Sunday 1 December 2013

Christmas Party

We had a tradition in my school. In fifth year we hosted a party for 'underprivileged children.'  We prepared by baking cakes, buying sweets and decorating the old school hall.

On the allotted day the children, all boys, arrived on a bus. We waited.  Well-intentioned seventeen year-olds who hoped to make Christmas special for these children.  The boys wandered into the hall nervously.  The oldest was about ten and the youngest was five.  It took a while but gradually the young  boys broke off into groups and we joined them.  They were delighted with the sweets and decorations, with festive music added to the mix.

I went behind the scenes to the ladies toilet behind the stage.  In there was Jill.  She was Class Captain and had been tasked to dress as Santa.  The Santa outfit was old.  The beard was threadbare.  As I looked at her dressing up,  I predicted, "This is going to be a bloodbath.  There's no way these kids are going to believe she is Santa."

Nevertheless we were committed.  Santa had been promised.  I went back out to the party.  As I mixed with my friends I heard them murmur in concern. "This guy hasn't seen his dad since he went into jail last year."  There was a five-year old whose mum was 'very sick' and had no-one else to mind him.

Finally time came for Santa to emerge from behind the old heavy curtains up on the stage.  As the curtains were pulled back slowly I saw my friend in an old Santa suit, sitting on a rickety metal chair.

The oldest boy, turned around slowly to look at the stage.  He was about ten.  His jaw slowly lowered as he saw Santa appear in all his glory up on the stage.  That evening Santa had every child sit on his knee and chat with him.  Even though some of the children were as big as him.

This is one of my happiest Christmas memories.

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