Advent Calendar: Day 6 – Santa Claus

santa-cookies-milkThe Prompt for the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2013, Day 6, is Santa Claus. Geneabloggers prompt says “Today is the Feast of Saint Nicholas and the origin of Santa Claus. What are your memories of Santa Claus and waiting for him to come at Christmas? What does Santa mean to you today and how do you pass along that meaning to family and to others?

Post your best Santa story and your memories of Christmases past.”

I wrote a little about my own memories of Santa as a child in the ACCM 2011. During my teens I also had penfriends, one of whom came from the Netherlands, and that was my first exposure to Saint Nicholas and the different gift-giving traditions. We still have a book we bought for our children which tells the stories of Christmas celebrations world-wide.

In my 2011 story I made a passing reference to the different ways our children had experienced Santa’s arrival. On reflection it’s also interesting because I suspect that Santa has been nudged out of schools in our multi-cultural, religiously diverse society even though the kids still sing Christmas songs at pre-school, at least. Our youngest grandchild recently sang of Santa in his red, red hat, carrying a sack. The kids were just oh so cute, but of course privacy prevents including their photos here. Meanwhile the family’s littlies are preparing their Santa lists and sending our letters with their wishes.

However back to a “best Santa story”. When we lived in Port Moresby one of my work colleagues invited us to a Christmas party hosted by their club or society. I no longer have the faintest idea which club it actually was, but a great troop of people travelled by various boats to one of Moresby’s offshore islands where everyone had fun in the sun, swimming, playing in the sand, getting sunburnt, and having one or two cold beers and a picnic.

The highlight of the day was Santa’s arrival by small single-engined aircraft, in fact the very one I took flying lessons on a year or two later. Having landed the red-robed gentleman made his way up the beach where small children rushed to greet him. Our eldest, then about five, was among the forefront of the fan club. The sheer delight and admiration on her face as she walked along the beach holding Santa’s hand and swinging it back and forth, devotedly looking up at him, is an image that’s very precious to both of us.

Santa arrives by fire engine at Boroko East Pre-School in Port Moresby 1977.

Santa arrives by fire engine at Boroko East Pre-School in Port Moresby 1977. The children combined it with a fancy-dress day.

Our younger daughter was far more cautious and only reluctantly reached from Mum’s arms to snatch her present from Santa. She wasn’t about to trust any stranger in such cold-weather clothes! She was far happier when they undid their parcels with their red-dressed Barbie dolls but it didn’t change her opinion of Santa that year.

Unfortunately while we have it on old Super 8 film (and now on DVD) we don’t have a still of it, so your imaginations will have to suffice. I really do need to learn how to take still clips from movies.

Since I don’t have a photo of the flying Santa I’ll make do with one of Santa’s arrival at pre-school in a red, red fire-truck to go with his red, red suit.

Did your family leave cookies/biscuits and milk out for Santa and carrots for his reindeer? I never did as a child, but we did in a low-key way with our children.

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com. You can see the posts others have submitted on the Advent Calendar Pinterest site.

Advent Calendar: Day 2 – Christmas Cards

christmas-card-280x170Initially I was disinclined to post again on the topic of Christmas cards as I wrote this story back in 2011. Then I started thinking about the background of card-sending and the potential importance to family history.

I’d guess that in most families there’s at least one person who writes to every member of the family as well as friends, each and every year. In my family that would have been my Aunty Mary who faithfully sent cards despite the ups and downs of her own, or the recipients’, lives that year. Certainly she was a family lifeline through some difficult years for me.

Grandmas address book_edited-1

A page from my grandmother’s address book.

Another distant, fourth, cousin also sends out masses of cards, keeping up the links with extended families both in Australia and overseas. This is the cousin who broke open my links back to County Clare with my 2xgreat grandmother Mary O’Brien. Nora’s family were master achievers of staying in touch with family and had all the oral history as well as relatively current contacts.

Nora is also the one who holds a vast repository of family and friend photos, just like the one I posted recently for Remembrance Day. This led, as chains of thoughts do, to the reflection that in days past families, and friends, would sometimes (often?) send family photos together with their Christmas cards. So, have you thought about who might have your family’s photos as a result of Christmas-card exchanges?

Aunty Mary's diary became her address book. What's interesting about it is that includes a list of saint's days in the front.

Aunty Mary’s diary became her address book. What’s interesting about it is that includes a list of saint’s days in the front.

When my Aunty Mary died I helped to clear out her house, and to salvage any genealogy-precious items like photos and certificates etc. Among her things was her own address book and a couple of my grandmother’s. These would have been their source when they started sending out their cards each year, just as mine is my memory-check. If you’ve been lucky enough to inherit a relative’s address book have you tried to identify who each person is/was? And maybe think about making contact to see if they have any family photos?

Christmas memories may be about our own and our family’s lives but they can also open the gate to further family history research. One idea I’ve taken away from reading various posts is that I want to write a Christmas card with a special message to each of my grandchildren, each year. I still have a couple of cards my own grandmother gave me, and it’s precious to have her greetings handwritten in my card. She had a quirky way of signing on cards – she always wrote across the corner, diagonally, on the inside flap. Perhaps because in those days cards were often used for craft.

Would you like to read my 2011 post on Christmas cards?

This post is part of the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) which allows you to share your family’s holiday history twenty-four different ways during December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.