Not everyone looks
forward to seeing _____
by Kate Kellaway (adapted
The Guardian Unlimited
Sunday, December 5, 1999
I asked my godson if he was looking forward
to Christmas. Was he expecting a visit from _____? His mother,
my Friend, looked to me strangely. "Don't mention _________________",
she muttered. "He's terrified that he may be coming
down the chimney".
My godson is afraid that _________________
is on his way down the chimney to "catch" him.
Reluctantly -I prefer to think of _____ as benign- I can
see the force of such fears. _____ is like a two-in-one
picture. _____ the magical can become, in a trice, _____
the Sinister. _____ is, after all, a housebreaker. He is
a burglar in reverse (at least he brings in the goods).
He also has some logistical problems like making his way
down chimneys which are too small for the human frame. Also
my son used to fret about whether our roof would bear the
weight of his reindeer.
_____ is a stranger. Who is he really? He
hangs out in department stores, mysteriously never looking
quite the same. Sometimes he is stout, sometimes emaciated
(is he perhaps bulimic?). Only his scarlet uniform stays
Children have it drilled into them not to
accept sweets from strangers. It seems creepily inconsistent
that they are also encouraged to accept sweets and gifts
from a strange old man. And what gives _____ the right to
demand such intimacy? He invites even shy and unwilling
little ones to sit on his knee, close enough to smell his
breath (it tends to be bad. It's the arctic diet).
Look carefully at _____. Invisibility is
his thing. Even when you meet him, you can't see his face.
It is under a hood, behind a beard. Why is he so elusive?
Why does he only materialise in commercial settings?
There is something unsettling too, about
the fact that it is only parents who seem to be authorities
on _____. They know how he will behave and when he will
come, but they seem to be keeping some vital information
under their hoods. It is as if they knew something about
_____ that was too dreadful to pass on.