Father Who? Oh! You Mean Papa Noel.

I used to get two presents from my parents on the 25th of December, one for Christmas, and one for my birthday. I don’t remember if I was bothered that my brothers, in fact, that MANY people get presents on MY birthday.

I don’t remember if I ever thought that Santa Claus was real. I don’t remember any transition from believing that he exists, to knowing the truth; if there was one.

I enjoyed the Christmas stories that we read at school, and the American movies that were shown on the local TV (Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation).

I even used to cut one small branch of one of the three pine trees (go figure!) in our garden and decorate it with christmassy balls and shiny streamers.

However, I could neither empathise with reindeer in the snow (December is rainy and HOT in Lusaka), nor with Father Christmas sliding down chimneys to fill over-sized socks hanging at fireplaces. Chimneys? Fireplaces? And the milk and cookies; if they were called biscuits I might have held the stories closer to my heart.

When we were older, we attended Christmas parties hosted by the local Rotary Club that my dad was involved with, where a black African man dressed up in coca-cola red, with a long and curly, white hair wig and beard, posing as the main man.

It was fun to hang out with the other kids, as well as with the gregarious Santa, Ho ho hoeing, amidst Christmas trees, shiny decorations, who handed out presents (that our parents had bought for us). We usually donated our own old toys to the club so that some children in need at hospitals, orphanages, or on the streets, could also feel some of the Christmas spirit.


Rahul has been saying, “Rhino. Papa Noel,” a few times lately. It’s sweet that he likes rhinos. If he hadn’t let me in on how he planned to get one though, I’d have told him he’ll see real rhino’s when he goes to Zambia, sometime next year.

In an English – speaking setting, Leila hesitated for a few minutes before she burst out, “Leila. Papa No-lel. Blue dinosaur.” That’s when I realised that Leila and Rahul had no idea who Father Christmas, or Santa Claus was. The concept didn’t exist because I’d never brought it up.

Maher overheard what Leila asked for and replied: “Est-ce que c’est Papa Noel, ou c’est papa Maher qui va t’acheter un dinosaur bleu?

I want L and R to enjoy stories about Santa, like most of the kids around them; and I hope they feel the magic of it all. But I won’t go so far as to tell them that he’s sliding down 30 storey buildings, into the living room windows at night, to deliver gifts to them; and only if they are good children. And that he decided that they have to share one big present. Or do they get one each, something smaller maybe? Exactly the same toy, or two different ones?

Does he like chappatis and kheer?


Any personal Santa stories, books, or movies to share?

Here are a few Santa Posts:

Santa Claus: The Magic of Christmas Or A Big, Fat, Bearded Lie by Jo Eberhardt of The Happy Logophile

Yes, I Torture Them. Gleefully! by Desi of The Valentine 4: Living Each Day

Santa Claus: Kind of an Asshole by Mommy Rotten, Guest Post at Momma Be Thy Name

8 thoughts on “Father Who? Oh! You Mean Papa Noel.

  1. Hahahaha! In Canada, Santa is everywhere at Christmas time. There really wasn’t an option to alter the tradition, as it is in the media, in story books, and he and his helpers are out at the mall, at church, and even at the playschool! However, my practical daughter has no interest in leaving cookies and milk for the Jolly Old Elf. Who would want THAT after however many millions of kids had already served him exactly the same thing. (She has worked out our position relative to the North Pole and concluded that Santa hits western Canada last.) So olives, cheese, salad and gingerale it will be. So Santa can go home with a clean pallet and a settled tummy 🙂


    1. Love it Desi, your daughter always finds the most interesting way to deal with stuff!
      I can imagine that Santa is everywhere for weeks already, over on your side of the World. We haven’t encountered him yet, imagine that?! It’s not at all that I want to create a taboo of him though, just want to keep things in perspective whatever that means.
      Merry Christmas!


  2. I was browsing through the TV channels and in the Discovery Channel I saw three enormous Rhinos and immediatey remembered Rahul!I quickly consoled myself that he would be coming to Zambia and then I would get the satisfaction of showing him and Leila the rhinos,elephants.giraffes,buffalloe,zebras,crocodiles and many other animals,they both have been seeing in theirs dad’s IPad 2.
    It is funny how you miss the little ones if you don’t speak to them on skype even for a day!


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