The Christmas miracle for my brother and I never had anything to do with the little baby Jesus or how something extraordinary happened to ordinary people around Christmas, but rather how Santa Clause got in and out of our house without us ever being able to see him. And maybe because we were Polish and didn’t have a chimney, but for some reason we got to open our presents on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas morning like the rest of our friends.
I often wondered if Santa visited Polish kids first because we were nicer than the other kids, but my mother assured me that wasn’t the case. It made a lot of sense, to me, that he got started early, considering all those millions of other kids’ homes he had to visit. All I know is that we thought it was neat, and it made us feel special getting our presents before any of our non-Polish Canadian friends.
My parents and any other families who happened to be celebrating Christmas with us liked it because when all the Canadian kids were up going crazy seeing what Santa had brought on Christmas Day, we were all sleeping in.
All that was well and good but the most frustrating part about this whole Santa thing, delivering all those gifts and none of us kids being able to catch him in the act was that Santa got invited into our house through the front door, while we were safely hidden away in another part of the house. Our dad or mom or whatever other Polish parents may have been there, helped Santa unpack the presents.
We could hear the whole thing going on right under our noses. From the confines of the recreation room we sang Christmas carols, to put Santa in a jolly mood. It wasn’t as if our parents and Santa were too concerned with anyone hearing the racket they were making with all the banging about and ho-ho-hoing upstairs in the Living Room where the Christmas tree was.
When asked why we couldn’t help, our parents went to great lengths to impress upon us that this was some sort of sacred ritual that only grownups could participate in. For wherever reason, we bought it, either for fear that Santa might get mad if we complained and wouldn’t leave all the things on our list, or maybe even skip our house all together. By that point we were almost peeing ourselves with excitement knowing that Santa was upstairs and we would soon be opening our presents. As a bonus, it gave us bragging rights when talking to our friends on the phone the next day comparing what we all got. None of them ever said that they heard Santa in their house.
The best part came when we started to hear all kinds of “thank yous and good byes, and see you next year,” being shared and then the front door slamming shut. Everything got real quiet. Downstairs, all the kids, and the designated parent assigned to keep us at bay looked at each other, wide-eyed, for a moment, and then all hell broke loose as we scrambled upstairs.
Once there we joined the rest of Santa’s helpers at the window waving and pointing to Santa’s sleigh and all those reindeer. As hard as I tried I could never seem to see any of that but others swore they did.
But I knew Santa had been there. The cookies and milk we left for him were all gone. It made me feel good to know that that small gift would sustain him for the long night ahead. As if we needed any more proof, the floor around the Christmas tree, which, prior to his coming had been bare, was now full of all sorts of brightly wrapped presents. I just smiled and gave thanks for another Christmas miracle.