Thursday, December 22, 2005

Vrag

Mr. Darrell Reimer discusses the "no-Santa" clause and comes up with a new word, Ag-Clause-tic to be added to everyone's lexicon. An excellent post will leave you ruminating, perhaps dregging up memories or incidents of a similar nature.simply a tangent touching the circle of his experience. A slight connection, a semblance of similarity.
Kids and myths.
Kids and religion.
Kids and large decorated talking objects.
Kids and the Christmas season.
One part, especially, of Mr. Reimer's entry struck a note:

"After all that, I’m faced with a strange turnabout in circumstance. Yesterday my oldest asked if we’d have a fire in the woodstove this Christmas Eve. I said, “Almost certainly. Why?”

“Well, I don’t want Santa to burn himself.”

Whenceforth this? Is it peer pressure? Has someone been keeping them up late, and malnourishing them to get their point across? Whatever the case, I’m getting some small notion of what it must be like for atheist parents to hear a child announce they’ve joined the Church. Like them, I’m telling myself this too shall pass….


The carefully constructed world we think we're building around our kids is continually and secretly being assaulted/affected. Our intentions may not match up with our results.
Back in the day when my nose was runny, my eyes wide-open, my hair rubbed for good luck by adults, Christmas time was a bit different. In the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia, church-related events were wink-wink-nod-nodded. Old habits die hard and come a religious holiday, they came out of hiding, serving a multi-purpose of connecting with the past, tweeking the nose of the Socialists/Communists, and passing on the heritage to one's state-educated kids.
Costumes and outrageous makeup were de rigeur; special effects were limited to turning lights on or off.
And then there were the chains.

Santa Claus was Djed Mraz on the 25th. The Big Day for us back then was December 6th, St. Nicholas Day. At my mother's plant, the employee's children were invited, at night, to a celebration of sorts. Intentions were loving, especially in those days of central planning low wage rates. Intentions counted more than presents as the latter was in short supply even if one's parents scrimped and saved hoping to obtain said goods. Central plannning somehow mis-planned the availability of goods and I won't bother with the question of logistics. Supply/Demand was a concern only capitalists bothered with. So, the events of St. Nicholas Day were the center of a kid's holiday happenings.
I recall being herded into a large room, coats and mittens still on, with 20-30 other kids also invited for St. Nick's visit. Central planning had not counted on a cold winter so coal & oil were in short supply, well at least at the factory. As we stood by a huge decorated Christmas tree, our collective expectant breathing hung like a fog around the first tier of lighted candles clipped to the tree.
Then, the lights in the room were clicked off; only the luminescence of the tree offered us a way to see what was to happen shortly.
One kid jumped, setting off a chain reaction amongst us.
"Heard that?"
We all cocked our ears to one side, aided by our cupped gloved hands.
There it was. A scraping of metal on the steps leading up to the room. Then a heavy jangle, a dragging sound reverberating through the stairway. Slowly, too slowly, the metallic scraping became louder and louder until it stopped.
For 10-15 seconds.
The room was still dark, with the beacon of the candle-lit tree suggesting shadows somewhere off in the night.
The he jumped out, chains rattling.
Vrag!
(The Devil!)

All red he was, including his face. He stepped in amongst us, dragging several large link chains. I don't recall anything he said; my ears and throat shut down in emergency flight mode. We all screamed and looked toward our parents for help. They seemed as incapable of movement as we were. Some of us peed in our pants; the floor became slippery and a low level sulfur smell floated up from the floor. Vrag, not yet satisfied that we were terrified enough, upped the ante. He grabbed a few of the kids, lightly wrapped the chains around them and proceeded to drag them off into the darkness, shouting that he knew what they did this past year.
A new wave of screaming rose up.
The world, as we knew it, had disappeared. We must have died and not realized it. Our parents were right!
We were awful rotten little kids!

The lights flicked on. An imposing huge-chested behemoth, beard-a-flying, roared in on a stentorian voice and on a sleigh dragged by some of my mother's friends, dressed as serfs or elves or some other green & brown itchy clothed prior century type creature.
He yelled at Vrag, who promptly unchained the kids and slinked down the stairs, red barbed tail swishing against the wall.
We kids, most still in shock, tearfully mumbled our thanks. St. Nicholas, himself costumed in red, sat on a chair by the tree, as imposing and as scary as Vrag. The only difference was that the room was lit.
A bag was pulled over by his leg.
He called out each child's name (How did he know? Does he know where we live? Keys!! He must have keys! Will he come again while we're sleeping? Will Vrag precede him; he must know I lied that one time this year. It's the chains for me!)
His hands were huge, his eyes dark and piercing, weary from doing battle each year with Vrag. Those of us willing to swallow our fear in lieu of receiving a present stepped up; some preferred to be empty-handed rather than dealing with the bearded giant.
Vrag chased away, gifts distributed, he returned to his sled, stepped up, and the ill-suited workers dragged him and his sleigh away.
We went home, my sister, mother, and I (my dad was already in the States battling the likes of Kris Kringle and his henchman of HO! Ho!) and rushed to our beds where we immediately pulled the covers over our heads and waited and listened for dragging chains in the hallway.

I've recounted this story to my kids, waiting until they were in their teens. Funny thing, though. I'm convinced some experiences you have in your childhood somehow get permanently imprinted on your DNA. How else to explain one St. Nick's Day when my son cautiously descended the stairs to the living room radiator. As a family custom, we left shoes or slippers, a plate with a cookie or two, a glass of milk, and a carrot so that St. Nick and his donkey could have something to munch on when they came the night before. My son looked around, saw the cookie, half-eaten (Nick was on a diet (unsuccessful, I'll add) that year) and the glass, drained. The carrot was all gone save for the greenish top (picky eater, that donkey!).
He screamed!
"How did he get in??!?"
"Does he have keys?!?"
"...Or is he like a burglar, sneaking around while we sleep?"

A familiar pang shot through my heart. A cold sweat came on. Oh, those happy holidays.

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Comments:
Holy crap! And to think we on this side of Atlantic settle for re-runs of Burl Ives' Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer! Who of us is the more impoverished, I ask?
 
Hey, makes that lump of coal in the stocking seem like a real gift!
 
Yeah, Christmas. Well, enough about that.

I notice you've finally posted new CDs to your blogsite; I was going to speak to you about changing the music every once in a while. You'll be relieved to know I approve of your selections. Most of them.

Atomic Rooster? Now there's a stab from the past. Late-60s proto-prog Brit band, weren't they?
 
Yes Atomic Rooster were some tall skinny Brits who'd escaped from the decrepid world of Arthur Blythe. I believe their career was meteoric or comet-like or perhaps simply a stone someone casually threw up and gravity pulled it quickly down. Like a long-distant relative, they're interesting to visit for, oh, 30 minutes or so. And then you realize why they were long-distant.

Merry Christmas to you Bleak Mouse and I hope your package problems are solved. I think WP's suggestion to simply chuck them under the tree is most expedient and potentially most rewarding and surprising.
 
Ha! You made a mistake! Excuse me while I gloat.

Arthur Blythe is (or was) a little-known but extremely good jazz alto player. Arthur Brown is (or was) a crazed British rocker.

But your error does you credit. How many people have ever even heard of Blyth (I'm not sure about the "e" at the end)?

As the Kinks put it: "Those that made it, those that faded, those that never even made the grade..."

WP's excellent and practical solution may end up being the default option. None of the dozen or so packages in the hallway has yet been opened, including the multiple-digit ones I laboriously extracted from the pile. So what if things are wrapped in brown cardboard? They're wrapped, aren't they?
 
Brown is the new Pink. And Pink was not ever new, not even for a nanosecond.
Besides, Brown does some thiing for you, doen't it?

P.S., Bleak Mouse, you, of course, are right re. Blythe/Brown/Blip. It's so easy giving you a gift to gloat over, what with us other mortals burdened with ever-diminishing memory (and spelling) skills.
 
If only Easter were the new Christmas - what the Hell would that mean for the Bible?
 
I like your devil in the box on ima pravi meksikanski izgled! como algo para Dia de los Muertos.
I didn't do the whole Santa Claus thing with my kids, I told them who St. Nicholas really was, and said not to spoil things for their little friends.
I actually think doing the Santa Claus thing is unhealthy.
I think how it was done in Eastern Europe generally was a means of makeing the little darlings behave despite a sugar rush induced by the sudden introduction of holiday goodies after a year of not eatting a sufficiently baried diet. They would have an awful sugar rush, and scareing them might have been someones brilliant (NOT) idea of how to make them settle down.
 
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