Santa wears a mask in Sweden by Steven Karwoski
Sweden’s Santa Claus, Jule Tomten, is out of the chimney and into the front door.
Unlike America’s mysterious Santa who one meets at the shopping mall yet who covertly visits on Christmas Eve while you sleep, Sweden’s Santa arrives at your front door.
Pragmatic Scandinavian reasoning prevails as this avoids explaining how an overweight elderly man can fit down a chimney.
Sweden elevates children’s status in general with its progressive parental leave, laws prohibiting corporal punishment and a general reverence for childhood innocence.
So naturally this nation’s Christmas holiday focuses mainly on children and Swedish children focus mainly on Santa Claus coming.
On Christmas Eve, the children wait by the window for him.
He arrives on foot carrying a lantern, a wooden cane and a sack of gifts. The flicker of the lantern signals his arrival and he dramatically circles around the house before knocking on the front door.
Apartment living obviously presents variations on this procedure.
On Christmas, actually Christmas Eve ( don’t ask) the assembled adult family members decide who will portray Santa, neighbors are also know to be press into service. Gender is not an issue, as facial features will be disguised by the mask.
Yes in Sweden Santa wears a Santa Claus Halloween-type mask, the kind that only convenience store hold-up men dare to wear.
Now any non-Swede would think, “ That’s not Santa? That’s a guy in a mask.”
Yet in Sweden Santa’s magic exists not his flying reindeer, or his ability to fit down chimneys or to travel the globe in one night but the reality that whoever puts on that mask instantly transforms into Santa Claus. No questions asked.
With the exception of the introduction of commercialized Santa outfits in the recent years, in Sweden the standard Santa outfit remains simple, consisting of any old red jacket, the option of cane, a large sack and of course a mask.
So anytime after sundown, to optimize the lantern approaching in the distance affect, the chosen Santa sneaks away, dresses up and makes his or her approach.
The sighting of the approaching lantern in distance triggers a frenzy as the children follow his trajectory from window to window.
This offers a much more exciting kinetic experience than tracking Santa’s sled on the NORAD web site.
North American Aerospace Defense Command
Of course, acceptable costume deviations exist. If you show up wearing a serious beard and high-end store bought costume children will buy into it.
Yet most importantly if you show up in a mask then you are indeed Santa.
The excitement peaks as he passes the final window and the children anxiously await the knock on the door.
When he enters he asks the mandatory question “Are they any kind children here?”
“ Finns det några snälla barn?” perhaps a better yet translation is “Have you been naughty or have you been nice?”.
The children answer, “yes!” in unison.
Of course, if the kids conducted a simple head count and used the process of elimination they could figure out Santa’s identity.
But they often ignore all sense of reality as excitement fills their heads and sometimes their pants or diapers.
After welcoming him in the family sits him down and gives him cookies, porridge and whisky. Since he’s not driving a sleigh, there are not any drinking and driving concerns.
When satisfied with his food and beverage he gives out few presents then says goodbye and creeps out the door.
So in Sweden on Christmas someone carrying a cane and a large sack, wearing a old coat and a store bought creepy Halloween mask, circles the house holding a lantern, stalking the house like an ax murderer, then knocks on the door, asks to see the good children, extorts from them cookies, porridge and whiskey in exchange for presents.
Sounds like a job for me. Where do I sign up?