“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”

Ibolya Lőrincz By Ibolya Lőrincz, 31st Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>True Stories

As a child I did not know that my father was behind Santa Claus. Homage to my first teachers who were my parents.

Childhood Memories

When winter comes and snow covers the fields and the roof of the houses and soft, white snowflakes fly and sit on the branches of trees like tiny butterflies and when you walk in the fresh snow and your shoes make a quiet cracking sound I usually remember my childhood winters and Santa Claus who came to our school every December. For a long time I did not know that my father was behind Santa Claus.

We lived in a very small village and my parents were teachers there. Actually my father was the director of that little school. The school building was also small just like the settlement and had only three classrooms. But two of them could be opened into one big hall where almost the whole village could gather and have a meeting. It usually happened on Sunday mornings when the school building served as a Catholic church as well. And again on Saturday and Sunday evenings, when the double classrooms were turned into a cinema by rolling a big screen down on one edge of one of the classrooms and the cinematograph was set up at the back of the other classroom. And of course my father was the projectionist. We, children could only go to the cinema only on Sunday afternoon. Now, in the age of videos, DVDs and the Internet, it seems very old fashioned, but at that time it was a new and modern way of entertainment.

But what the whole village was waiting was the last school day in December. It was the day when Santa came to our school.

Santa Claus at School

The whole school was preparing for weeks for the evening show. On that day there was no teaching. Some men came, opened the huge double doors between the two classrooms and built a stage with big, heavy curtains for us, kids.

In the evening the kids gave a big show. Every child took part in it. The smallest ones started. They usually sang winter songs about Santa Claus in a choir or recited short poems. If the poem was a bit long, then it was divided among the children and each of them performed only a short part of it which they could cope with. The older schoolkids played in school dramas. Many of them were written by my father. They were mostly adaptations of well-known fairy tales like Snow White or The Sleeping Beauty. But sometimes he wrote funny scenes from the life of the village.

I remember one story very clearly. It was based on a true story and the main character was one of my father’s best friend, the doctor. It happened that once an old woman went to his surgery and was complaining of pains in her legs, back, chest and a lot of other things. Suddenly the doctor interrupted her and told her that he could not make her a young woman of twenty. The answer was ready with the old woman, ‘I don’t want you to make me a young woman of twenty, I want you to make me a healthy eighty-year-old woman.’ The short school comedy was even funnier because the old woman’s part was played by a talented young boy, who could imitate the old woman’s high trembling voice. Since the story was well-known all over the village, everybody burst into loud laughter watching the scene, even the doctor himself.

The double classrooms were always crowded on these nights. Almost the whole village was there because either their children or grandchildren or their kinsmen’s children were on the stage. And there was no child who did not go on stage. Even the not so smart or talented were given some small parts in the show. My parents believed that it was good and they did not mind if the children made some mistakes. They just helped them out from behind the curtain if any of the kids got stuck. But they usually did pay attention that me and my sister should not play a main character. They did not want to boast with us.

With the end of the performances the night was not over. After a short break it was time for Santa Claus to appear on stage. Usually a young man took his part. First he read a greeting poem, which was written by my father and then two other young men came in dressed as little devils and brought in two or three huge and heavy baskets full of bags. Then each child was called one by one by their names and Santa read a shorter or longer poem about their deeds telling if they were good or bad. Later I got to know that my parents usually visited the families of their students and collected their stories which they later formed into poems for the last school day in December. They wrote both the good and the naughty deeds of the children so everybody in the village could learn which children did well at school, which ones helped their parents or grandparents or their neighbours, who took care of their little sisters or brothers or who played truant or smoking in secret made a fire in the neighbour’s straw-stack. In case of the naughtiest children Santa even gave instructions to the devil boys to give the child a spank or two with their birches because the child spoke rude with their mother, beat their little sister or did something really bad. Some really naughty kids, who knew they were to be punished by the devils, put on two or three jackets so that they could not feel the spanks. But at the end of the poem each child ¬¬– bad or good – got a big bag full of everything Santa can bring.

There were sweets and cakes and nuts and peanuts and chocolate bars and Christmas candies and apples and of course a chocolate figure of Santa Claus. And when it was already available there were also figs and oranges in the bags – in a time when they were rare things and a bit expensive in Hungary.

And all the bags were the same. If the so called ‘naughty’ children might have wanted to change their bags with other kids, they would have realized that the other bags were no better or richer than theirs. When I was a bigger girl and went to secondary school sometimes I myself helped the mothers to pack the bags: two oranges, two oranges, two oranges; ten nuts, ten nuts, ten nuts; five candies, five candies, five candies… It was all planned very carefully.

The Raffle

When Santa Claus had read the last lines of his long-long epic poem and the devil boys had distributed the last bag from the baskets came the final action of the night: the raffle. At first there was only one big chocolate cake as a prize. I guess it was my father who had ordered it in a sweetshop in the neighbouring town. But in the following years more and more women in the village volunteered to bring a cake for free as a prize for the raffle. And then they also bought tickets hoping to win one of the cakes. A couple of years later, more than twenty cakes were waiting for their winners. Even a young man decided to make a cake for the raffle. In the village there used to be a custom of making a special cake of grilled sugar and nuts for weddings. It was decorated with whipped eggs white. So this young man made cakes of grilled sugar and nuts and crated nice figures of the same stuff such as bride and bridegroom, mother and child, horses, dogs, hen and its chickens and placed them on the top of the cake. In 1969 when the first man, Gagarin travelled round the Earth in his spaceship, this young man formed the spaceship and decorated his special cake with it.

Homage to My Parents: Lőrincz András and Lőrincz Andrásné Molnár Ibolya

Long-long years had passed when I learnt that the money for the children’s gift was raised by my father. Before Christmas he went round the big agricultural cooperatives and asked money from their managers telling them that the children are their workers’ children and when they grow up they will work in their cooperatives. Since it was the communist era in Hungary sometimes he also told the communist leaders and managers that he could not go to the earls and barons and that now they were the ‘earls’ and ‘barons’ of the place and it was their duty to provide the financial background for the children’s gifts. He always won and the children always got their rich Christmas presents from Santa Claus.

Time has passed and my father also passed 30 years ago. For some financial or political reasons – who knows? – the school was closed off during his lifetime. Since then Santa Claus has avoided that little village. The children are taken to school to the neighbouring settlement. For a long time it was my mother who knew the story of these unforgettable Christmas nights and the background of it. Last year she also went after my father, and now these stories are left only in the memory of some one time students. So I wrote it down, so that it should not be forgotten forever how it was like when Santa came to our little school.

The photo of my parents were made in 1960.


Childhood, Children, Christmas, Gifts, Homage, Parents, Raffle, Santa Claus, School, School Drama, Teachers, Village, Winter

Meet the author

author avatar Ibolya Lőrincz
I am from Hungary and I am a teacher at a secondary grammar school teaching Literature and English as a second language. I intend to write some book reviews about my favourites.
I have some nice and cute cats. I am planning to write their stories.
I ...(more)

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