Friday, December 9, 2011

Ho ho ho!

This may sound strange, but we’re kind of rookies to this whole Christmas thing. I mean, I left home when I was 18, and came home a handful of times for the holidays, but for most of the past 15 years both Jorge and I have just drifted from one friend or family member’s home to another at Christmas (or even better, spent Christmas at a luxury safari lodge. One year I spent Christmas wrapped up in blankets, sitting outside in a cold Darfur desert winter, sipping smuggled-in whiskey. Another year I’m pretty sure I went to my sister’s in-laws but it’s all a blur. And there’s even The-Christmas-That-Must-Not-Be-Named that we try not to speak about in our house.

We’ve never really had a chance to establish Christmas traditions. One year, two years ago, we just decided to stay home. It was me, Jorge, and Milo, and we opened presents, went to the park, and then cooked ourselves up a huge turkey dinner and invited our one friend unfortunate enough to have nowhere to go over for dinner. And I have to say, that was an awesome Christmas.

One of the draws of moving to Ireland for the winter was for Milo to experience the holidays the way I did as a kid – carving pumpkins at Halloween and going trick-or-treating, decorating a tree and peeling back the little paper doors of the advent calendar. Never mind that the tree is about 4 feet tall and plastic, and that the advent calendar is covered with pictures of Lightning McQueen. This is the real Christmas here, people.

Last weekend, we thought we’d go really conventional and take Milo to meet Santa Claus. Now, I don’t remember ever doing this as a child; I suspect my parents couldn’t be bothered to try to get three wild, unruly girls to stand in line for that long. But it seems to be the thing to do these days, and since we’re trying to fit in, you know, we went for it.

The first thing that hit us was the sticker shock. 8 Euros (10 dollars) per kid? Sorry Dean, you’re just going to have to mail in your requests to Santa, my friend. But we paid up for Milo, and then wandered through the underwhelming “grotto” to the North Pole, where Santa sat, fake beard slightly gapping away from his chin. Milo was nervous, naturally, but stuck his hand out to shake hands with Santa like a little gentleman. It took some prompting, but finally Milo warmed up and told Santa that for Christmas he wanted “Everything.” Well done son, I like how you think.

Then we took some obligatory photos (tossed Dean in there for good measure), Milo and Dean got gifts from the elf (which were actually pretty cool gifts), and then waved goodbye to the jolly Big Man.

I selected a photo, and then continued on with my shopping. A few minutes later a very helpful capitalist elf found me and apologetically told me she’d forgotten to collect the money for the photo. That’s OK, I told her, we paid already. Very embarrassed, she told me that no, it’s another TEN EURO for the photo! I said thanks but no thanks, I can take a photo with a DSLR set to Auto just as well (and as it turns out, better) as you elves can. But since the photo was already printed, they let us take that baby home for free anyway. And indeed, it was about as good as I’d have gotten with a camera phone; I suppose Santa’s standards are slipping what with out of control population growth. But all in all, thanks to our chutzpah and shameless stinginess, our Santa’s visit turned out to be a success. But next year, Milo’s just gonna have to yell his requests to Santa from outside the building.

Good lord, we’re cheap.