It’s Christmas Eve, freezing cold and snowing like it’s the most productive day in Anderson’s Snow Queen Tale. Mom and dad are both in the kitchen plotting around the already too opulent Christmas dinner festive menu, in order to fit another two-three extra dishes in between the dozen traditional courses already cooked and stored. If you happen to be a Tolkien reader, you might remember the hobbit’s stuffed pantry and feasts. They are e joke, really, compared to what happens in this kitchen around Christmas, Easter and birthday parties. There is always room for an extra appetizer, a new dessert recipe, more jars of jam, soup, pates or garnishes, a new breed of home-made pie. Love passes through the stomach, after all.
But on the other side of the steamy kitchen windows, outside of the warm and colorful scents of festive meals, all is white. Stormy, icy, lonely and white. Winter has covered all the parked cars in front of the block, all steps taken by tired men and women coming home from work, hands filled with gifts and grocery, hearts yearning to celebrate the end of the year Holidays. Even the few naked tries are covered with snow and it keeps on snowing.
Someone should probably let the Snow Queen know she can rest now, she’s done a great job, time to take a nap and wait for Santa Claus. Which is actually exactly what Jo and her little brother Bo should be doing. Except they are restless, so they keep contriving reasons to get off their beds and wander around the house to sneak peek at the Christmas tree magically lighting up the living room once more, drink water to hydrate, go pee because of all the extra hydration, drink more water to replace the one they’ve just gotten rid of, open the kitchen door to inhale some more good food odours for a few seconds just before they are chased back into their bedrooms by mom.
“Would you two go to sleep already? You know Santa doesn’t come to naughty children, you’re really end up with no presents under the tree this year, I/m pretty sure…”
“Santa’s not even REAL!” Bo finds himself screaming at his mother, jumping on the bed like a victorious bight little monkey. “Andrew told me everything at school. And he’s right”.
Oh, now you’re definitely not getting any gifts, that’s for sure!” mother says while trying to settle the little jumping boy into his bed, under the covers.
Jo is watching the monkey meets mom show from a distance, already snuggled under the blanket in a corner of her bed. She’s not sure if Santa’s real. Kids are talking, at school. But she’s definitely not going to say it out loud even if she thinks there might be some truth in their discovery, not tonight anyway. The risk of not getting any presents is far too big for her to enter this controversy. You need to choose your battles, and time them well. One slippery moment and all that magical, once a year, fantastic moment of pure excitement of unwrapping boxes filled with unknown gifts could be gone. And she lives for it. She struggles though winter for it. She endures the cold and lack of colour of this otherwise despicable season that makes her sneeze, cough and forces her to wear so many clothes that shee feels like a clumbsy baby polar bear, for one day of mystical, poetical serenity created by the mighty Santa Claus and his helpers.
Bo’s finally settled in his bed again and mom shuts the light off, leaving the room’s door ajar. A glimpse of the light in the hall enters the brother’s room, encouraging their tiny overexited eyes to stay open and alert.
“Do you think he’s real, Jo?”
“No, you don’t!”
“He must be real.”
“But we spent all that time searching for the gifts around the house. Why did you make me do that, if you’re so sure he must be real? You’re a liar! And I want my gifts now.”
“They are not your gifts yet. They’re still Santa’s until he decides to give them to you. Go to sleep.”
“You know what I mean. His gifts for me…”
“His gifts, right. So he must be real, ‘cause otherwise what you said makes no sense at all.” \
“You’re not making any sense.”
“OK. You know how I know he’s real?”
“I’ll tell you tomorrow.”
Bo jumps from his bed with another adventurous monkey move, right on top of hers. “Tell me now!” They struggle and giggle for a while and they suddenly hear kitchen door opens.
“I’m NOT coming over again! I’ve had enough of the two of you!”. The kitchen door closes, and as they stand petrified one on top of the other tangled in their fight frozen by mom’s voice, they can distantly hear their two parents arguing about some burned buns in the oven and dad not being happy with all the fuss and yelling around.
“I know he’s real because it’s not just gifts that he puts under the tree on Christmas. He brings some sort of fantastic joy we only have on this day. Mom and dad are happy, we are happy, all of our relatives who come visiting become happy once they enter the house. The lady at the bakery is happy. The people on TV are merry and there’s a lot of fun around. This is not something you can wrap in a gift. All this goodness couldn’t fit in a box bigger than both of us one on top of the other. It’s too much. So, it must be magic.” She whispered her thoughts and realized they actually made some sense.
“You’re stupid and boring. I’m going back to my bed.” Bo says with sturdy disappointment. “What about the elves and reindeers and Santa’s Wife? Where are they, all year round? Why have we never, like never ever-ever, seen his sleigh or hear it’s jingle bells as he flies over the blocks?”
“Because mom never lets us stay awake until he comes, that’s why.”
Whoosh… Bam! The apartment door slams after having let some serious winter shivers and snow enter the house. A big dusty white raffia sac now thrones backed by the wall of the long hall, by the door. Covered with fluffy icy snow and tightly tied up with an old, wet piece of rope to contain its contents.
Jo was the first one to arrive rushing in the hallway so now she faces the big bad bag with stilled and silent curiosity, failing to understand how it made its way into their home, on Christmas Eve. Bo, her little brother, sneaks up behind her too puzzled to make any steps forward toward the mysterious intruder. They sit starring for maybe one 30 seconds, but it all feels like a long magic, inexplicable hour of mesmerize.
“Mom, dad? What is this?”
Both parents come closer, but with ignorant looks, dad trying to bring some clarity to the whole unusual situation: “No idea. Did one of you open the door? Was it left unlocked? But first of all, what are you doing up and awake again, didn’t you hear your mom well enough before?”
“We didn’t open the door!”
“It opened by itself, and look at all the snow that got it the house!
“What is this?”
“Can we open it? Can we, can we?”
Mom and dad look at each other, taking a brief moment for telepathic counsel, and then they approve and dad starts cleaning up all the snow covering and surrounding the bag and unknots the rope closing it.
Bo is already on top of the big fat sac, kicking it, measuring it, trying to carry it but facing the reality of the size and weight that are both bigger than his own. There’s still a wave of insecurity surrounding Jo and she’s not able to move towards the hallway foreign object trespassing the safety of their home, bringing watery leftover winter with it. As it melts, the snow already created a small ake of passed away snowflakes around the bag so they decide to move it in the living room, and mom starts cleaning up the hall, erasing all traces of the intrusion in a very short while.
“So, who dares to look inside?” Dad asks. “I’m not doing it.” Bo is laughing and jumping around the bag but doesn’t dare to look inside.
There are times when things must simply be done, Jo’s mind starts to thaw. Courage is not the absence of fear, after all. It’s what you do even when you’re frozen with confusion, wonder or fear. So the grabs the bag’s mouth and opens it.
If there was a question about the magic of Christmas before, in her soul, it dissipates instantly before her big and joyful eyes: a bag full of toys, books, oranges, bananas, Kinder eggs, Toblerone chocolate pyramids, a CD player, socks and new pajamas for all four of them. As she takes out each item from the bag, she feels like explaining what they are, even though everyone is clearly seeing the same thing as she is. It’s not for Bo, mom or dad, though. It’s for her own little brain who doesn’t think this can be true, yet. A huge bag full of Christmas gifts is more than the richest kids receive. A sac full of gifts for their family is more than she could have ever dreamed and more than she could have imagined and ever dared to write in her letter to Santa.
Working as a perfect and tireless team, Jo and Bo create a fast and efficient piling system to split all the gifts between family members: Jo’s pile, Bo’s pile, fruits and sweets pile, mom’s pile, dad’s pile and the house’s pile. Jo remains the one risking her hands to take out item after item from the bag and name them Bo’s swiftly deposits them in their designated category, so in 15 efficient minutes the sac is left empty.
As she takes out the last gift, a Human Body Explained illustrated book, a sparkle of insecurity arises in her tiny mind and her heart starts pounding: what if all these too many gifts are a replacement of the invisible spirit of joy? If this is indeed Santa’s making, why did he change strategy and instead of placing all gifts under the Christmas tree he just left the bag in a hurry, by the door? Is he late for his gift sharing rounds this year?
“What are you thinking about, Jo? Aren’t you going to open your gifts?” mom wonders and wakes her up from this existential reverie to see all three of them, mom, dad and Bo, surrounded by their gifts, on the couch, opening them one by one, sniggering and smiling.
Ah, here’s a glimpse of the joy she loves so much and hopefully waits for, year after year after year. The bright light of Christmas spirit in the middle of the cold white winter.
She tries to unbox a Barbie doll, as her little brother has already positioned himself in the middle of her pile of gifts and starts negotiating a Kinder surprise exchange and barter some oranges and apples for his much-preferred bananas. She’s doesn’t even like bananas so it turns out to be a win-win fruity situation.
Dad is teasing mom about the size of her new Christmas pajamas, pouring a glass of red dry wine from for her and one of Transylvanian brandy for him.
This is Christmas. A night where joy, hope and surprise meet under the same lights, under the same roof. And this is why the spirit of Santa Claus will forever be real and his sleigh bells will forever keep jingling, in her heart, every year. Because only he can bring all these together at the right time, in the right place, for a precious, unforgettable evening of harmony, love and perfection.