Our Daughter’s Grandpa Santa
The myth of Christmas has been kept between my daughter and her parents, me and her father for exactly 17 years since she was told about Santa and surprisingly received her first Christmas gifts at age 6 in Beijing.
At her 6, she just started reading and writing at a primary school in the city. The difference and the freedom outside of kindergarten attracted her. Her eyes kept very busy to catch everything fresh. Her talent on music, arts and drawing grew rapidly. Her curiosity about the world around her was accumulated almost out of control: 15 days after she had enrolled into the primary school, she skipped school with one of her classmates during lunch time. They spent the whole afternoon in a public garden nearby and did not tell anyone (I believe it was well-planned by the two girls). After she was satisfied with the answer to her question, from where she had been dropped to the world, she asked closely how she went into my body and stayed there for such long time without any complaining. There were tons of other questions about these and those in her little mind……We could tell this via her shiny and blinking eyes.
How could we regulate her sudden growth and the endless requests in order to let our little girl absorb and sort out the freshness she met challenging and joyful with a balanced rate? At that time, I was working hard on English improvement by studying traditions, customs, people and history, including Christmas, mixed with or related to the language. Why didn’t we introduce Santa to her life, which would certainly extract her additional interest, and also create some connection between the lovely old-man and her learning year round? It was also the time that Christmas was not as well-heard or well-talked about as it is in China now (It is still not identified as an official celebrating holiday in the country). So it was good to let her know.
One night, two weeks before the Christmas in 1991, our daughter learned about Christmas and Santa the first time. She was extremely lured by what we told her and believed the unbelievable myth. We did not have fireplace or chimney, so decided to hang a bag on our balcony to make Santa’s delivery conveniently. She loved the kind and beard old-man who always HoHoHo and brings surprise to children and she insisted on calling him “Grandpa Santa ” after the first time she mis-heard it as Grandpa (姥爷) instead of Old man (老人) that ususally Chinese people call Santa “Oldman” Santa. She also had been behaving very well since Santa Claus was coming to town.
However, one day she showed me her worry about the Christmas gifts. She asked: “Mom, does Grandpa Santa mind if there is something wrong with my homework?” “What’s up with your homework, my sweet?” I asked her. “Mom, is 5-3=2 right?” I said: “Yes.” “Why did Teacher Hu (a mid-age kind lady, the teacher in the class our daughter stayed) still mark an “X” (means incorrect) beside my answer “2” that I have written twice?” “Show Mom your numbers, please.” When I saw her 5-3=2, I could not help, but burst out laughing. She wrote “2” backwards, no wonder why Teacher Hu gave her “X” again and again, and no matter how many times she corrected, the “2” was consistently written in reverse. “Oh, my dear and poor daughter, you made such lovely and funny mistake that Grandpa Santa would enjoy it very much, I am sure!”
On the Christmas Eve, after having seriously hung a bag on the balcony, she went to bed unwillingly. Once making sure that she was asleep, her father and I were as quiet as if two cats walking on the toes to finish Santa Claus’s job. Next morning, she got up much earlier than usual. In a half way of waking up, she smiled secretly and tiptoed cautiously towards the balcony with both hope and uncertainty. I saw her searched and then she fully woke up when touched something in the bag: “Mom, Dad come here, Grandpa Santa really visited us last night and left me gifts!” Her little voice raised up, “Look! A pencil box with pencils, a ruler and an eraser in it, a pencil sharpener. Oh wait, there are two bars of chocolate, too!” She felt extremely different on that school day because she was the only one in the class, or in the school who received amazing gifts from Grandpa Santa.
Next year, we again prepared for her Christmas gifts one of which had bigger size than last year, so I asked her to hang a bigger bag on the balcony. In the morning, she absolutely found her Christmas gifts which fit the bag perfectly. She smiled and was excited as last time, but her eyes this time filled with questions: “How did you know, Mom that I needed a bigger bag for the gifts?”
With our girl’s growth, the gifts from her Grandpa Christmas have become bigger and more expensive, from pencils, winter coat to pianos, to a brand new car (for both her and me) this year. At the same time there have been fewer and fewer layers covering the myth of Christmas or Grandpa Christmas. Especially after my daughter and I came to Nova Scotia, Canada, we are exploring the tradition and culture of Atlantic Christmas Seasons. However, nobody among our three has pointed the secret out.
Keeping it silently and harmoniously has become part of the life we all built up particularly for our daughter (though my husband and I divorced several years ago). No matter at her childhood, at teens, 20s, 30s…… and 80s, she can always ask: “Mom and Dad do you know if Grandpa Santa will send me gifts this year?” We will continuously answer her: “Grandpa Santa always knows if you have been good or naughty.”
The secret, the mysterious feelings and our love will be with her for long.
Zhou Hui, in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Dec. 18, 2008