Posts Tagged ‘Santa Claus’

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERAOn a single sheet of white paper was typed the following:

“In the spirit of Christmas, please use this small gift to help someone LOCAL and in need. With the influence you have, encourage others to do the same.”

Tucked inside the unsigned note was a $25 money order made out to me. The accompanying envelope had no return address and was postmarked from a city about 200 miles from where I live. It was in my mailbox at the radio station recently when I went in to work.

Others at the station received the same package, as did random residents of our community. No one seemed to know who our mysterious benefactor was or why he or she was making this simple request.

I’ve always made donations to causes and people I care strongly about. Even in the days when money was so tight we could barely afford groceries or to keep the heat on, I donated what I could. There is always someone who is worse off than I am and if I can help them in any small way, it makes me feel better as a person to do it.

I cashed the money order and matched it, giving the donation to the Missouri Shores Domestic Violence Center. Domestic violence is an issue that has touched me personally and 25 years ago, someone helped me at a time when I desperately needed it. I have never forgotten that and I hope my donation will provide the same help for someone else.

I don’t have a money order for you but I do have a request: sometime this holiday season, please make a small gift to someone local and in need, wherever you are. If a monetary gift isn’t possible (and sometimes it just isn’t), give of yourself. A shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, a hand to steady, a word to comfort. We never know how wide our circle of influence can be or who it encompasses.

To the unknown Santa who prompted this post, thank you for what you’re doing. And thank you for including me.

If you received an unexpected $25 to donate to whoever you wanted to, where would you send it?

What's Christmas without elves?

I hadn’t intended to post again before Christmas. Then Meg stopped at the radio station while I was on the air this morning and here we are. Meg is my friend Jody’s mother. I met her years before I really knew Jody but now my association with her is mostly through him…and the radio station. Meg is a loyal listener to my show and on random Saturday mornings, she surprises me with breakfast. Today the donuts and juice came with an unexpected Christmas gift. Because that’s how Meg is.  Which is how MY mother was.

Mine is a family of motherless children. My Dad, husband, brother-in-law, sister and I have all lost our mothers. The period of absence ranges from about five years to nearly 30 years. But that’s neither here nor there; mothers are missed no matter how long they’ve been gone. Christmas is when I miss mine the most because this was HER holiday. She was a reindeer antler-wearing, Christmas-cookie-baking, every-room-in-the-house-decorating, year-long-Christmas-shopping kind of mom. Martha Stewart on her best day, at the top of her game, with a staff of hundreds, couldn’t have topped her.

A good friend of mine lost her mother earlier this year and is celebrating her first Christmas tomorrow without her. Last week she asked me if I had any advice on how to get through it.  The experience is different for everyone but I tried to give her some ideas I thought would help, and I’ll check back with her after the holiday to see how she’s doing.  Her situation and Meg’s visit this morning got me thinking about what a big role my Mom still plays in my Christmas.

My Mom is the Christmas stockings I hang for every member of the family (four-legged included), the Christmas carols I play on the piano, the Christmas brunch I’ll fix tomorrow, the after-Christmas bargains I’ll shop for next week to get a jump on next year. And if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh tonight, look for the elf with angel’s wings flying alongside. That’ll be my Mom, giving him directions, so he doesn’t miss anybody. Because that’s how she was.

St. Nick, filled with holiday spirit...and a 40-watt light bulb

In the 1970’s in southern Minnesota, Santa lived in a little red house downtown. The place was small and fairly sparse, but with enough electricity to run the Christmas lights and a space heater. Even so, Santa sometimes wore coveralls when the Midwestern winters got too cold. Rumor had it that old Saint Nick used the biffy at Wallace’s Department Store and ate his meals at Jake’s Pizza, and maybe even indulged in some holiday spirits at the Blazer Bar on an occasional evening. When he wasn’t making toys or feeding reindeer or something.

In the days before shopping malls, Santa was a one-man show. He told you where to line up, called you in when it was your turn, kept track of your wish list, and handed you a candy cane before he hustled you out the door. And if you wanted your picture taken on Santa’s lap, that was your parents’ job. He didn’t need any bossy elves in pointy boots helping him; there wasn’t room in the little red house for them anyway.

Back before Facebook and Twitter and texting, Santa had to work to find out who was naughty or nice. He did it the old-fashioned way – with a complex network of spies, operatives and snitches. In the two months before Christmas, you suspected everybody of working for the Man in Red. Family members, neighbors, teachers, store clerks, complete strangers who looked at you funny. And that little girl Nora who lived in the big white house around the corner. You just knew she was ratting you out, payback for making her eat worms during the previous summer. Crybaby.Tattletale.

We’d spend the week before Christmas looking over our shoulders, making sure nobody was lurking, watching, waiting for us to screw up so they could tell old Santa, “When you get to the Collins house this year, buddy, just keep on going. Those girls don’t deserve nothing!” My sister and I even called a truce that week every year, neither of us willing to fight lest we ended up Christmas morning with an empty tree skirt and limp Christmas stockings.

These days, you can find Santa sitting on a throne in center court, surrounded by a dazzling Winter Wonderland display, assisted by an army of helpers who lead, direct, cajole, and charge you $10 for a digital picture of your smiling child bouncing on Kris Kringle’s knee. Compared to him, the Santa of 40 years ago must seem like just a cheery old bum in a little red house. God, I miss that guy.

Remember your first trip to see Santa Claus? Were you scared, excited, awestruck? Or (Eegads!) were you a non-believer?

 

Galinhan Christmas delicacy

Fresh-baked Christmas chickens...mmmmm!

Each Christmas, possessed by the spirit of the season, I drag out the recipes of my ancestors and my dented baking sheets and make cookies. I’m no Martha Stewart but I am fairly proficient in the making of three varieties: chocolate chip, chocolate crinkles and cut-out sugar cookies.

A few holidays ago, two friends and I were discussing a possible cookie exchange for which I offered up my sugar cookies. Due to my questionable reputation as a cook, I felt compelled to “sell” them on my wares, touting their crispiness, delicate flavor and variety of shapes including stars, angels, reindeer, snowflakes, chickens…

“Did you say chickens? You make chicken-shaped cookies for Christmas?”

“It’s a family tradition. I got the cookie cutter from my grandma.”

“Sweetie, people don’t make chicken cookies for Christmas.”

“Sure they do. Why would they have a chicken in the Christmas cookie cutters then?”

“It was probably for Easter and just got thrown in with the Christmas stuff.”

“Who makes Easter cookies?”

The ribbing about the chicken cookies continued for weeks and spread throughout our circle of friends, providing all with an extra source of holiday merriment at my expense. In retaliation, I penned the following tale, presented to my two friends in book form along with a bag of Christmas chickens. For your holiday reading enjoyment, I present to you…

The Legend of the Christmas Chicken

It was early Christmas morning in the tiny country of Galinha and Santa Claus was in trouble. He paced behind his sleigh in a gloomy clearing near a small dark lake known as Fisker’s Pond. The crisp moonlight shone on the deep gouges in the ice where the sleigh had first crashed before bouncing like a skipped pebble up the snowy hillside. The reindeer shuffled their feet and snorted nervously. Santa seldom yelled at them but this time, they had it coming.

“How many times do I have to say it?” Santa said. “When do we feed the reindeer? When we get home Christmas morning. Why do we wait until then? Because food weighs them down. And when the reindeer are weighed down, what can’t they do? Fly, they can’t FLY! Well?”

It was the baklava. Their last stop before crossing the border was a cheery hamlet that was home to the greatest baklava factory in the world. While Santa was busy delivering gifts, Blitzen led the charge on the factory’s dumpster. By the time Santa returned, four reindeer were on their sides, bellies bloated; fueled by a massive sugar rush, two others chased a third around the parking lot; and the last reindeer was feverishly scratching an outbreak of hives caused by an allergy to nuts and gluten.

Knowing that Galinha was their last stop and he couldn’t leave the people there without any Christmas presents, Santa gathered up the reindeer, hooked them to the sleigh, and they took off. Twice in the short trip, the sleigh and its crew and cargo nosedived towards earth, the baklava-laden reindeer unable to keep themselves and the sleigh in the air. Finally, they crashed on the lake and bounced to the clearing.

Stupid reindeer, Santa thought. I need to get this sleigh moving. But how?

“God rest ye merry gentlemen, let nothing you dismay…”

The voice coming from beyond the trees was beautiful, with an incredible range running from a soaring soprano to a booming bass. As the song ended, a large white chicken appeared at the edge of the clearing.

“Santa?” It said in surprise.

“Uh, good morning.”

The chicken peered at the sleigh and the sick reindeer surrounding it. “Need some help?”

Santa glared at the reindeer. “Yes, I do. Is your master with you? The person who was singing?”

“I used to have a master, some time ago. Fisker, his name was, Dornan Fisker. This is what’s left of his farm, and that beyond is his pond.”

“But, then who was singing?”

The chicken shrugged his feathered shoulders. “Me.”

“What a glorious voice you have! I have never heard that carol sung with such beauty and in so many octaves.”

“Thank you, Santa,” the chicken said proudly. “I can sing in whatever key or octave I want to, for you see, I’m a free range chicken.”

“You’re obviously very talented and while I would love to hear more of your wonderful singing, I’ve got Christmas gifts to deliver to the good people of Galinha and no one to pull my sleigh. Is there perhaps a farm nearby with horses?”

“I’m sorry but the closest farm is miles away. I live by myself in the old stone barn up the road. The only other creatures around here are a family of rabbits, a stray crow or two, and a den of foxes who love nothing more than to chase me.”

Santa’s shoulders slumped. “I’ve never not finished my Christmas deliveries. There MUST be someone who can pull my sleigh.”

Suddenly, a twig snapped at the edge of the clearing. “Why, what have we here?” a sharp voice said.

In slunk a plump red fox, quickly followed by seven others. Glancing slyly first at the chicken and the large bearded man in the red suit, they turned their attention to the herd of reindeer guarding the sleigh. Donner and Vixen pounded their front hooves in warning and when the others followed suit, the foxes saw they were outgunned and made no further advance.

“Good morning, Mr. Fox,” Santa said. “It seems from my list you’ve had a somewhat spotty year when it comes to being good.”

The fox laughed. “Santa! I didn’t recognize you. Are you taking a break in our fair woods?”

“The reindeer are sick and he needs someone to pull his sleigh,” said the chicken, turning to Santa with a twinkle in his eye. “Too bad this mob can’t help you but alas, they are only foxes.”

The head fox’s ears pricked up. “ONLY foxes? Why, we foxes are the quickest, most clever animals in all of Galinha. We can do whatever we put our minds to!”

The chicken poked Santa in the ribs with a feathery elbow. “Surely, you’re not clever enough to put on those reindeer harnesses and buckle yourselves in.”

Santa smiled. “Even the reindeer can’t do that without help from the elves.”

The fox whistled sharply and his clan quickly moved into two neat rows in front of the sleigh. They stepped into the harnesses, and within minutes had the buckles fastened.

“Ha!” said the foxes. “See how quick we are?”

The chicken nodded. “That was quick. But you don’t really believe you foxes can pull that sleigh? Not with all those gifts and Santa on board?”

“PULL it? Of course, we can pull it! ” And to prove it, the foxes trotted around the clearing pulling Santa and the sleigh in large, neat circles.

The chicken whistled appreciatively. “VERY nice. But there’s no way you can pull it across the whole of Galinha in a few short hours so Santa can make his deliveries. Surely you can’t do THAT because you are, after all, only foxes.”

The lead fox said menacingly, “Chicken, better say your prayers, for my brothers and I are going to snap your neck and eat you!”

“You’ll have to catch me first!” And with a wink at Santa, the chicken began to run. The foxes gave chase and the sleigh flew like the wind out of the clearing.

For the next few hours, the chicken ran as fast as he could, leading the foxes and Santa’s sleigh from one end of Galinha to the other. Those few Galinhans who were up at that early hour were no doubt shocked to see the large white chicken outpacing the wiley foxes who pulled the big red sleigh with the fat cheery driver doling out presents as fast as he could.

Pale gold light grazed the ice of Fisker’s Pond when the exhausted chicken led the road-weary foxes back into the clearing. The whole troop, feathered and furry, dropped to the ground as Santa stepped from the now empty sleigh.

“My friends,” he boomed. “You’ve done it! You’ve saved Christmas for the people of Galinha!”

Only then did it dawn on the foxes what they had done. Basking in the glow of the jolly man’s praise, their anger was diminished, and soon they were high-fiving each other and prancing around the clearing. Santa approached the chicken, who stood with his head down, panting.

“And YOU, my feathered friend. How can I ever thank you?”

The chicken thought for a moment. “You know, Santa. Most of the time, people make fun of us chickens. If there was some way you could get us some respect, that would be the best gift of all.”

Santa smiled. “My friend, from this point on, the noble chicken will be a true symbol of Christmas, as important as the Christmas tree and angels and reindeer and even me. And wherever people celebrate Christmas, they will remember the chicken who saved the holiday for the people of Galinha!”

The story of the mysterious chicken who saved Christmas was soon told and retold in all of Galinha and it wasn’t long before an enterprising young baker began making a Christmas cookie shaped like a chicken, selling it during the holidays. The idea spread into the homes of Galinha and still to this day, the Galinhans’ favorite holiday treat is the Christmas Chicken.

Which is why you should never laugh at people who show their Galinhan pride by baking chicken-shaped Christmas cookies…bitches. The End.

Recipe available upon request. So how bout it, readers? Any quirky holiday traditions you care to share?