Young Santa Claus

Little Sofia was flinging stones in a little brook about three blocks away from her grandfather’s house as she sulked about not receiving a gift on their Christmas party at school.

“I hate you, Alex! You’re my best friend and you didn’t even give me my present last Christmas! I hate you ’till we grow up!” She hurled pebbles angrily in the water. Her sobs dominated as she threw tantrums. By and by she heard footsteps so she hid behind a tree and kept herself quiet until she heard the voice of the person nearing her.

YOUNG SANTA. (illustration by Seth Rey Serrano)

“Sofia? Where’s that kid? We’re already worried about you. Soooofffiiiiiaaaaa! Where are you, dearie?” her grandfather hollered.

Hearing that it was her grandpa, she showed herself behind the tree. “Grandpa?” she ran and hugged her immediately.

“Oh, goodness. Where have you been, child?”

“Just here. Sorry,” Sofia replied gloomily as she wiped her tears.“Why are you here? It’s quite cold in these parts.”

“I was just throwing stones. My bestfriend was the one who got my name in the party but he didn’t attend and I was left waiting for my turn to have a present.”

“Oh that’s bad, my child, but I think he’ll still give you that gift. Maybe he just had a rough time finding you one,” her grandfather said as he patted his granddaughter’s head.

“Maybe.” Sofia looked at him cheerlessly.

“Now, now, don’t sulk. I know it’s terrible that you felt like that but do you want to hear a story as we get back to the house?” her grandpa asked lovingly. The little girl nodded and held his hand as they walked out of the deep forest she had run off to.

“Have you ever wondered what Santa Claus looked like?” her grandfather asked again. “Well, he’s fat and quite cuddly. Somewhat jolly like you, Grandpa,” Sofia answered quickly.

“What if Santa’s not fat? What if he’s like your dad but a bit younger?” he inquired again. “Oh, like cousin Heinrik?” she said in an uncertain tone.

“Yes, like your cousin. Already in his early 20s. What if Santa looks like that?” her grandpa continued asked.

“If Santa was like that, maybe he’d be more stingy and mean.” The little girl snorted and frowned. “Like Heinrik.”

“Well here’s the story. Listen and I will ask you again later if you understood it very well.” He pulled Sofia closer.

“Okay, Grandpa.” Sofia smiled excitedly as she chased her grandfather’s footsteps.

“Once upon a time, there was a boy. His name was Alfonso and he was a soldier.” Sofia listened intently as her grandfather paused and recalled the adventures more.

“He was very brave and responsible yet still childish as he was just 12 when he became a soldier. He was deployed to a foreign land to fight the enemy. Though he doesn’t want to be a soldier, he was forced to do so as it was the law at that time that every male who could already shoot a gun is required to serve. He retained his compassion to everything he does. He even secretly had friends in the quarters of those who are being exterminated by his country. He was always happy to help those who are in need.

“After the war, he returned to his hometown. He was in awe when he saw that though most of the buildings were torn down, almost none of the residents were harmed though unhappy.

“Once he returned to his home, he had always thought that maybe his family was already gone but he still found them. He excitedly ran towards their torn-down house and hugged his parents and siblings.

“‘Ma, Pa, I never thought I would still see you and my siblings. I’ve always prayed to God for your protection,’ he exclaimed happily.

“‘I have always done that too, every day, child,’ his mother cried tears of joy.

“‘How are you here when the bombs had been blown from above?’ he asked looking worried.

“‘We hid in the basement and stuffed it with enough food so that when  the war was finally over, we will still see each other,’ his youngest sister said.

“Alfonso patted his sister’s head and smiled. ‘That’s very good. You’re getting smarter, little one.’ His sister smiled back. ‘So our house was quite destroyed, too, like all the other houses I’ve seen along the way here.’

“‘Yes, son,’ his dad told him sadly.

“‘We’ll rebuild it, Papa.’ He smiled again.

“At dinner, they ate happily but when his family asked about his experiences of the war he said, ‘It was terrible. If I could just change our country for revolution and peace, and if most people would hear other people’s thoughts, they would know that wars are nonsensical – idiotic to be exact.’ He sighed as disappointment ran across his face.

“Silence filled the table as they finished their dinner. ‘Pa, why is it that there are still no Christmas decorations everywhere? It’s almost Christmas, right?’

“‘Well they chose not to decorate because it’s not a good time for cheering,’ his father answered.

“‘But they should at least have a simple feast, right? Just for Christmas?’ Alfonso suggested.

“‘That I don’t know, Alfonso.’ His father sighed tiredly.

“‘Christmas is not about grandiose decorations and big banquets, it’s about giving gifts of hope to each other and celebrating the birth of our Savior. I must find a way to help them. I’m hoping I can,’ Alfonso thought as he waited for sleep to come.

“The next day just before dusk came, Alfonso went to the civil registry to ask about the population of the town. By luck, he got the total number of residents which he wrote in a piece of paper. ‘Good thing we have safe boxes here, Al,’ said the registrar who was a former classmate.

“‘Thanks. This will be a lot of help.’ He smiled as he thought of his next plan to give a very peaceful Christmas to the townspeople.

“Every day since the soldier arrived in his hometown, he would help his family build their house. Coincidentally, they only have gloomy and quite sunny weather at that time so they tended to fix the damages quickly. But every three in the afternoon, Alfonso would tell his father that he will go strolling. And every night he gets back before dinner, he would have something useful or something new to be cooked for his family.

“As he ‘strolled’ around their little town, he fulfilled every plan he had in mind to fulfill the jolliest Christmas. He purchased lanterns, mistletoes, wreaths and every Christmas decoration he could buy that will beautify and signify that Christmas is not dead that year.

“‘Even I would never dare to buy Christmas decors at a time like this. You are very brave young man,’ the storekeeper told Alfonso to which he only smiled and thanked.

“At dawn the next morning, the soldier tried to adorn every house with wreaths and various decors. Though he felt cold, he hung lots of reds, greens and golds from tree to tree and even to posts. He felt happy as his he saw that his project is coming to life.

“Before the sun showed itself in the morning, Alfonso got back to his bed and tried to doze off a little more. By and by, sunlight had come to peep in his window and he heard chatters outside about the decorations. Some had positive responses while others complained about it.

“Then his father’s voice surfaced among the chatters, ‘These are just decorations, friends. It’s not even harmless. Has it bitten you? Has it killed your family? No, it didn’t. Whoever put it there would likely want us to be reminded of the true spirit of Christmas and to try to feel Christmas, no matter how simple, no matter how hopeless we may feel and no matter how hard it is for us to cheer ourselves for the loss of our countrymen and our households. So, don’t tear the decorations down. Just let it be.’

“Alfonso teared up a bit as he heard his father’s words. ‘I won’t let Pa down.’

“The next night, he put a lantern in every household porch or gate and put a note inside it saying, ‘Please put a light inside me on Christmas eve. Thank you.’

“That morning, everyone compared his lantern to another. Some complained yet more of the residents are beginning to get positive about it.

“The soldier smiled at his plan and continued rebuilding his home with his family. As the Yuletide came near. Alfons began scribbling letters to every family in their town to cook their best dish and present it on Christmas morn on the park near the town hall where they will find a very long table for all the food they will be cooking. As people read the letter, most of them were thrilled by the news that they planned about it already.

“The next thing the soldier did was to put a Christmas tree in the center of the town. He asked his brother for help in decorating and fixing the tree. That morning, he heard chattering about his deed again but mostly of appreciation. He can feel that the townspeople are not really mocking his work. ‘I hope this little project will really be successful,’ he thought.

“In the afternoon, Alfonso’s brother asked him in a whisper, ‘What are your next plans for the project, brother? And can I help you again?’ Alfonso replied,

“‘Sure, I’d love to but never tell anyone about this okay?’ The younger brother smiled and said yes.

“An hour later, the two brothers gathered some planks and built a very long table that Alfonso planned for the simple banquet in the townsquare. They hid it somewhere that they could carry it easily to the center of the town when Christmas Eve comes.

“Meanwhile, he instructed two of his sisters to write an invitation for every household and give it on the 22nd and 23rd of December to remind every villager that they are invited and that they would have to bring their best dish.

“As the time came near, the villagers got excited of what they will wear and cook for Christmas. Seeing this, Alfonso felt so glad. ‘For sure, they already received the invitation,’ he thought.

“When Christmas Eve came just after their family attended the midnight mass held at their church, the soldier and his brother carried the table to the town square and put some red cloth on it. ‘Tomorrow, people will gather here and we’ll see what will happen. I hope they see the true spirit of Christmas and share it.’ Alfonso smiled as they headed back to their home and waited for Christmas morn.

“The sun appeared the next morning quite covered by lonely white clouds. Snow covered the table a bit since it started just after dawn. Everyone in town brought their delicacies. Some baked cakes. Some served roasted chicken. Some others had salads. Some had even brought wines and juices. It really seemed like a feast. Even the mayor of the town participated in the little banquet planned by Alfonso.”

“Then what happened, Grandpa?” the little girl asked her grandfather excitedly.

“People seemed surprised of the food they’ve put on the table,” he looked at his granddaughter and smiled. “As Alfonso saw that almost everyone had come to share their blessings, he went to the steps of the town hall and said aloud, ‘Dear townspeople, thank you for sharing your blessings. Christmas is not about grandiose feasts, decorations and having gifts but sharing, caring for one another, living peacefully, and remembering that Jesus Christ was born this day. I know some of you opposed my idea of celebrating it but I want you all to know that even if we aren’t that bountiful this Yuletide, we can always offer this season to our Savior and celebrate it in a way we can. I’m hoping you understood what I’m pointing out. Let’s toast to that. Please feel free to eat and share your delicacy to everybody.’

“Hearing this, the townsfolk cheered, shared and feasted. Everyone was unified that day. Even enemies got back to being friends because of this.

“Families are huddled together as they eat their share of the Yuletide banquet. ‘Son, why did you plan this?’ asked the soldier’s father to his son.

“‘I know we all can’t celebrate this Christmas without thinking of the war so I thought of this.’ Alfonso smiled.

“And that ends my story,” Sofia’s grandfather said as he smiled at her. “Now for my questions, who do you think was Santa in the story?”

“Hmmm,” Sofia thought. “Alfonso?”

“Yes you’re right,” her grandpa said and offered her a high five. “Why do you think so?”

“Because he gave people the gift of hope that Christmas. He planned a Christmas, everyone can participate in,” Sofia said and smiled.

“Yes, you’re right again. Alfonso helped make the townsfolk become truly happy on Christmas in the time of great depression. Though he really didn’t give gifts to people like toys and stuff, he made the whole town realize that Christmas is giving and sharing.”

“Oh, that’s why you called him young Santa.” Sofia smiled as they neared the house that afternoon. “But why not gifts covered in beautiful wrappers?”

“Well, because he’s just lowly. He doesn’t have enough money to give him a big feast. Now little one, don’t forget, Christmas is for sharing and not just for receiving,” her grandpa replied.

“I will Grandpa,” Sofia answered and hugged her grandfather then ran to her mother who was waiting for her outside for her.

After Christmas vacation, Sofia’s family went back home. Along the way, she asked her father about her grandpa’s story of the Christmas where someone became a Santa for the town. Her father told her that, Alfonso, in the story, was her grandfather.

“Though he’s a soldier, he didn’t actually liked the idea of killing people,” Sofia’s father explained.

“So Grandpa was a Santa Claus before?”

“Yes, quite. Only he was not that fat or wearing red clothes.” Her father smiled.


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