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Jay Currie

One Damn Thing After Another

12/13/2004

Santa arrives on the Island

I spent a cold, clear Saturday afternoon greeting Santa Claus in the company of Sam, my just turned four year old. For over fifty years, Santa has been coming to Galiano by boat for an quick good will stop before the big night. Back in the day, kids on this island rarely left. Ferry service was sporatic and the roads were none too good. So, the Lions Club brought Santa to the kids. They still do.

Hot chocoate, all the marshmellows you could want, cookies and a great huge driftwood bonfire lighted with a propane flame thrower. The man in red arrived - on time which is, apparently a first - accompanied by balloon dog wielding clowns and, wonderfully, a Christmas carol playing pipe and drum band. (Truly surreal to hear Jingle Bells on bagpipes.)

There is a small mob of 4 year olds on the island and Sam quickly got lost in the melee. Parents would cast the occassional eye towards a makeshift see saw built with a log and a two by four. But the kids were pretty much on their own as we watched the Santa boat come to dock.

The big guy walked up the float waving and looking rather regal with his attending clowns and pipers. He hit the massed kids like a candidate winning a nomination. A word for each of his supporters - and there was no opposition. Seated, Santa recieved the kids by age....babes in arms at the front, just past it teens to the back. There were at least seventy and likely a hundred kids which is not bad for an island with a population of 800.

Each of the children got a real gift - a hand puppet - a bit of candy and the chance to ask for whatever they wanted. (Sam asked for a nail gun, a compressor and a circular saw - Santa ho, ho, ho'ed and said, "Do you think I'm crazy?". Sam was delighted, he'd planted the seed.) Pictures were taken (my camera was out of batteries...grrr but the island's photographer got every kid.)

It could not have been more different from the department store Santas with the cute elves and the ten dollar snapshots. For one thing, there was no department store. The closest thing to commerce were a couple of tins for donations to the Galiano food bank. You could not buy anything in the middle of the field. You could not even look at things you might want to buy.

Christmas on the island seems to be low key. While there are, tragically, some canned carols in one of the stores, even the decorations are muted. The sea of Christmas lights and tinsle which innudate the city the day after Thanksgiving is utterly absent. So is the sense of Christmas anxiety.

Christmas is coming to Galiano. It is only 12 sleeps til Santa comes back for Christmas. But it will be a Christmas with a community which is a gift Santa does not bring.