Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas...

My husband's family has a tradition of Santa Clause. I know, most people in the U.S. do, but this is a little bit different. It all started with my husband's grandfather, Fred. Fred was a young boy during the Great Depression. People were struggling everywhere and his family was no exception. In fact, they had lost their farm and been forced to live in a neighbor's chicken coop, which they built into a small shack of a house. It was a very ugly year. Fred's father would forage for food so that he didn't take any of the meager meals from his family. He spent his days working wherever he could find work, leaving his wife to build the house. It had no windows, and a leaky roof. The children would wake up to find the blankets frozen to the beds.

Fred's father did some farming work for a man who noticed he never brought lunch. This kind boss sent him home with a bag of flour, realizing they probably had no food. The large family was overcome with gratitude. The young kids were so hungry, they tried to eat the flour raw.

One day, Santa Clause came to town and all the children went to the fire station to see him. As they were standing in line, Fred's older brother told him, "Now you be sure to save whatever treat Santa gives you because that will be the only Christmas we have this year." Someone overheard this. They knew the situation this family was in and they felt moved to help. 

That night was Christmas Eve, and of course, a blizzard rolled in. The children were getting ready for bed after singing hymns of the Savior's birth. Great Grandpa proclaimed, "Well, kids, I think Santa must have forgotten us this year." Then there was a knock at the door.  When the door was opened, there stood Santa Clause. Santa had arrived not in a sleigh, but in a pick up truck filled with food....which was stuck in the snow. Santa had been trying to get out the farm all afternoon and had hiked the last mile or so with the sack of provisions and a few toys on his back. The family was overjoyed. Their children had been trying to eat raw flour, they were so hungry....truly Santa brought with him a Christmas miracle. Literally, their Bread of Life.

In honor of that Christmas miracle, Fred dressed up as Santa every year for his 13 children, and the story was retold. It was a sweet tradition that reminded everyone of the year when Santa had been a godsend. Fred's children grew into adults. One of them is my husband's father, Brent. Each year, when they heard the bells, all the kids would hurry into their beds and do their best to look "asleep." Santa would come and bring oranges and promise to return when everyone was really asleep. Now Brent's children are grown with children of their own. Each of them carries on the Santa tradition. On Christmas Eve, I will take the kids upstairs and tuck them in bed, while my husband slips away. Then we will hear it...the bells. "Quick! Turn out the lights! Santa is coming!" Then up the stairs he comes as the kids try to contain their excitement and pretend to be asleep. "Ho!Ho!Ho!" he says. He visits each child and gives them an orange or a candy cane and then he leaves promising to return when everyone is asleep. At that point I flip on the lights and the little ones squeal with delight that they have just seen Santa. It's very real for them. I manage to distract them just long enough for hubby to make a mad dash to change his clothes and then come out of the bathroom or somewhere else wondering what he "missed." 

It's a fun tradition that we hope our children will carry into their families. One act of kindness can have an impact greater than anyone could ever expect. At last count, Fred had  15 children (13 living), 86 grand childrent and 170 great grandchildren (our little Ethan is #170)  that are all being taught this story of love and charity. I wonder if "Santa" ever knew what an impact his act of charity and love had on this family? 

We would like to wish all of our readers a very Merry Christmas!