Santa in certain terms
Still great fun for us heathen kids
December 10, 2003
The first I ever heard about Father Christmas was
when a girl at primary school told me about him. My response was:
"What? A strange man is going to come down our chimney, creep into
room and give me a 'present'. Well you can tell him
the tooth fairy under my pillow will kick him in the balls. Here
Santa, take that from Tinkerbell."
I slept with a water pistol under my pillow for
ages after that.
We never celebrated Christmas when we were kids.
Not that my parents were trying to make a statement, they just
didn't know what
it really was or how it was done. When I tried to explain they
said 'a tree? You want to bring a tree into the house? What's
wrong with the garden?'
At that time, in the early eighties, there were
hardly any foreign kids at my school and I soon learned that, "Miss, we don't
have Christmas at our house and we never get any presents" was
a line that should be milked for all it was worth. It inspired
great pity from all and got me loads of extra treats and attention.
Of course, my poor mother had to field many dirty looks at the
school gate, but I had all the chocolates and sweets I could eat.
In the school nativity play I was always a shepherd
and never landed any of the more glamorous parts. One year I asked
my teacher if I
could be an angel. She said, gently, "You're not blonde
are you poppet? Blonde girls are angels and little Arabs are shepherds."
I didn't mind, except that the angels were always placed
centre stage and the shepherds shuffled around at the sides.
It was in those early days, as I stood bitterly
tending my cardboard sheep, that I decided that what ever else
happened in my life,
I would get a job where I could stand in the middle of a stage,
by myself and no blonde floozy could ever steal my thunder.
Christmas was still great fun for us heathen kids
celebrate it. My mother would take us on annual trips to Harrods
so we could see the lights and visit Santa's grotto. I made
sure to tell Santa in no uncertain terms that I didn't want
anything for Christmas and that he could skip our house. I didn't
want to have to turn the gun on him.
Now that I'm all grown up, I have a great affection
for Christmas. I lap up all the mushy, slushy Christmas sentiments
hassle and expense of buying presents for people I never see from
one year to the next.
I spend Christmas Day with a bunch of Iranian friends
who all, like me, had parents whose idea of Christmas dinner was 'khoresheh
While my English friends trudge off to spend Christmas
in their hometowns, locked in a room for two days with relatives
relate to, me and my pals have the most traditional of Christmases.
We cook a feast of turkey, goose and salmon with all the trimmings.
We get drunk on mulled wine and sing, or rather hiccup, Christmas
carols. We do the whole cracker thing and the present thing (everyone
buys one and gets one, simple) and the day is made much sweeter
by the fact that we can all stand one another and no one is there
by dint of blood-tie alone.
Things have changed from when I was child. A friend
of mine has a little daughter, a little Iranian girl with caramel
jet-black hair. She told me she needed help making a costume for
her nativity play. I told her I was a dab hand at making cardboard
sheep. She looked at me strangely then explained, "I don't
need a sheep. I need a halo."
Shappi Khorsandi is a standup comedian in the UK.
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