It was a regular day at the local shopping centre. Being December, the centre was decorated with tinsel and holly and all things Christmas. Carols were creating jolly white noise and the atmosphere was festive as we went about our business.
My kids know about Christmas and we give presents to our Christian friends (we’ve also been known to sneak next door to help decorate our neighbours’ tree) but, as practicing Jews, we don’t celebrate Christmas. We don’t have a tree. We don’t receive presents. We don’t do Santa. (I do sing Christmas carols, though, can’t help myself. Really, who doesn’t love a red-nosed reindeer?) Chanukah happens to coincide with Christmas, as calendars go, but there’s really no competition – lighting a candle and spinning a dreidel don’t have a hope of matching up to the excitement that Christmas brings.
We were talking about Christmas and what it means to our friends when we walked past Santa Claus. This red-tracksuited, red-faced (no doubt, from boiling in that red tracksuit in an Australian heatwave) man grinned at my kids and cheerily declared, “Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!” They shyly smiled back and we carried on, leaving Santa scratching his head and wondering about these weird kids, not enthralled by him.
We needed to go to the supermarket to pick up a few odds and ends and while we were in there, the kids huddled together and had a “private chat”. I was not allowed to listen but I could see, from their expressions, that whatever it was they were discussing was S E R I O U S.
Chat over, they came to me, a little gang of three, and asked, “Mum, can we each buy something for $2?” They looked so serious and I was hot and tired. So I agreed.
Armed with $2 each, they spent the next ten minutes painstakingly choosing ‘special treasures.’
We paid and, with huge grins, walked out of the shop. Again, we walked past Santa Claus. This time, in a rare pocket of sibling solidarity, they held hands and approached him.
“Ho ho ho! Merrrrry Christmas!”