Sinterklaas

December 25, 2011

Santa'sDead

Santa’sDead (c) 2011 Melancholically Manic Mouse

There’s always that one elementary school teacher you hear about somewhere, the one that murders her students and their wild but fragile imaginations by telling them Santa is a hoax; that his slaved sweatshop elves and reindeer are also a hoax, AND, that they should go home and shame their parents. I read about such story not too long ago. I can’t blame her. Sometimes the scrooge and Grinch in us comes out.

I’m reminded about the time I tried to tell my third-grade classmates about Santa’s non-existence. It didn’t go so well, obviously.

********

Firstly, I’m Colombian. And Colombians–at least when I was a kid in the late eighties–don’t celebrate Christmas with Santa Clause. People do put him on Christmas trees, little figurines are sold for decoration, you can hear his bells in shopping plazas, but he’s treated more as an uninvited guest, the bawdy drunken relative–distant relative–you let into the party obligatorily. Santa is second in show, maybe third after Virgin Mary, or fourth after the endless row of saints.

****

In Colombia, it’s all about Baby Jesus, the true star of the show! White Baby Jesus abounds.

There are baby Jesus songs, baby Jesus dolls, and baby Jesus candy. Baby Jesus shoes, baby Jesus earrings, baby Jesus backpacks, cakes and ice cream cones. Man, that’s one of the commandments broken all over the place. You don’t know a nativity set until you’ve seen a homemade one that includes the entire village and spans the length of an entire living room.

And most importantly, Baby Jesus brings you your presents, because, like in most of Latin America, the Catholic population is the status-quo. I imagine that poverty stricken kids, kids who didn’t get much if anything at all risked being bitter towards Baby Jesus, but I wonder if that’s any better than being bitter towards a morbidly obese, bearded white man from the cold isle of oblivion.

In my family’s case though, we had been told, and I quote my mom, “Baby Jesus helps us with the money to get you the presents, mi amor. We’re the ones who buy them, but Baby Jesus helps us.”

I didn’t get the metaphor then and envisioned the ghost of baby Jesus spiriting down from the heavens all Sistine Chapel like and laying down some extra cash on my parent’s palms before shooting back up to the clouds like superman. In sum, we had a very different take on Christmas than here in the U.S.. We got to fall asleep hugging our presents after sniffing around for them behind couches and under beds  like hound dogs in a scavenger hunt that started on midnight of Christmas Eve. I think the scavenger hunt bit was one of my dad’s ideas, not a Colombian tradition. I may be wrong though.

****

In any case, it’s no surprise that when I was hauled to the U.S. just in time to start pre-school, I laughed at the notion. I was momentarily culture shocked. My brain tickled and I rolled high off newness for a couple of years. And when Christmas time came, I quietly giggled and scoffed.StabSanta drawing

********

One day I finally decided to tell my comrades the truth. Those dumb asses had to know! I was a self-righteous crusader, sword in hand, ready to stab and deflate Santa’s imaginary bloated belly!

StabSanta2 drawingStabSanta3 drawing

****

That day came unexpectedly. As silent reading time wrapped up, the teacher prompted us to gather in a circle for a little talk about a story the class was going to read together. It was about Santa. When she began asking us what we thought of Santa and if we’d asked him for anything special, I felt the urge rise. I couldn’t resist it. I hoisted myself far back up against my little wheelchair and straightened up my diminutive shoulders.

“BUT STANTA ISN’T REEEAL. HE’S MADE UP,” I blurted midway through one of the other kid’s answers.  With my head held high, I scanned my peers for reassurance and added, “Stanta’s stupid fat red cheeks ain’t real either! They’re all made up dumb ass baby stories!”

Stillness settled in the room like fog.

“Big… ass… babies,” I whispered to myself no longer triumphant.

The overwhelming silence lasted forever and a day. I wished I hadn’t said anything. But no! They had to know!

I sat there confused and ashamed.

A few classmates started to argue with me, telling me to “prove it”. “Prove Santa isn’t real!” Others desperately asked the teacher if what I was saying was true, some were panicking while some were on the verge of crying. Their little brains began questioning childish but profound questions about the realness of things, anything and everything. I had burst their bubble, swallowed the innocence they had along with my own. A few however, agreed. Those brave few claimed they’d known all along. Mostly though, it was just the foreign ones like me–Vietnamese and a mixture of other browns. These few who knew took the torch of indignation from me and fueled it further. Then there were the clever ones who had figured it out.

****

Like a true king, I relinquished all in my defeat, backing down from a war I had started but wasn’t ready for.

At that point the teacher hushed the class with “yes’s” and “but’s” and “if’s” and I asked to go to the restroom. I was scared.  I wanted out.  God, what did I do?! Diosito lindo, am I gonna get a demerit! I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit. I’m gonna get a demerit.

The teacher let me go but gave me the squinty eyes and an impish smirk. Aaah!  I AM gonna get a demerit!

I rolled out as quickly as possible and was surprised to find my aid already waiting outside the classroom entrance. How’d did she know? She had overheard the commotion through the makeshift walls. I suspected she was always there lurking behind the walls of the classrooms which were arranged in office cubicle manner.

On our way out to the main hall, my aid began relaying the story of Sinterklaas. She assured me that Santa was once a real person who lived long ago in Sweden or Germany or Greece or some magical place of antiquities. And during Christmas, he would give coins and gifts to poor kids in his parish. He was rich and kind so his story lived on. She went on and on trying to inculcate his essence into my being. Looking back I realize that, in part, she was just trying to make me assimilate–to have me acknowledge that the bogus tradition had true meaning, meaning that was lost but that I should embrace nonetheless.

Turns out she was mixing up the stories. Sinterklaas derived from Saint Nicholas who we all know as the bishop/saint but who’s life and existence is somewhat sketchy like baby Jesus. Santa Clause then is just the Americanized mutation of that; his iconographic figure was actually popularized by the famous caricaturist Thomas Nast.

****

Imagine if the US had adopted the same Sinterklaas of southern and western Europe. Instead of green elves [read midgets in green suites], it would’ve been midgets in blackface (I’m a midget who’s never worn blackface, so it’s ok for me to say this). And on December sixth instead, these subservient, blackfaced midgets would trumpet their way into your living room to a ragtime tune while heralding presents and goodness and cheer. I think it would’ve gone superbly well with the children’s blackfaced cartoon characters of the 1920s and 1940s. Christians were always screwing with pagan holidays anyway, so I figure there’s no harm in making history even more screwed-up than it already is. It’d be nice.

Once we were inside the restroom stall, my aid plucked me from my wheelchair and planted me on the toilet seat while going on about Sinterklaas. I was fascinated but by then I really did have to go.  I grew impatient. She’d noticed, closed the stall and stood just outside of it to continue her rant.

Please, pleeease *fart* please, *fart* *fart* just let me poop, I silently pleaded.

But I didn’t get to poop in peace. Over her droning voice, the thoughts of demerits, angry classmates and very angry Sinterklaases circling above me and churning my already messy stomach.

It wasn’t until a year or two later that I began to realize how I knew too much for my own good. I began to feel that “otherness” I would battle with for years.

**********

****

********

NOTE: Yes, the little girl who resembles me doesn’t have legs in the first part. And all of the kids are floating. I got lazy and tired towards the end. It’s also my first attempt at doodling in Illustrator! I’m fairly new with the program and have mainly used it to do more technical stuff like layouts for invitation and business cards. Hope yous out there are enjoying Christmas holiday (or whatever you celebrate) more than I am.

Edit: I just remembered what we called Santa in Spanish! Can’t believe I couldn’t think of it right away. It’s El Papá Noel! And yes, Papá Noel is a lot more hip and popular with the Latin America kids these days than in my time.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Sinterklaas”

  1. PAZ said

    Reblogged this on Melancholically Manic Mouse and commented:

    I’ve been a terrible, lazy blogger as of late. I know. I haven’t even been reading from my favorite bloggies. Truth is, a lot is going on and I do want to share much of it, but I don’t know… Thankfully, I’m don’t have a house full of PLDs (Pretty Little Demons) right now. I haven’t self harmed in several weeks, almost two months I think. A lot is happening. And well, I want to blog some of it, but for now, I’ll continue being lazy, at least until this White Baby Jesus thing is over with. So here is another one of my very first posts from last year. I was trying to develop my illustration style (and still am). But here I actually sketched on the computer before it gave up on me in May. ~Mouse love

  2. It’s now one hour until Christmas where I am and I have spent the past 30 minutes trying to type this simple reply to your post. Stupid Firefox keeps crashing – no idea why. Seems it doesn’t like WP. Anyway! Have moved from PC to my laptop now and seems to be better.
    Won’t bother with my original reply where I said I was glad my daughter didn’t go to school with you 😉 But will give you this reply instead:

    I’m glad I found your blog. You are a unique being in the way you approach life and manage the challenges it has given. You don’t have my pity, but you do have my complete admiration. Thanks too for the laughs you have also given me.

    Enjoy your laziness 🙂 and Merry Christmas!

    • PAZ said

      Awww. Thank you so much Mr. Sketch! This comment choked me up a little, then again, it could be the buñuelos I’m eating. 😛 (they’re tasty Colombian treats).

      I’m glad to make you laugh. When I started my blog, that was my intent–to write funny accounts of my life, but then things happened along the way and I wrote a lot about mental health issues I’ve had, which I’m glad because I found such cool bloggers like you.

      Your sketches remind me that I need to draw more. I tend to quit and have no consistency in my “art,” whether it be poetry, visual or musical. I guess you could say I have low confidence in my capabilities. But this blog has given me more confidence than I ever imagined!

      Also, you know how they say that telling kids Santa Claus isn’t real will ruin their imagination. Well, I’m living proof that that’s bullshit. It’s a nice little tradition though. And I’ve learned to assimilate in the US of A since then, twenty odd years ago.

      Merry Baby Jesus day and all that jazz! Enjoy time with your daughter and fam.

      mouse love

Spit it!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: