I was in grade two when one day in December, Mom and Dad drove us to the vast and manicured compound of the Lycée du Sacré Coeur de Kalina, the school I was attending and dropped my little sister and me in front of a driveway on the side of the buildings holding the classrooms. Wearing the same little dresses, holding my little sister’s hand and the money in the other hand, we walked to the school office as proud as proud could be and came back with this Nativity in a nice little cardboard suitcase. The tallest figurines were 7 cm high (or 2″ 3/4). Being the oldest of four girls and the first to get married, I succeeded at inheriting that little Nativity. It came with us from Congo, following us in Canada from coast to coast to coast.
I always know where to find it. One ear of the donkey is missing, the reason it is positioned the way it is so no one can see it.
This little Nativity reminds me of our Christmases in Congo. With all the family in Europe, we were only the four of us, my two much younger sisters joining us several years later. Having no pine trees in Congo, the trunk of the Christmas tree was a sturdy piece of wood that looked like a broomstick. Branches were made of the same material and covered with something green to make it look like a pine tree and screwed onto the trunk. Christmas decorations were added and then candle holder clips holding real small birthday candles that we would lighten up with great caution. Sometimes we would go to Midnight Mass and come home to a few sweet treats, lighting the room with candles, the music matching the celebration of the day: a joyful, religious celebration. It was calm and heartwarming.
What a difference compared to today’s commercial Coca Cola’s Santa, complete with sleigh and jingle bells.
Wonder what inspired Coca Cola’s Santa? From early 1800 on, the original Père Noël or Father Christmas was a legendary folkloric children’s figure who was distributing gifts and sweet treats on Christmas Eve while the children were asleep. He had a big white beard and was wearing a coat with a big hood full of gifts small enough to fit the shoes lined up in front of the fireplaces or in front of the wooden stoves. He was covered with snow. A donkey would help him to carry the gifts with two bags straddled on its back.
Père Fouettard or Lashing Father would also come along, carrying a load of sticks for just in case…. And no, children did not like him at all. They would only find something nice in their shoes when having been a good child. The gifts were small and usually home made. However, if a child had not been nice, Father Christmas would simply ask for a handful of sticks to Lashing Father and put them in their shoes. To my understanding, it is the North American depiction of Santa Claus from the mid 1900′s on that turned Christmas into such a commercial celebration.
The idea most likely came from 4th century historical figure of gift giver Saint Nicolas, Bishop of Myre, Saint Patron of many trades and people, and most of all protector and Saint Patron of schoolchildren. In our house, the big gifts were from Saint Nicolas and delivered during the night on December 6.
It is Christmas, and I am thinking of you all. I wanted to send you an email to wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. And then, as I was putting the Nativity on display on the fireplace mantel, I decided to contact you this way.
So here it is, unedited and straight from my heart, wishing you a Merry Christmas and may 2012 be a most pleasant and rewarding year.
Take care, keep warm and see you in 2012!
From Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada, to wherever you are, wishing love to you all, and peace in your heart and upon Earth.