How far will you go to maintain the Christmas magic?

>> Sunday, 28 November 2010

You might have noticed: it's nearly December. Pre-Christmas excitement is building here at Potski Mansions, and I'm just waiting for the first request to watch The Polar Express on dvd.


The Boys love it so much that they would watch it every week of the year given half a chance, so a couple of years back I embargo'd this one and now they can only watch it during Advent. I mean, I like the movie myself, sure, but there are only so many 4 year-old impromptu imitations of Tom Hanks performing 'Hot! Hot! Hot Chocolate!' that a woman can take - especially in June...

In any case, I was wondering; have you told your children there's no Santa yet? Even if they're teenagers, I'm betting that you haven't; most kids work it out for themselves sometime before they leave home, and no parent wants to be the one to burst the bubble of the true believer in Father Christmas.

Not, that is, unless you are the husband of a friend of mine who decided when his son reached 8 years old that enough was enough, and that he wasn't going to have a son who was the only boy in the class who still believed. So he took matters into his own hands and told him that Santa didn't exist. He subsequently became persona-non-grata in the neighbourhood where, it turned out, all the children did still buy into the myth; or rather, they did until my friend's son shared his new information with them. There were a lot of sobbing children - and unhappy parents - in town that Christmas, I'm told...

Here in the Potski Familiski, however, we don't only have the Father Christmas myth to tend to. For let it never be said that we forget that whilst they may have been born and brought up (until last January, anyway) in jolly old Blighty, Boys #1 and #2 are, in fact, half Dutch. (Or at least, we don't ignore it all the time.) And at this time of the year, that means only one thing to two small boys; a double whammy on the present front. For not only are they meticulously planning their Christmas lists for the 25th December, there is - deep joy - another gifting opportunity happening before that.

Oh yes, jongens: The Sint is on his way.

The Daddy of our benevolent Father Christmas, Sinter Klaas, hits town for his big engagement on December 5th. Admittedly, by 'town' I mostly mean 'anywhere in The Netherlands', but he has also been known to visit Dutch outposts across the globe to spread the good news and deliver presents and pepernoten* to the faithful. Such as, anywhere we happen to be. Now, I'm not going to go into great detail on the traditions and background to this festival (I've already done that here if you're interested), but there is an intrinsic part of it which, for children, is almost as important as the actual presents, and that is the visit of Zwarte Piet.

Piet (or rather, the Piets - plural) are Sinter Klaas's helpers. In actual fact, I suppose they are also his spies, for they arrive on the scene 3 or 4 weeks before December 5th and their job - in addition to running the Sint's errands and carrying presents etc - is to keep an eye on children and work out who's been naughty, and who's been nice, so the big man can decide who gets presents and who doesn't. One of the ways that they do that is to visit children's homes when everyone in it is asleep once or twice in the run-up to the big day, to check that their toys are tidy and they have been doing their chores etc. It's a great way to get stuff put away before bedtime, I can tell you.

Of course, this is a reciprocal arrangement. The children, expecting these visits, will leave out a note asking for their preferred gift from Sinter Klaas and obviously a shoe (because, why not?) in which they will leave the note and a carrot for the Sint's white horse. (Not sure why the carrot, since the Sint is not actually present on this visit but it doesn't do to ask too many questions, I find...). Assuming the kids have fulfilled their side of the bargain, Zwarte Piet will leave them some sweets and pepernoten.

So far, so good. But Piet can be a mischevious little bugger. So when he visits, he doesn't just take the letters, leave the sweets, and head out. No, he likes to leave his mark, so he mixes it up a bit. He puts things where they shouldn't be, tables on chairs, cushions on the floor, toys upside down in piles etc etc, and throws the sweets and biscuits all over the floor (this bit is particularly troubling if you have a rodent problem as of course you know they're all waiting for Piet's visits in just as excited a frame of mind as the kids...). Then, when your children get up in the morning, they're not quite speechless with excitement, and in addition to dealing with the sugar high before breakfast from all the goodies they gobbled up before you stagger out of bed, you also have to re-tidy the house that you so carefully (and quietly) messed up the night before.

Which in itself, is fine. I'm happy to do that - wait until my bedtime and throw a few sweets around, mess the place up, return the carrot to the vegetable basket and so on - to maintain the magic for my kids. But I do find it all a little galling when, after a busy day of play-dates, I confront my older son about the mess in the sitting room and am told in no uncertain terms that it wasn't him who made it, honest guv. The person who scattered the lego behind the sofa, the trains across the floor, and pulled the books off the shelves was - of course - Zwarte Piet.

Because, what am I going to say in reply? 'I know it wasn't, you little monster, because actually, I am Zwarte Piet and I didn't make that mess?'

I don't think so.

Not this year, anyway.


*Pepernoten are small brown round biscuits about the same diameter as 1p or 1€c coin, that disconcertingly resemble animal droppings, but which - thankfully - taste better than they look.


14 comments:

heather 28 November 2010 at 19:36  

You tell them that the Piet arrange their visits with the parents in advance so you know that they weren't there that day. Then you threaten to add a P.S. to their note that says they were lying about the Piet.

Potty Mummy 28 November 2010 at 19:51  

Heather - I like your thinking...

Mwa 28 November 2010 at 21:19  

We have just confiscated the letters over here. Sinterklaas is much more polite in Belgium and comes to get his own letters. And luckily for us Zwarte Piet only gets completely drunk on Sinterklaasavond (that may have been added by my alcoholic family - there's always beer for him and a drunken letter, even though I've never seen a real drunk write down his hiccups) so we don't have to mess anything up tonight.

I do find it's easy to blame Piet when I have accidentally smashed the big chocolate figurine of Sint.

Carrie 29 November 2010 at 03:31  

The Santa situation could be troublesome, now we're thinking on how we could break the news to our 7 year old=)

Jo Beaufoix 29 November 2010 at 10:49  

Hmmmm, sounds very busy lovely Potski. Hope you get to enjoy it too.
Miss E is now 10 and is on the fence regarding Santa. I think she's hedging her bets, or humouring me, but I don't mind. I'll tell her next year if I need to, before she goes to Secondary School, but otherwise I think let them have the magic. They're kids for too short a time anyway. :D

Paradise Lost In Translation 29 November 2010 at 12:09  

thank you, you just answered my question.

As for faith in FC. My 10 yr old firmly believed until 9, he now, aged 10 wnts to believe. In fact he prob wd still believe fully (being a v young 10 y o) if it wasn't for his 5 y-o sister last yr telling him in no uncertain terms it was 'mummy'. This after she had accosted me & nagged & nagged me to tell her , or rather to 'admit' it was me. How can 2 kids be so different?

nappy valley girl 29 November 2010 at 17:54  

Haha - yes, quite a dilemma.
It's difficult not to feel Christmassy here- even the radio stations are playing 24/7 Christmas songs, and it's not even December yet...The boys are definitely still believers, althought there's lots of debate as to whether he is Santa or Father Christmas.

Hot Cross Mum 29 November 2010 at 19:12  

I'm so glad it's not just me singing that bloody hot chocolate song all year! As for the point you raise about Father Christmas/Santa not being real - bwah - imagine if that *was* true! Oh, you do make me laugh Potty Mummy.

Helen 29 November 2010 at 20:25  

We're struggling with the concepts of both Father Christmas AND Santa here.

I'm worried they think there are two present-laden visits ahead...

Expat mum 29 November 2010 at 22:08  

My 7 year old still believes but this could be his last Xmas. As a believer that is. He has two teenage sibs who, on pain of death, have sworn not to break the news, but it's a matter of time before one of them lets it slip. Also, he has a lot of Jewish friends at school who, when they get to about this age, take great delight in telling the Santa believers that he's really the parents.

Iota 1 December 2010 at 03:36  

I've told my children that Santa Claus is old hat. These days, presents are all delivered by Santazon.com. (I haven't really.)

Potty Mummy 1 December 2010 at 10:14  

Mwa - and eaten it, too, surely?

Carrie, I wouldn't bother - they'll find out soon enough through school, surely? Why be responsible for that?

Jo, absolutely!

Paradise, I don't know, but they manage it somehow (mine too!)

NVG, try throwing Sinter Klaas AND the Russian FC into the mix too (he arrives 2 weeks after our so clearly isn't the same person. Oh, and he wears blue or green as well...)

HCM, sorry, did I say something you didn't want to hear?

Helen, yes, I can see how that might be tricky!

EPM, surely that's goes against the spirit of Christmas? (Ah. yes. I see...)

Iota, well at least it would save on mince pies and carrots if you did..

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