly told him we know Santa has a lot of ground to cover, which is why he comes so late at night, and why his sleigh is magical. And just because we don’t have snow at Christmas, doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate many parts of the world do. Besides, any self-respecting kid knows Santa comes from the North Pole and probably finds his Aussie delivery route a hard slog. That’s why we leave him and the reindeer sustenance.

Soon enough, die Lüdde will be old enough to feel the thrill of Santa excitement, although I warned SG that none of her Australian friends or cousins will ever believe she spends a reasonable amount of time with Santa on Christmas Day, they will just think she is being smug and one-upping their own Santa tales. Furthermore, while she may well receive a visit from him over here, when we celebrate Christmas in Oz, she will have to make do without, and join everyone else in the eternal hunt for a glimpse of his red suit. We have decided we will simply tell her Santa comes to Australia far too late for her to see, due to it being so far away.

As for Santa coming to the house when we celebrate Christmas here – there will be no half hearted suit, no straggly white beard, or thin student body killing the magic of the fat, jolly man. We either get a Santa who is serious about his craft, or we tell her Santa got waylaid in Australia this year, where he is currently enjoying a cold beer on the beach, with her cousins.

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6 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Santas

  1. I really enjoyed your post and observations. Here in Munich, I have given up the Santa battle with my American/German kids. Our holiday tradition is totally German. And yes, they expect a visit from Nikolaus, but only on the 6th. Chistkind comes on the 24th at 6 pm.

    Being a stickler for only speaking English to my 6 yr old, I have taken to calling Christkind the baby Jesus, which annoys her to no end. Apparently here, Christkind is a teenage female Angel, which I can’t for the life of me understand

  2. I once dressed as Mrs. Claus (while in high school) and drove around the neighborhood visiting various families. I told them tales and brought them treats. The children actually believed I was Mrs. Santa Claus. What a great memory of growing up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, Illinois.

  3. well and then there is the ‘3rd’ Santa: St. Nicholaus who comes on Dec. 6th to fill the shoes or stockings….
    After trying the German and Canadian ways back and forth for a few years at the beginning of our marriage I think we have come up with a good blend of traditions: Stockings from St. Nicholaus on the 6th, most gifts on Christmas Eve as Jesus was God’s gift to us and that is what we celebrate and then we save a couple of the kids’ (now Grandkids’) gifts for Christmas morning. It all makes Christmas Morning rather peaceful sipping on coffee and Baileys 🙂

  4. Thank you, Liv. I’m reliving parts of my childhood through this wonderful post. I was born in Germany and moved to Australia very young. Every few years my family would return with the idea of resettling, so I got to live in the north (Hannover & Braunschweig) and in the south (München) and had the benefit of the traditions of both parts. For me, the Bavarian way has always been the most authentic and loving. How how lovely it is to remember Christmas with snow and all the wonderful traditions. I still continue some of the traditions here in Sydney, like the Advents wreath and candles (1st Advent this Sunday!) which are mostly only known by European immigrants here. Even though I adore living here in Australia, a summery Christmas never seems quite the same as a winter Christmas in Germany. Eine schönes Weihnachtsfest wünsche ich Dir und Deine Familie aus dem warmen Sydney.

  5. We have the same battles here in the UK: my son once suggested to have Santa deliver our Christmas presents, like everybody else, but I stopped that one in the tracks by explaining to him that he’d have to wait for an extra day then …
    Nikolaus used to deliver presents to the door, where we put his boots, but our little one is now insisting he comes through the chimney (cultural indoctrination at the nursery, surely, as she is playing ‘Santa who got stuck up the chimney’ in this year’s nativity). We might have to compromise on that one and leave the boots beside the fireplace 😉

  6. My Australian wife and I are also living in Northern Germany (Luebeck), and we have been talking a lot about our different traditions for christmas recently. Not only because I’ll have my first “Australian Christmas” this year in Sydney, but also because we plan on having children at some stage and have to decide for some sort of tradition ourselves. Your idea of telling them that Santa will just be too late for christmas eve sounds great! But one other thing has been bugging us: As a kid, all my presents came from Santa. My wife got small things from Santa and the rest from her family. That wouldn’t fit in the “Santa just being late”-Story and we haven’t come up with another plan yet. Lucky for us this is all still very theoretical 😉

    Cheers,
    Michael & Erin

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