Santa in my Village

by Grethel Joseph

The Credit Union Hall was already packed when I arrived. Almost everyone I knew was there and the hall was beautifully decorated. In fact, it was the loveliest Christmas decoration I had ever seen in my life. Everyone was all dressed up like me, in their Sunday best. Grandma and the other ladies had walked with their fans and were already fanning away. All I felt was pure excitement. I was bedazzled!

Then I spotted an empty chair. “Mama, look one over there.” Grandma was greeting one of the Peace Corps volunteers in her best English. I knew that I had to make the move so I scurried towards the chair. I waved to a few girls from my class and then I was lost in the beauty of the place.

After a while I heard Cheryl my classmate talking to me. “Eh, what you say Cheryl?” I asked, sounding like my little cousin when called upon while watching TV.

“Girl, it look like Santa coming for real this time eh,” she said with excitement.

“He better do,” I responded, remembering how we had waited the year before for Santa. He had not shown up.

Just then Lauren, the Peace Corp volunteer for our area came to the microphone. “The party is about to begin,” she announced. “Santa is running a little late,” she continued, “but he will be here,” she assured us.

We all waited for a moment. Word around the hall was that the party would not begin until Santa was in. I was now sweating. Sharine, my neighbor was sitting next to me and she was talking too much. All I wanted was to see Santa. The noise in the hall grew excessive as the smaller children became restless; running around, fussing and crying. Then Ma Raphael came to the microphone. What a surprise!

“Sit down in all you seat! All you children these days too unmannerly. Chile, you over there!” She pointed to Sharine. “Stop rocking de bench like that. Wait!” she screamed.” Santa will come when him ready.”

It was strange seeing Ma Raphael on stage and to make things stranger, she was using the microphone. I was amazed. On my way to school, I would always greet her in her yard. Her response was almost always a whisper. She was not as warm and jolly as the other old ladies I usually met on my way.

Her husband Mr. Raphael was different though. He had a way of laughing really loud, especially when he was down at the little village shop near the playing field. He was a plump little man with brown eyes. Most of the villagers called him 'Fran├žais La' and grandma told me that it was because of his French heritage. I could not see the two as husband and wife. They were like as alike as night and day.

“Santa! Santa!” I heard the shout and all heads were turned to the entrance. I got up as if in a trance and there he was. At least I had spotted his bright red, velvet looking outfit. By then, some of my classmates and other children had crowded the aisle, and some were even standing on chairs and benches.

Then Santa walked down the aisle pulling a big sack behind him. It felt surreal. His white beards were exactly as I had seen on TV and on grandma’s post cards from England. He was just as I had expected. Well, a little shorter than expected.

As he made his way down, I thought of all the gifts that Santa had to share. Then I was taken aback. It was something about the way Santa walked. Something was strangely familiar about his gait.

Then the music came on. We all joined in singing ‘Jingle Bells’ as we danced around the room. We giggled as Santa displayed his moves. Then a few Bouyon and Soca tunes started and Santa was king of the dance floor. He danced like a true Caribbean dancer. “Hmmm,” I thought, “well maybe they do those dances at the North Pole too.”

“Look here, Santa even know Caribbean dance,” I said to Sharine’s ear. She looked at me as if she was thinking the same thing and we continued to enjoy the fun.

“Look at that!” Sharine was now tapping me hard on my shoulder. It was Ma Raphael. The lady was down on the floor showing off moves that not even I could do. Santa was laughing away and the two were having a merry old time. The crowd cheered as Ma Raphael did a move with Santa as her partner. To me, this was getting stranger by the minute; I couldn’t believe that this was the same shy-looking old lady from down the street.

I looked into the faces of grandma and the other grown-ups and they danced and cheered away as if they were used to it all.

The soft drinks came in time to cool down everyone, especially after Santa and Ma Raphael’s dance piece. We were served peanuts, chips, marshmallows and a bunch of other snacks. Santa had his share too and you should see him eat. Really, I had never imagined Santa eating, and by the way he ate I was sure that there was nothing that tasty at the North Pole.

Lauren’s charming voice then announced the presentation of gifts and Santa belted his first Ho, ho, ho. I jumped. Santa had such a familiar voice. It was like Santa had family in our village. “He sounds like someone I know,” I whispered. Sharine just rolled her eyes and shrugged as if to say ‘Whatever.’

Snacks were falling all over the floor as everyone made their way to meet Santa and receive a gift. I fitted myself between two boys from a neighboring hamlet and also made space for Sharine. I looked on as each of my friends spoke to Santa and received their gifts. Santa sure was jolly. His long white beards slammed unto his chest with every word he said and the children all giggled. I could not wait.

Then it was my turn and I had a few questions for Santa. I wanted to know a bit more about the North Pole; more than what I had read in my little reindeer book. I wanted to know where he bought so many gifts and also, I was eager to hear a bit about Mrs. Claus.

Now, there I was on Santa’s lap, throwing my questions as fast as I could. Santa had a strange accent which sounded like the way grandma speaks to the Peace Corp volunteers and visitors from England. From time to time I had a slight feeling that I knew more about the North Pole than Santa. Probably I should have lent him my Reindeer book.

“Take that chile off the stage Santa, it have other people in line!” I heard Ma Raphael shouting. I however had one more question to ask. Just as I started asking him about Mrs. Claus, I saw Ma. Raphael coming towards us. I quickly took my gift from Santa and ran to the back of the hall where grandma was.

Grandma looked a bit annoyed. I was sure that it was at Ma Raphael. As she placed her comforting arm around my neck, I looked up at Santa again and it suddenly all came to me like I had solved a jig-saw puzzle. I couldn’t help but believe that Santa was Mr. Raphael, Ma Raphael’s husband.

“Mama, I know who Santa is," I whispered to her with a big grin on my face.

Grandma smiled as she made the ‘hush your mouth sign’ to me. I made the ‘Lock and throw away the key sign’ right back at her. We hugged each other tightly as the ‘Joy to the World’ song boomed through hall. This was turning out to be a twisted yet fun Christmas after all.


About the author

Grethel Joseph is from Dominica and has always enjoyed writing and sharing her writing with family and friends, be it poems, songs or stories. She enjoys working with children and likes the challenge of making up new bedtime stories to tell her young daughter. She has studied Psychology but hopes to dedicate more time to writing for children in the future.

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About Anansesem

Anansesem is an online magazine of Caribbean children's and young adult literature by adults and children. We strive to bring you the best in news, reviews and creative content from the world of Caribbean children's publishing.
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