I have a few memories from Christmases past that still haunt me to this day.  The two that I vividly remember happened while we were living in Germany, and I was between the ages of 3 and 6.

The first traumatic Christmas experience that I remember was when I was about 4 or 5.  Little S was born on Christmas, and I’m pretty sure she was there when this happened.  We were stationed in the Black Forest area of Germany, but we didn’t live on the military base.  We always moved into the German towns to expose Little S and me to our German culture.  Here, we lived in an upper level townhouse that was run by a sweet German lady and her husband.  Her daughter lived on the floor below us.  Since her kids were young adults, they didn’t have any children yet.  This meant she adopted me as a surrogate grandchild.  I spent many days at her house.  She would entertain me for hours on end to allow my mother to have some time away from her rambunctious child.

One evening, around Christmas, there was a knock on the door.  My dad told me to open it.  Easily excited, I ran to the front door, flung it open, and screamed.  Standing on the landing was the creepiest Santa Claus I had ever seen!  His face was an eerie plastic mask with rosy cheeks and eye holes.  His beard was painted on.  He had on a little hat.  I dove back into the house and hid behind my father, hysterically crying.  Santa came closer and started talking to me.  It was then that I realized Santa had a female voice.  And then to my horror, it picked me up to ask what I wanted for Christmas.  I screamed again and started flailing.  It was then that this scary impostor removed the mask, and I realized that it was our landlady.  It took me a while to calm down because that mask was so scary!  Unfortunately I don’t have a picture to show you; it’s at my parents’ house.  If I find it, I’ll scan it in.

Traumatic Christmas experience 2 happened when I was around 6 years old.  My mom and I were visiting with her childhood friend who had a daughter who was around my age.  The 2 of us were playing in her room.  It was the eve of St. Nicholas Day.  All of a sudden there was a knock on the front door.  Once again, we were told to open the front door.  We were excited about the late night (it was probably 7:30 p.m., but that’s late when you’re 6) visitor and ran to the front door.  My friend opened the door, and we were greeted by St. Nicholas.  We were slightly stunned, so we  just stood there.

St. Nick – “Bing and Judith, have you been good girls this year?”

Bing and Judith – Stunned into silence, mouths hanging open.  Then heads nodding.

St. Nick – “Are you sure?”

Suddenly a figure dressed in dark robes with a long, black beard stepped around St. Nick.  In Germany he is known as Knecht Ruprecht (Servant Ruprecht), and he doles out punishments to bad children.  He glowered at us and stepped even closer.  Then he pulled out a large book and opened it.

Ruprecht – “According to my book, you two have not been angels this year.”

And then he began naming specific instances of when we had misbehaved.  We were terrified.  In Germany, the tradition states that kids who are really bad will get beaten by Ruprecht or taken away in a sack.  This was more than I could handle, and I panicked.  I took off running through the house, past our mothers, and dove under the coffee table.  I covered my face and cried.  All of a sudden, my mom was under the table with me, trying to calm me back down.  She finally broke down and told me that she and her friend had asked St. Nicholas and Ruprecht to come over, and they had told them when we had been bad.  She assured me that they weren’t real, but they did work for the real ones.  I behaved very nicely for the rest of December after that visit.

Do you have any traumatic holiday experiences that you will never forget?  If you do, please share.  I want to know if anyone else’s parents semi-tortured their children like mine did.  🙂

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