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A Very Spanish Christmas
James Skinner

I look back on the day I was hurt when I realised that my parents were the bearers of gifts and not Santa Claus or the Three Wise Men. Having a Spanish mother and English father with different customs and background and living in Spain, didnıt help matters and only added to the confusion as to who was who during Christmas time. I clearly remember, however, the words of my parish priest that finally healed my wounds. They remained for ever in my mind as the guiding light for my future. I must have been about 8 or 9 at the time. Mom kept telling me that Santa didnıt exist and that only Jasper and the other kings brought presents. Dad didnıt agree and said that mom was wrong and didnıt know what she was talking about. Who was I to believe?

Dad missed the crackers and mince pies, as well as the Christmas cards and decorated fur tree. Mom preferred to wait until 12th Night with all the trimmings that the carnival atmosphere of ŒReyesı brought to all Spanish families. ³What would you like Father Christmas to bring you?² Dad would ask me. We would then go into the charade of being a good boy all year or else I wouldnıt get anything. ³But mom tells me that if Iım good, my wishes will come true after Christmas². Dad, lost for words, would stutter confusedly. ³Well, your mother is not English and doesnıt understand. English children are watched by Santa Claus who lives very far away in the North Pole.² He then tried once again to explain about Jesus and who he was and why the world adored him. I picked up the point about the three men riding camels to bring presents, but Father Christmas was beyond me.

I told my dad that it was all very confusing. He finally gave up on me. My mom then walked in and accused my dad of being biased. ³I thought we had agreed that Œhereı kids receive the ŒReyesı and not Santa,² she said. ³ Christmas day is for all the family to gather, yours and mine, and pray for being blessed by the birth of Jesus Christ. It is not to hand out presents. That happens later.² All I wanted was an electric train set and I promised all of them ­ my parents and grandparents ­ that I wouldnıt fight with my sisters, who were always bullying me, and that Iıd finish all my homework on time. Nevertheless, matters were further complicated by my dear sisters. ³They donıt exist!², they would sing in unison. ³Toys come from shops not from heaven!² I suddenly thought, why were my parents disagreeing in the first place, if everything was a lie? Then it all changed.

I woke up on Christmas morning and dad came into my bedroom with a big smile on his face. Mom was behind him beaming. ³Come and see what Santaıs brought you². I jumped out of bed, ran to the living room. There, under the Christmas tree and ŒNacimientoı were several nicely wrapped up packages. One was marked ŒJimmyı. My heart stopped whilst I wrestled to open it. I got a football. No train set. Later that day, granddad and grandma turned up, as well as my uncle Michael, my dadıs brother. They all brought more presents. We sat down to a lunch of seafood, roast beef and Yorkshire pudding ­ dad got his way ­ and ended with fruit salad, ice-cream, cakes and lots and lots of nuts and chocolate. Dad opened a bottle of champagne. I tried to get a sip but was told itıs not good for me. Grownups! Weıre all a happy and united family.

Come New Yearıs eve and everyone went crazy. Fireworks, parades, and lots and lots of eating. My granddad and grandma tucked me into bed, kissed me goodnight and went to watch the telly. I didnıt know where my parents had gone. The next day, I got up, went and got my sisters out of bed and started our usual fighting. We all got yelled at by mom and dad. It was eleven in the morning and they were not up yet. The rest of the week went by very quickly and then it was party time again. More fireworks, parades, lots of people carrying the Virgin Mary around the streets. Mom was happy and told me that if I was good the Three Wise Men would bring me presents that night. Oh no! What was going on? I thought dad was right after all and mom was wrong.

During these last months, I had been attending catholic indoctrination classes with Monseñor Pedro because I was coming up for my first communion. I couldnıt help it. I ran to church and looked for him. I broke down and started crying. I told him how I felt and that I was scared. ³My child², he started. ³Both your parents are right. It is what you feel inside your heart that matters. Of course there is a Santa Claus, and three kings known as the Three Wise Men that brought presents to baby Jesus 12 days after he was born. If you believe in God, as I have taught you, and followed Jesusı preaching, you will receive goodness in the form of presents for the rest of your life. Christmas day and Reyes day are no different to any other day. It is how you see them that matters². I walked away half confused but feeling better. I thought of going back to tease my sisters or kick my football around the house. But then, I remembered what the priest told me. I also thought of my mom and dad. Although they had different beliefs, they were good to all of us during the Christmas period. I ran back home thinking finally: ³Oh well! I did get more presents out of it anyway! Thank you Jesus.²

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