By Santa’s Elf, M. N. SNow
“Tia (Auntie), can we leave milk and cookies out for Santa Claus?”
Juana was ten-years-old and Tia Angela, her favorite aunt, lived with Juana and her family.
“Yes, sobrinita (little niece), you can do that. But wouldn’t you rather leave fruitcake?”
Juana made a face. She had tried a bite of fruitcake at a friend’s house and didn’t like it.
“How about hay and water?”
“Hay and water! You’re playing with me, Tia.”
“No I’m not, Juanalita. In Argentina, where your dad and I grew up, kids leave out hay and water for Santa’s reindeer on Christmas Eve.”
“No they don’t,” Juana said. “Do they?”
“Yes they do. And your mother’s family is from Chile, and in Chile they leave out fruitcake for Santa.”
“Si, cariño (sweetie). We grew up on the border of Argentina and Chile and sometimes kids would leave hay and water and fruitcake out on Christmas Eve.”
“That’s crazy, Tia.”
“How about beer and mincemeat pie like they do in Ireland?”
Juana started laughing, “No they don’t,” she said.
“Or cookies and beer like in Australia?”
“Stop it,” Juana said, laughing harder.
“Or rice porridge in Sweden.”
Juana was laughing so hard she couldn’t talk.
“Or seafood and meat soup in Nigeria. Or BBQ in South Africa?”
Juana continued laughing, tears coming out of her eyes.
Tia Angela stopped naming different foods and Juana eventually settled down enough so she could talk.
“Do kids really do that in different countries?
“They sure do.”
“You know all this because you’re a teacher, right Tia?”
“Yes, but now you know it too. And you’re not a teacher.”
“Not yet, but maybe someday I can be.”
“If you like, sobrinita.”
“And I was born in Mexico, where my mom and dad met, right?”
“That’s right and then you moved to the United States when you were five-years-old.”
“But I can still speak Spanish!”
“Yes you can. And English too.”
Juana smiled proudly. Suddenly her eyes lit up.
“I have an idea, Tia.”
“I love the tamales you make every year for Christmas.”
“I know, you always eat two or three. As many as your brother Carlos.”
“Yes,” Juana said, nodding, “I love them. I really do. They remind me of Mexico. Do you think Santa would like them too?”
“Hmmm, let’s see,” Tia said, “I don’t see why not.”
“How about if we leave cookies and milk and tamales out for Santa Claus?”
“That’s a beautiful idea.”
“Good,” Juana said.
Then her eyebrows scrunched up. They did this whenever she was thinking about a problem.
“What is it?” Tia Angela asked.
“We don’t have any hay for the reindeer.”
“No we don’t. Maybe we can find a substitute.”
“Like what?” Juana asked.
“Hmmm,” Tia Angela said, and thought for a minute. “Do you remember what we do when we visit your primos (cousins) in Mexico? When we feed their burros?
“Carrots!” Juana shouted. “We can leave carrots out too!”
“Great idea, Juana.”
“Tamales and carrots and milk and cookies! Santa is gonna be soooooo happy. And his reindeer will be happy too! This may be the best Christmas ever!”
Ho, Ho, Ho, and Merry Christmas
(Printed with permission. Author retains all rights and properties.)