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Monday, December 11, 2006

CHRISTMAS STORIES #1: HOW THE NAZIS HELPED SANTA CLAUS

"Oh, you better watch out, you better not cry.
You better not pout. I'm telling you why.
Santa Claus is coming to town..."


I was nine years old when my Dad was called up to be a Chaplain in the Canadian Army during World War II. Before that he was a circuit preacher on the Canadian Prairies, and he had been in the army reserve. But when the War was raging and all the available men had to go overseas, he went too.

Almost everyone at school those days had a dad, grandpa, uncle or older brother off in the war, and quite often the word would go around that someone’s relative was killed or missing in action.

Everything was rationed during the war years. I remember going to the store with ration coupons for dairy products. But my younger sister and I didn’t suffer or want for anything. We had our Mom and our grandparents, and every holiday season the relatives came to Grandpa’s house for get-togethers. There was a lot of love in our house, making up for the absence of my father.

When the War finally ended, the first newsreels were released about the horrible atrocities of the Nazi death camps. I was deeply touched by the films of the war and I’ve never forgotten those images of the Holocaust victims.

My Dad had sent many letters and gifts from overseas. We received books from England, Dutch dolls and wooden shoes from Holland. And when Dad finally returned home, he brought an antique German clock which had been wrapped up in an enormous Nazi flag and hidden at the place in Antwerp, Holland, where the armistice was signed. Dad said the soldiers of his hospital unit had brought it to him.

Inside the clock was a treasure-trove of antique jewellery, which he gave my mother. The clock was hung on the wall. The Nazi flag was wrapped up and packed away in Dad’s war box along with his photos of bombed buildings and army camps and letters from the families of the dead and wounded soldiers he had tended while he was the army hospital chaplain.

The year after my Dad returned from the war, our family moved to the West Coast of Canada where he would be pastor of a Baptist church. That Christmas was our first Christmas together in a new home. At the church where Dad was the new pastor, there was to be a Christmas concert. My parents enjoyed organizing concerts and pageants. Mom was a clever seamstress and loved making costumes, and Dad always made sure the Church was beautifully decorated with pine and cedar boughs and lots of Christmas candles. There would be a creche and a candlelight processional in the church Christmas Sunday and a pageant with shepherds, Wise men, angels and the Holy Family. We used the life-like little doll named Peter that Dad had sent my sister from Belgium for the Baby Jesus in the creche.

At the Sunday school concert, Dad would perform his amusing rendition of “When Father Papered the Parlour” and there would be a visit from Santa Claus for the little ones. But there was one big problem. Nobody had a Santa Claus suit.

So Dad unpacked his box of war souvenirs and got out the big Nazi flag, the flag that symbolized everything evil. Mom remarked how lovely and thick the red wool fabric was. And there was so much of it!

“Why not?” Mom asked.
“What a splendid idea,” Dad agreed.

Mom went to work designing, cutting and sewing and by the night of the Christmas concert, she had created a perfect Santa Claus suit out of the flag. Even though the war was over, and the bad things the Nazis had done would always be remembered, the flag had been put to good use.

The red woollen Santa suit made out of a Nazi flag made that Christmas extra special. In fact, the Sunday school Santa at the Grandview Baptist Church’s Christmas concert wore that Santa suit for many years afterwards.

"Nobody shoots at Santa Claus!"
Alfred Emmanual Smith ("The Happy Warrior of the Political Battlefield")
Campaign Speeches 1936

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