When I was a little girl I firmly believed in Santa Claus, or “Julenissen “ as we call him in Norway. But being a very informed and sensible child with a strong sense of logic, I did not buy into the idea of one man delivering presents to all the children of the world in one night, and in a sleigh pulled by reindeer? No, that was definitely NOT plausible. Besides, most of my presents came from my parents and family, and I also knew for a fact that many kids did not receive gifts for Christmas. Our neighbors were Jehova’s Witnesses, and those children certainly did not get any presents. So how could I believe in Santa then? Well, I had heard the legend of Saint Nicholas who gave presents to all the poor children and how his spirit inspired the idea of Santa Claus. I also knew about the Scandinavian Nisse, the little gnome who lived on farms and demanded porridge every Christmas Eve, otherwise he would not help take care of the animals and the farm and would rather make a ruckus of everything. So I decided that Santa Claus was a spirit, a Christmas spirit, that inspired generosity, kindness and compassion, and that anyone who became bearers of these characteristics could truthfully call themselves Santa Claus, therefore, Santa Claus existed, and anyone adopting the role with a pure heart became Santa. So that is what I did one Christmas Eve. I became Santa Claus.
I was probably about 8-9 years old and was the middle child in the flock of cousins. I had one older cousin plus my older brother and three younger cousins, and I was particularly fond of the two youngest boys who were just 3 and 5 years old. I had pleaded with my mother to let me be Santa Claus on Christmas Eve the whole month of December, and she had finally given in, saying it would be the littlest Santa anyone had ever seen. But that did not stop her from going all out buying me a red furry coat, a red top hat, fake beard and glasses ( I had never liked those horrible plastic masks). On Christmas Eve, right after dinner while the men were having coffee and cognac and the women were doing the dishes, I excused myself saying I had to use the bathroom, and snuck down in the basement where my costume was hidden. I was giggling the whole time, I was so excited to try out my long practiced North Pole accent, and to see the faces of the little kids as I asked them if they had been good that year. I stuffed my Santa suit full of pillows, tucked the beard into my red top hat and tried out my Ho! Ho! Ho! one last time before ascending the staircase with my huge old sack filled with presents. I felt…magical! In that moment I really was Santa Claus! I checked myself before firmly knocking on the living room door while asking with my deep and heavily accented voice: «Er det noen snille barn her?» Which means: Are there any good children here? As soon as I entered, the adults started chuckling quietly, and the little kids looked at me very suspiciously, but my older cousins played along and convinced the little ones that it really was Santa visiting. I handed out the presents while putting on quite the show, telling stories from the North Pole and doing my belly laugh every time someone accepted a present. When my sack was empty I wished them all a very merry Christmas and told them I had to get back to my reindeer waiting in the forest (I knew the little kids would check the roof through the ceiling window if I said they were on the roof) before I hunched down under the weight of my five pillows and exited the living room, waving and Ho! Ho! Ho’ing! the whole time. I climbed down the stairs and headed out in the snow through the front door while chiming a cow bell my mother had given me. The kids were watching me through the window as I disappeared into the dark snowy forest. I am not sure the grown-ups were quite aware of this part of the performance, but they didn’t stop me. I waited five minutes before I headed back to the house. As soon as I came into the living room I exclaimed disappointedly: Has Santa already been here? The small boys nodded and handed me my present from Santa. “oh, darn,” I said “Typical I had to go to the bathroom and miss the whole thing!” I heard lot of subdued laughter from the adults, but they all played along telling me I had missed a great show! I smiled to myself and thought happily: I knew it, anyone can be Santa Claus, even a quite small girl with fake beard and five pillows stuffed under her sweater!
* The beautiful artwork above is done by the magical Lisi Martin.