Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Weirdest Christmas Tradition Ever

On Saturday a friend invited Dylan and I to go with her and her daughter to see Santa Claus in our neighboring village of Burlo. I was excited because it would be Dylan's first time seeing Santa (or, St. Nikolaus, as he is known here in Germany). I mentioned these plans to another friend and she replied:
"Oh yes, every year St. Nikolaus comes with Knecht Ruprecht, the dark-faced, scary Santa."
Huh? Why would anyone want to see a scary Santa? Doesn't Santa scare enough kids each year while trying to be friendly and jolly?

Here's what I learned: Santa comes each year not on Christmas Eve, as he does in America, but on St. Nikolaus Day (or around it), which is Dec. 6. St. Nikolaus looks a lot more like a Catholic Bishop wearing a Santa beard than "Santa Claus" and he is in charge of giving candy and small gifts to children who have been good. The naughty kids are dealt with by St. Nikolaus's travelling companion, the sinister Knecht Ruprecht, who looks a bit like the Grim Reaper and very out-of-place in the shot-gun seat on St. Nick's sleigh. A long time ago Ruprecht would whip naughty kids with switches, but now he just gives them a stick instead. I guess the German's take this "naughty or nice" thing pretty seriously.

Laugh all you want, this is totally for real.  This photo was taken from someone else's website because we couldn't get close enough to get our own (keep reading to find out why), but I can vouch that Burlo's St. Nikolaus and Ruprecht looked very similar to this.
My friend gave me the run-down on how this was going to play out.  Everyone (that is, kids from the local elementary schools and their parents) would meet at a spot in Burlo where a sleigh with Nikolaus and Ruprecht would come through and everyone would follow through the woods for a while until we got to a second meeting place.  There would be some music and songs, then St. Nikolaus would hand out candy and Ruprecht his sticks.  This all sounded well and good, but Dylan inserted his own idea's in to how the night would go - such as, throwing the biggest temper-tantrum in history and ruining everyone's evening.

He started out doing OK, but somewhere between the first meeting place and the second, he tripped and fell down and just couldn't recover.  Perhaps it was a combination of the cold weather (it was snowing), being bundled up and not wanting to walk (we were taking turns with the stroller since only one would fit in the car), but he quickly spiraled out of control.

Here is Dylan with his friend, Amy, shortly before the meltdown.  He is holding Amy's lamp, which all the children carried to light the way in the woods.  We need to replace the lamp because in Dylan's blind-rage it was destroyed.

As soon as the pageantry began at the second meeting place, Dylan fell apart.  I removed him away from the crowd of people as far as I could, but nothing would console him.  He didn't want to be held, he didn't want to stand/walk/run/play, he didn't want to be in the stroller, no food, water, or anything would help.  So I let him writhe around on the ground flipping and flopping all over the place, banging his hands on my legs, screaming and crying while I watched bewildered wondering "Whose devil-child is this, anyway?".  My friend came and found us and said "He sounds like a Gremlin.  Are you sure he isn't sick?"  Yes, I'm sure, although there were moments where I had to give him a really good hard look and make sure he wasn't actually having a seizure or something - it was that bad.  Here are some thoughts that ran through my head:

This is like a scene from The Exorcist. Is he possessed?
I hope Kristin calls me again.  Maybe next time I'll get a babysitter.
Is he seriously the only child out of 200 that is crying right now?  How is that possible?
We are never bringing him out in public, ever again.
If the guy dressed as Ruprecht had any sense of humor, he'd walk over here and give Dylan a stick for being naughty.

The program finally ended and it was time to go, although our car was parked about 1/2 mile away.  Dylan refused to go in the stroller (he slithered out of it) and wouldn't walk, so I had to carry him.  1/2 mile felt like 10 miles ... up hill ... in the snow (and the snow part was true!).  My arms were on fire by the time we got to the car.  Dylan, of course, was generally well-behaved in the car and went to bed immediately once we got home (all that freaking out really got him tired).

So the lesson learned from tonight is that Dylan is strong-willed enough to go to whatever means necessary to get what he wants, even if it is not in his best interest (he could have gotten candy, after all).  16.5 years until he moves out and goes to college ... and counting.
He was so happy while we were getting ready.  No visible signs of the future meltdown.

Here is Dylan in his long-underwear.  This photo will embarrass him when he is a teenager.

"Look Mom, it's snowing!  Can we go into a big crowd of people where I can throw the mother-of-all-temper-tantrums and leave you wondering if I am a Gremlin?  Can we?!  Can we?!!

1 comment:

Jody said...

I've had that experience myself and also wondered, why is it only my kid (and sometimes kids) who are acting poorly. They do however learn from this and realize that the temper tantrum got them nothing and is not worth the effort. Unfortunatley it takes a couple times before it sets in.