Saturday, December 23, 2006

Santa's Visit

In Finland the Christmas celebration starts already on Christmas Eve. After the Christmas dinner has been eaten, the children wait for Santa's visit. Waiting is very hard, even Aniara cannot concentrate on her book. The children are wearing the customary traditional Christmas Brownie hats.

Umbriel: I think I hear something. Maybe they are Santa's sleigh bells.

Aniara: It's just Caliban tinkling the bell on his hat.

But it really is Santa Claus! In Finland Santa Claus often visits the homes so that the children can actually see him. The role of Santa is often played by the father or an older brother. The children never seem to notice that the father always goes to visit the neighbors just when Santa arrives - or he has to go outside to hold Santa's reindeer. A mask or just a fake beard seems to be enough to disguise a familiar face when the children are expecting to see the real Santa and not some relative. The outfit has often been created by just by wearing a fur-lined coat inside out. A long fur coat is the traditional outfit as in a cold country the winter travel in an open sleigh required warm clothing and a long fur coat was what people expected someone to wear when traveling from house to house in a sled. Even though the Santa Claus is nowadays usually dressed in red, he still usually wears a long coat.

Santa: Good evening and Merry Christmas!

It seems that even in this case the face looks somehow familiar. The eyes look deceptively like Sandy's eyes. I wonder if Mikko and Sandy are related to Santa Claus.

Santa: Are there any good children here?

Umbriel: We have all been very good.

Santa: That's very good. Will you sing me a song, then.

Aniara and Umbriel (singing):
"Joulupukki, Joulupukki,
valkoparta, vanha ukki,
eikö taakka paina selkää?
Käypä tänne, emme pelkää!"

(The translation goes approximately like this:
Santa Claus, Santa Claus,
white-bearded old man,
isn't the burden heavy on your back?
Come here, we are not afraid!)

Santa: My lists show that you have all been good and you get your presents. Here you are

Aniara: Thank you!

Umbriel: Thank you!

Caliban: Kiitos!

Umbriel: I wonder if we all got what we wished for...

Aniara: I got a pretty new dress with snowflakes and stars. Just what I wanted!

Umbriel: I got funky shoes. They look just like my drawing!

Caliban: Olio!

Umbriel: Gee, the thing looks just like Caliban's drawing!

Santa is about to leave. But he notices that there is a small someone hanging around looking a bit disappointed.

Santa: Haitula, you have served so well as a Christmas Brownie that you deserve a present, too.

Haitula: Oh, thank you Santa!

Haitula: I can't wait to see what I got...

Haitula: Look! A woolly hat! I'll need this if I go out this winter...

The children are all very pleased with their presents. But they still don't know what an olio is. Maybe Haitula can offer an explanation.

Haitula: Don't you see? When you think you can't understand what Caliban is saying, he's simply speaking Finnish. As he usually only says one word it may be difficult to figure out what language he is speaking. He seems to have the languages a bit confused and does not always know which language to use.

Haitula: "Olio" means a creature or being, often it means "a strange creature". "Saharan alla" means "under Sahara" or "below Sahara". It appears that the place Caliban came from is somehow located below Sahara. And the place is populated by all kinds of strange creatures, lots of which are unlike anything we see here. As you remember the portal Umbriel used to get to Caliban was opened by the imagination key. So the place is populated by creatures that only exist in our imagination. But for Caliban they are as real as cats and dogs are for us.

Outsider's comment:
The place Saha-ran-alla is not my invention. Some time ago I read a magazine article where a guy told that when he was a kid, they were shown lots of educational posters at school. Those were big printed pictures (originally painted, not photographed) showing different animals and plants. That was obviously before TV and all modern media. The boy was so excited by those pictures that he draw a series of similar pictures of his own - but his animals and plants were nothing like those that exist here on earth. The place where those creatures lived was "Saharan alla" (under Sahara). I remember those educational posters from my own childhood, and when I got bored at school I filled the marginals of my school books by weird, imaginary creatures though it never occurred to me to invent a place for them to live in, they only lived on the margins of my school books.

And then the connection to present day. Finnish crossword puzzles often have hints that are pictorial rather than verbal. And as "olio" is a word that often occurs in Finnish crossword puzzles, drawings of all kinds of imaginary creatures can often been seen among the hints. And those creatures are as alien looking as the creatures the boy used to populate his imaginary world under Sahara. So he said said in his arcticle that he greets the "olio" illustrations in crossword puzzles as old familiar friends that look like they all came from the place Saha-ran-alla.


Anonymous said...

what a happy christmas story! We loved reading it and seeing everyone's gifts. It is all just perfect, down to the Olio. Thanks for sharing your Christmas eve adventures with us.

Jasmine* and Alma Faith*

Anonymous said...

I'd forgotten what an adorable story and photo shoot this was.
Thanks for reminding me!
Rosi and her dollies in TX