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.’
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.