A Canberra Christmas Carol

Via Facebook, Karin nominated three items that resulted in a special Christmas story for small and big kids alike: 3 red roses + 1 womble + a glass of Mount Majura Pinot Noir.

You can also purchase a printed copy of this yarn as a special Christmas Zine.

3 Red Roses + Mount Majura Pinot Noir + Womble

Roses by MorgaineWombles-burrow-2-GCR_7788 (1)14PNl

‘Twas twelve nights before Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring…

…except for Joslin and Breanna, who came running into the lounge room. They both stopped dead in their tracks. There, next to their Christmas Tree, a large man was crouching down, laying wrapped presents at his feet. He wore a tight red suit around his ample stomach, which was partly obscured by a long white beard.

In short, he looked suspiciously like Santa.

‘Are you seeing what I’m seeing?’ Joslin asked her younger sister.

All Breanna could do was nod, her mouth open in shock.

The man jumped in surprise at the sound of their voices, his stomach trembling like jelly as he turned around. He stared at them for a moment, and they stared back. At last he spoke, slowly, but in a deep, booming voice.

‘Can you see me?’

Both girls nodded.

‘Can you see these presents?’ he asked, pointing to the wrapped gifts at his feet.

The girls nodded in unison again.

The man slapped his forehead and sat down in a heap by the Christmas tree.

‘They can see me! They can see me! And the presents! Ho ho, oh no!’

Joslin and Breanna slowly approached the man.

‘Are you Santa?’ Breanna asked.

The man looked up at her.

‘No, of course not. What gave you that idea? I’m…I’m….going to a fancy dress party.’

‘So why are you in our house?’ Joslin asked.

Before the man could answer, a female voice called out from another part of the house.

‘Jos? Bre? Are you okay?’

The man indicated the girls should kneel down next to him.

‘Yes, I am Santa Claus,’ he whispered. ‘It appears my magic has run out. This has never happened before. But it’s very important grownups don’t see me. ’

Breanna looked at him suspiciously, and pulled his beard.

‘Ow!’ he exclaimed.

Breanna turned to Joslin.

‘Yep, I reckon he’s the real deal.’

Joslin pondered this for a moment, before calling out.

‘We’re fine Mum.’

‘Okay, well, sing out if you need me,’ she called back.

Joslin looked back suspiciously at the man on the floor of their lounge room.

‘You’ve got ten seconds to explain yourself,’ Joslin whispered back. ‘I’m still not convinced. I mean, why is Santa in our house twelve days early?’

The man sighed.

‘You are right to be suspicious, Joslin. I will have to tell you one of my biggest secrets. Lean in closer.’

Both girls leant closer.

‘I can’t deliver all the presents around the world in just one night,’ he replied in a quiet voice. ‘I just don’t have enough magic to go to every house in one night. In the old days, I used to give it a try, when there were fewer children, but not anymore.’

‘So – and this is the very secret part – I lay the presents down early, and make them invisible with my magic. Then, on Christmas morning, the magic finishes and presents can be seen.’

He pulled a large device out of his pocket, that was shaped a little like a mobile phone. It was ticking, and on its display was a large battery symbol. The battery was flashing red.

‘This is my Gift-a-Tron. It stores my gift magic for me. I thought I had just enough magic to do your house, and then I would figure out how to refill it. This is as empty as it has been in years.’

‘What do you need to refill it?’ Breanna asked.

Santa stroked his beard.

‘Well, I need the spirit of Christmas: giving and generosity of spirit. That’s what I need to do my work. That’s sort of what I’m about.’

‘We can help you!’ exclaimed Breanna. ‘We can help you find giving and generosity in Canberra.’

‘Hang on,’ said Joslin. ‘I’m not convinced you’re actually Santa yet.’

‘Girls, Dad and I need your help with something,’ called Mum from the other room, her voice getting closer.

The girls looked at Santa.

‘I can prove it, but it will take a moment for me to get the Gift-a-Tron ready,’ Santa replied, pointing to the device in his hand. ‘And that will be the end of my magic. I’ll have none left. I’ll really need your help to refill it, otherwise there will be no Christmas for millions of children around the world.’

The sisters looked at each other, before smiling and nodding.

‘Okay, hide behind the tree, and we’ll distract Mum and Dad,’ said Joslin.

Santa knelt down behind the tree and started pushing buttons on the Gift-a-Tron. Just in time he disappeared, for a moment later, the girls’ parents were in the room.

‘We’re just getting ready to send the letters you wrote for Santa,’ said Mum.

‘And we noticed that you’ve both asked for a Womble each, again,’ Dad added, looking down at two pieces of paper in his hand.

The girls nodded, and smiled, trying to avoid looking to where Santa was hiding behind the tree. Subconsciously, they had shuffled next to each other, creating a wall between them and the Christmas tree.

‘Are you okay?’ Mum asked?

They both nodded and smiled.

‘About these presents. It’s just…’ Dad continued, glancing at Mum.

‘Well, that’s what you asked Santa for last year,’ said Mum. ‘But he couldn’t find them, remember?’

‘I’m sure he tried to find one everywhere,’ added Dad.

‘And asked the elves to make them,’ said Mum.

‘But, he just couldn’t…..’ Dad’s voice trailed off.

‘Yeah, but we really like Mum’s old Womble,’ said Joslin.

‘And we want one each of our own,’ said Bre. ‘They are just so cute and furry!’

Mum and Dad glanced at each other. Dad opened his mouth to respond, when he suddenly froze.

‘Dad, are you okay?’ asked Bre.

Dad didn’t speak. He just stood there, with his mouth open. The girls looked over at their mother, and realised she too was frozen, staring at their father.

‘There you are,’ said Santa, emerging from behind the tree. ‘That’s my last bit of magic in action.’

‘What did you do?’ Joslin asked, staring at her parents.

‘Oh, ha ha ha,’ chuckled Santa, stroking his stomach. ‘They’ll be fine my dear. I’ve frozen them in time. It’s only temporary. They’ll wake up in a little while, and will think nothing has happened. Which should give us enough time to refill the Gift-a-Tron, without them worrying about you. Worrying is not good for the Gift-a-Tron.’

‘I know just where to start!’ exclaimed Breanna.

‘Quick then,’ said Santa. ‘We can take my sleigh.’

The girls followed Santa out of the house, and were shocked to find a large red sleigh parked in their driveway.

‘Where are the reindeers?’ asked Breanna.

Santa smiled.

‘I only take them out on Christmas Eve. Don’t want to wear them out. The sleigh runs on solar power. Very handy when I’m delivering my invisible presents during the day. And, as I live in the North Pole, I like to do what I can about climate change!’

They piled into the sleigh and Santa handed Breanna a small digital device.

‘Is this another Gift-a-Tron?’ she asked.

Santa let out another hearty laugh, holding his stomach as he did.

‘Goodness no, it’s a GPS. Type in where we are going and it will direct us. Much more reliable than the maps my elves used to give me!’

Breanna looked at the device for a few moments, trying to figure out how it worked, before typing in her destination.

The sleigh rose into the air, and they flew away from the house.

The wind rushing through their hair, the girls had a million questions flying through their minds. They didn’t know where to start.

Joslin managed to ask the first.

‘So why are you here now?’ she asked.

‘I usually go in time zone order,’ Santa replied. ‘As Canberra is on the east coast of Australia, it is one of the first places in the world to have Christmas morning. So I travel around in the weeks leading up, dropping off my presents, but making them invisible.’

‘Do you still go out on Christmas Eve?’ Breanna asked.

‘Yes, I do like to pop in to a few places, just to enjoy the spirit of Christmas. I can usually top up the Gift-a-Tron then too. I also like to sample some of the snacks people leave out for me; and ho ho ho, that’s why I have such a healthy weight,’ he said laughing and rubbing his tummy again.

‘Let me see,’ Santa continued. ‘If memory serves, you’re family leaves out some warm milk, cookies and…something unusual. What is it?’

Santa stroked his beard, trying to remember.

‘Ahh yes, 3 red roses as I recall.’

The girls laughed and nodded.

‘Dad isn’t too happy about that. He thinks Mum has a soft spot for you,’ said Joslin.

‘Ahh, he should give her more roses himself. I bet that’s the hint she’s trying to give him,’ said Santa.

‘Is there anything else you would prefer?’ Breanna asked.

‘Well, the roses are very nice. But, now you mention it, I am partial to a glass of pinot noir.’

‘Pinot what?’ Joslin asked.

Before Santa could answer, they felt the sleigh moving downwards.

‘Ah, we seem to have arrived. Where are we Breanna? Is this a shopping centre?’

Bre nodded.

‘I thought we would visit your helper here. He brings lots of joy to the children who visit him.’

Santa nodded and chuckled.

‘Ho ho ho, indeed, an excellent idea.’

The sleigh landed gently on the roof of the shopping mall building, and the three travellers made their way inside. As they entered, a security guard noticed them, particularly Santa, who stood out in his bright red suit.

‘Hi mate, I think there must be some mix up. One of your people has already arrived.’

The security guard indicated to a nearby line of parents and children, who were waiting to see one of Santa’s helpers seated nearby.

‘Ahh yes, excellent,’ said Santa. ‘I’m just here to…ummm…keep an eye on him. He’s one of our new helpers.’

He pulled the Gift-a-Tron out of his pocket and walked towards the helper dressed in similar clothes. The girls now had the opportunity to compare him to the real Santa, and noticed that Santa’s suit was a brighter red, while his beard was more wispy than the helper’s cotton-wool like version. The helper looked up, surprised to see someone dressed the same way, but continued to speak to the child on his lap. He handed the child a lollypop.

Santa looked down at the Gift-a-Tron.

‘Not too bad, but we’ll need more than this. Even if we visited every shopping mall in Canberra, I wouldn’t have enough energy to finish Canberra, let alone Australia. We need…bigger gifts.’

‘Oh! I know some good places,’ exclaimed Joslin.

A moment later they were in the sleigh, this time following the direction Joslin had entered into the GPS. Soon they were flying over Lake Burley Griffin, before the sleigh slowed and hovered over a tall, thin, white concrete building on the foreshore.

‘What’s this?’ Santa asked, looking down.

‘It’s a big bell, called a carillon,’ Breanna said.

‘It was a gift from the British people to Canberra for its fiftieth birthday,’ added Joslin.

Santa looked down at the Gift-a-Tron, which was flashing orange.

‘That’s more like it! I need more things like this!’ he said.

‘I’ve got one!’ exclaimed Breanna, grabbing the GPS. The sleigh, still hovering in the air, turned gently and flew over the northern bank of the lake, before again slowing to a hover near a large flag pole.

‘We came here for a school excursion,’ Breanna said. ‘It is a Canadian flagpole, given as a gift from their Deputy Prime Minister after a visit to Australia. It’s made from a single spar of Douglas Fir logged from a forest in the Canadian province of British Columbia.’

‘Excellent, excellent!’ said Santa, looking down at his magic-catching device. ‘We’re really doing well now!’

‘What’s that big building on that hill?’ he asked, looking into the distance. ‘It has a large flag pole on the top.’

‘That’s Parliament House,’ said Joslin. ‘I suppose we could try it. It is sort of a gift from the people of Australia to Canberra.’

Santa grabbed the controls of the sleigh and manually directed them towards the three sided flagpole.

He glanced down at the Gift-a-Tron as he they approached. He screwed up his face in frustration.

‘What is the building below the flag pole used for?’ he asked.

‘It’s Australia’s Parliament. Representatives are sent from all over the country.’

Santa nodded.

‘Ah, politicians, yes?’ he asked.

The girls nodded.

‘Well, the Gift-a-Tron is suggesting there isn’t much generosity of spirit in there at the moment. Tends to be a bit of a problem from time to time in my experience with such things. Best we steer clear for now I think. Perhaps if you show me more, local Canberra generosity. That seems to have done the job so far.’

The girls pondered his request. At last Joslin spoke.

‘There is a place nearby that cares for people who have come from outside Australia, and need refuge.’

‘That sounds more like it,’ said Santa.

The sleigh soon landed at a building in a nearby suburb. The travellers tiptoed up to one of the buildings and peered through the window. Inside, groups of people were talking, laughing and eating together. Some of them had very dark skin, their beautiful white teeth flashing with their smiles. There were adults, children and even some babies.

‘What’s this place called?’ Santa asked.

Companion House,’ replied Breanna. ‘They help people settle in Australia, particularly those that can’t live in their homes overseas any more.’

He looked down at the Gift-a-Tron.

‘Excellent. Excellent. We’re really doing well now. Lots of generosity in this place! We need more like it.’

‘Oh, I know one that Dad told me about,’ said Bre. ‘And it’s not too far away.’

After a short sleigh ride, the three friends arrived. Here they found people walking dogs around a building. While Santa waited nearby, just out of sight, the girls approached one of dog walkers.

‘What are you doing with these dogs?’ Breanna asked politely.

‘I work on the PAWS program,’ the man said. ‘It stands for Pet Assistance and Wellbeing Service. We volunteer for this organisation, called Northside Community Service, to work with Elderly people and their furry companions. Sometimes as people get frail it gets harder and harder to take care of their pets and so to try and keep these ‘families’ together they help out with visits to the vet, walking, and food.’

The girls glanced over at Santa, who looked down at the Gift-a-Tron and then gave the girls a thumbs up.

‘That’s great,’ said Joslin. ‘Are there any other places like this around Canberra?’

‘Well,’ said the man. ‘There are community services like this all over Canberra. I think I have a list inside.’

The man returned from inside the building with a piece of paper. It listed a number of organisations  with names like Belconnen, Southside and Woden Community Service, and Communities@Work.

Santa and the girls visited all of them, and the generosity of spirit they found filled Santa’s magic.

‘We’re nearly there,’ said Santa. ‘The Gift-a-Tron is eighty per cent full! I often find being generous with food fills it up. It fills me up too,’ he said, again chuckling and rubbing his stomach.

Breanna left Santa in his hiding place, and approached one of the workers at an organisation called YWCA.

‘Excuse me,’ she said. ‘Is there a place in Canberra that feeds people for free?’

‘Yes,’ the woman replied. ‘There is a place in the city where they serve breakfast for the homeless every morning.’

The group entered the directions the woman gave them, and soon the sleigh had deposited them next to a large sign that read ‘Canberra City Uniting Church: Early Morning Service’. There they found many people sitting down to a hearty breakfast served by volunteers.

Santa looked down at the Gift-a-Tron.

‘What a wonderful idea! So much generosity! This has been fantastic girls. I’m nearly completely full.’

Joslin looked down towards the rest of the city.

‘I think I know our final stop! And we can walk from here.’

She lead them down to Garema Place, in the pedestrianized centre of the Canberra city. There she pointed to a large Christmas tree and surrounding lights displays.

‘These are amongst the biggest Christmas lights displays in the world. That Christmas tree has more lights on it than any other artificial tree in the world! And all the proceeds from people’s donations help families who have lost babies.’

Santa nodded.

‘What a wonderful place to finish, Joslin. This is indeed a generous city. You have completely filled up the Gift-a-Tron!’

‘Now, your parents will wake up shortly, so I think we should get you home.’

Soon they were back in the sleigh and in no time returned to their home.

Santa wrapped his arms around the girls and gave them a large hug. They felt warm and safe within the softness of his belly and beard.

‘Goodbye Joslin and Breanna, I won’t forget what you did for me. You are most certainly on my nice list this year!’ he said, chuckling.

‘Now, I must finish my deliveries! You’ve given me enough magic to do the whole world. Even your presents should be invisible now!’

‘Good luck Santa!’ the girls called as they watched the magic sleigh take off and fly away.

‘And keep in touch!’ he called as he left. ‘Don’t forget to write to me with what you want for Christmas!’

The girls walked back into their house, and entered the lounge room just as their parents began to unfreeze. They raced back to where they thought they had been standing, just as their father continued speaking.

‘So I’m not sure if we can….’

But Joslin interrupted before he could speak.

‘It’s fine Dad, we don’t need the Womble. We’ll ask for something different from Santa.’

‘Yeah,’ said Breanna. ‘He’s a busy man. We’ll take whatever he has time to give us.’

The girls’ parents looked at each other, confused expressions on both their faces.

‘On one condition,’ continued Joslin. ‘We have to leave out some pinot wan for Santa.’

‘Do you mean pinot noir wine?’ her mother asked.

‘Yeah, that’s it!’ answered Breanna.

‘You have some Mount Majura Pinot Noir, don’t you honey?’

The girls’ father nodded, doubtfully.

‘Yes, but I have been saving it for a special occasion.’

‘Well, it doesn’t get more special than Christmas. Santa certainly drank all of his port last year, didn’t he!’ she answered, winking at him.

‘Yes, he certainly did,’ answered Dad. I was hoping he would leave some for me.’

‘And maybe we could do some volunteer work Dad, on Christmas Day?’ Breanna added.

‘Yeah, maybe we could help serve breakfast in the city? That would a great family gift!’

Twelve days later, on Christmas morning, the girls ran into the lounge room to find an empty glass of wine and presents from Santa under their tree.

‘Someone enjoyed the pinot noir,’ said Mum, yawning as she entered.

Dad stumbled in behind her, looking disappointed.

‘Yes, it looks like they did!’

‘It was Santa!’ the girls exclaimed. ‘And look, he has left extra presents for us all.

Their parents looked at each other questioningly.

‘So he has…..’ said Mum. ‘Perhaps…’

But before she could finish, the girls had ripped open the presents.

And inside, they each found a brand new Womble. They smiled at each other, before putting the toys to the side.

‘Santa left you a present too Mum!’ said Joslin.

‘And you Dad!’ added Bre.

‘Quick, open them!’ they squealed together.

Their parents looked at each other questioningly.

‘Don’t you want to play with your toys?’ Mum asked.

‘No,’ replied Joslin.

‘We want to see your faces when you open your presents,’ added Breanna.

She handed her mother a thin wrapped object. She ripped away the paper to discover a dozen red roses.

‘Oh, these are beautiful, you shouldn’t have Santa!’ she giggled, winking at Dad.

He looked back and smiled weakly, although he seemed confused.

‘Here’s yours Dad,’ Joslin added, shoving over a large square shaped present.

Dad’s eyes lit up as he peaked inside.

‘It’s a dozen bottles of Mount Majura Pinot Noir! Thank you Santa!’ he exclaimed, looking at their mother. She now wore the same confused expression he had a moment ago.

‘These are such a surprise girls. How did you know?’ she asked, looking at the children.

‘We changed our letter to Santa,’ replied Joslin.

‘Yeah, said Bre, we asked for something different. Something for you instead.’

‘But…’ stammered Dad. ‘How did Santa get them here?’

The girls smiled at each other, before replying in unison.

‘That’s a secret, but it’s all about the magic of giving!’


Feature image courtesy of ACT Government 

Red roses courtesy of Morgaine on Flickr, reproduced with slight cropping

Womble picture courtesy of Wikipedia. 

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