Tag Archives: fairy tales

Christmas cheer and fear (part 1)

28 Nov

The world of children’s stories is a mixed up place when you put Kipper back on the bookshelf and pick up the traditional fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm. There is a sinister side to these stories that starts to fill a child’s world with bogeymen, wicked witches and monsters lurking under the bed. Christmas is not so different. A bold statement perhaps (*puts tongue in cheek*) and certainly not in the accepted spirit of things. Is Christmas all about cheer or does it, like many traditions and stories, have a darker, scarier side?

As a child I was afraid of Father Christmas. I was fully signed up to the idea that he was the jolly fella who would arrive laden with gifts, but there was still no way I was letting a strange man into my room in the middle of the night. In the dark. When everyone was asleep. Well, would you when it’s put that way? No, no, no – it was a step too far for the shy child that I was. What if he was the child catcher in disguise? Or the Pied Piper? What if he had elves with him? My Christmas stocking stayed firmly hung on the outside of my bedroom door and never once graced the end of my bed.

Father Christmas may bring presents with a hearty “ho, ho, ho” but he is also big, fat and hairy. To a child he must seem enormous and, wearing his peculiar clothes, must beggar the question in their fragile minds: “who is this huge, red, scary monster man?” Worst of all, he is over familiar – he even wants you to sit on his knee (well, he did in the innocent days when CRB checking Santa would have been like asking the Queen for a form of ID). He’s the Werther’s Original Grandpa on speed. Observe the Santa Effect in action in the photograph below. This was taken at my daughter’s first (conscious) visit to the Big Man aged 14 months:

Note the school masterly look on Santa’s face then note the look of sheer terror on my daughter’s. Oh yes, and look at Mummy laughing nervously as she tries to enforce the Christmas cheer, only managing to worsen the Christmas fear by shoving her dear daughter closer to the object causing the anxiety. It won’t stop me doing it again. My 20-month-old son has his first visit to Santa lined up. I know what his reaction will be but, dammit, it is Christmas (and a photo opportunity).

And what do we do as parents to help this fear? Nothing. We make it worse. As soon as the first bauble hits the shops in August, the threat of Father Christmas and his all-seeing eye becomes the parents’ weapon of choice. Who needs bribery when the prospect of a lump of coal can be wielded in the face of a screaming child flailing around on a supermarket floor? So much for putting the fear of God into someone, this is the fear of Santa. (Gosh, I’ve associated Christmas with religion there – that can’t be right, surely?)

So can Christmas get much scarier? You bet it can. In Part 2 of this post you will meet a character who is so very wrong on many levels … Zwarte Piet.

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