Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My story of presents

And it's not even Christmas yet!
Presents affect me differently than they do other people. Those other people seem happy, maybe even moved to tears to receive a nice present. To make people feel this small happiness is my main goal, when I give presents. But I, rather than just being happy, am having flashbacks. Let me tell you some of them.

It is custom to give children a small present on Saint Nicholas Day. It is also custom that the children clean their shoes on the day before. It's like an advance payment for Saint Nicholas. If you don't clean your shoes, you're considered a naughty child and won't receive any presents in said shoes. Because that's where the present will be put: in your shoes on the morning of Saint Nicholas Day. This is also what defines the size of your present, since it has to fit in your shoes. Of course, sweets are also usually given. I wasn't such an usual case as a child, though. I never liked sweets a lot, so my parents stopped giving them to me. Instead I received (very old-fashioned) tangerines, oranges, apples and nuts and the obilgatory chocolate Santa. I was very happy with it and the chocolate ended up being thrown away most of the times. As I was getting older, the rule that the present has to fit in my shoe kinda evaporated. How can you ever fit a book in a shoe? Even a small one won't fit, so what.
One Saint Nicholas Day, when I was 16, I remember distinctly. As I was getting ready for school, I checked on my shoes and found them empty. Saint Nicholas hadn't visited my house so to say. I was a bit shocked and kinda sad, but thought to myself "Maybe my parents consider me too old for this and they even might be right." I therefore wasn't angry. I just wished my parents had told me before. I would have saved me useless anticipation and quite some disappointment and sadness. But there was no changing it, しょうがない, so off to school I went. I didn't fear I'd have to tell my classmates that I didn't get anything. We were too old for the what-did-you-get-game by then. I wouldn't have to tell anybody. Also I had decided not to talk about this with my parents. I wouldn't say anything and this day, too, would be over soon and next year I would know better not to expect anything.
But, there's always a but, I had the course Social Science that day and our teacher really took an interest in what we got for Saint Nicholas Day. So everybody, about 12 people, had to describe it in full detail. When it came to me (I was cursing on the inside. No chance to dodge the question, dammit!), I just said "Nuthin" to which our teacher looked very surprised and asked "What? Why? Oh. Isn't this a custom in your family?" I told her, it was a custom in my family. "Then why didn't you get anything?" I told her, I didn't know. She got silent after this, gave me a look I couldn't interpret and then changed the subject, starting the real lesson then.
As I got home, I didn't really think about Saint Nicholas Day that much anymore. I'm still like that today: When I get home from university or work, a new day starts. Per definition, it's a new day. Sometimes I even sleep a bit to be able to wake up to my new day. So as I came home, my father was in the living room, greeting me through the open door, but didn't come out to see me. Yelling through the house instead of talking face to face is very common in my family. I went to the kitchen to fetch something to eat and on the kitchen table lay... a book and some sweets. I was surprised and unsure what to do now, so I asked my dad (yelling through the house, as usual those days) "This book here and the sweets...?" He yelled back "There for you, of course, for Saint Nicholas Day." "But this morning, why..?" "You didn't clean your shoes, silly."
I had cleaned my shoes, but they were so worn out, that cleaning didn't do a thing. What I needed were new shoes, same as new clothing altogether. But that's another story. Point is, my father didn't see me cleaning them and the effect wasn't visible, so he had decided to punish me this way. He didn't know, he had done this based on wrong assumptions and he also didn't know that I didn't finish my last question because I had started crying really hard. Tears were running down my cheeks and I covered my mouth with my hand, so my father wouldn't hear me.
Still feel like the most spoiled child on earth when thinking about this story. But to this day, it still affects my view of presents and anticipation.

Another story is the story of Christmas last year. I spent a quite shite Christmas full of work and frustration. It was American-style and I had a stocking and was taught the stocking only contains sweets and a small present, while the real presents are to be found under the Christmas tree. Okay, I thought. So I had something in my stocking, something small, but didn't get the real present. Certain Someone apologized, he didn't have the time to get something plus he had no idea what to get me. But I had wished explicitly for something, I reminded him. He had forgotten. I felt betrayed.

The next story is tied closely to last Christmas. It was my birthday in January and Certain Someone invited me over and first thing told me, I wouldn't get a present. He didn't have time to get something plus he had no idea what to get me. Sounded bleak to me and I was sad and furious. He promised to make up for it in the following weeks, but needless to say this never happened.

So after stories like this, I became convinced that I shouldn't anticipate at all. Neither presents nor anything at all. And if presents were to be involved, I would wish very clearly for what I want. This way I would never be disappointed again. Works pretty good so far, concerning the disappointment at least.
I wished for something from the Auction Winner. He is gone over the holidays and I wished for him to come back to me. He was a bit taken by surprise by my wish, but said, he would come back. A day before he left, he gave me a present. Wrapped and all. I was very surprised, didn't anticipate this at all. Said Thank you a few times, while he told me repeatedly that it was only "something small". Being alone back home I had a minor breakdown, while staring at the present. All those stories I just told you flashed back and I couldn't stifle them.
I still haven't opened the present and what's in it isn't the point to me. His thoughts are. To give me a present even though he could have easily gotten around it. I'm sure, he doesn't know just how much this isn't "something small" to me.

I think this Christmas is going to be a lot better than last year's. Even with the Auction Winner far away I'll try to just enjoy it. I'll be with my friends only and skip the hurtful family part.
I told y'all my story of presents and will now stop to wallow in my sadness. Try to, anyway.

On a different note: As I was writing this in a bakery, while waiting for my train, the old woman sitting next to me got up to leave and said "Goodbye, have a nice day". I replied, that I wished her a nice day, too. And what did she say? "I'll make my day nice on my own." And smiled. Now that's the right attitude!


  1. Some of the best presents I got as a kid were NOT small enough to fit in my shoes...Thank GOD...I don't live there! My Grandparents are from Stuttgart(?) Germany...is that a tradition around there?

  2. @Chris
    This rule only goes for Saint Nicholas Day, so for Christmas you can get all sizes. ^^ So no worries. :-)
    This tradition though goes for all German speaking countries. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas#German_speaking_countries
    But the custom varies apparently. I never heard of getting a tree branch and this pastry I don't know either.

  3. So 2 holidays with gifts on both?....sounds sweeeet ;)

  4. @Chris
    Funny, I never saw it like that. :-)
    Saint Nicholas Day isn't a holiday though. It's a normal day, just the morning is different.

  5. This IS very sad - each child has a wealth of goodness in them to celebrate, and no child on earth is ever so *naughty* that they shouldn't receive a thing on St Nicholas' Day as expected! My mom is of German descent and has the most horrible memories of St Nicholas' Day - a scary figure whose purpose was to teach children how to behave through threat. Awful paedagogy.
    But as an adult now, you must know that you CAN expect gifts and kindness, and when they don't come, you can speak your mind as you should.
    Warmest wishes for a happy New Year!

  6. aww, i liked the shoe story! i didn't know about st-nicholas day! so the culture side was interesting too!

    i'm sorry that you're feeling kinda crappy on christmas though... actually christmas is weird like that... since it's "supposed" to be such a happy time, if you don't have your family with you, or if your situation's not good, then the fact that everyone keeps reminding you of how happy you SHOULD be just ends up making you miserable... believe me... my first christmas alone in Japan, i just wanted to cry...

    anyways, i replied to your comment on my blog! and thanks for putting me on your blogroll! i feel very flattered! ^_^

  7. @Francesca
    Thank you! Your words kept ringing in my head... still thinking about it. I'm sure, I will find my way of dealing with this, someday.

    Thanks to you too! :-) Yep, when everybody else is like jumping with happiness it makes it all even harder.
    Happy, I could flatter you. ;-)