Santa Bin Laden

"Ho ho ho!" someone shouted so loudly Little t gasped "oh no!" and threw the bag of raindeer food she had been scattering on my parent's lawn and turned to run into the house; a trail of sparkles and cheerios in her wake. Quickly assessing that the ranch slider was too far a distance she instead jumped into her dad's arms. Christmas Eve in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty and we were home for summer.

Fake santa remained hidden but it did the trick with Little t. She ran to bed a believer.

My husband and I were married six-weeks after he proposed and that was five years ago so I believe in impulse. Though we'd dated for about a year and a half we'd never lived together; never discussed serious things like marriage until he asked me to be his wife in a cafe in Cairo. I was in the middle of a story and he stopped me. "I think we should get married" he said. When I asked him why he said: I liked the way you told that story.

Tameem is muslim, born and raised in Canada to an Egyptian father and an Italian Jewess. He's a total mix of both religions and cultures and I never thought twice about marrying someone from another faith or culture, if anything I found it interesting. I wasn't raised with religion, I think the only thing my dad, who is a hypnotherapist, ever called our family was "spiritualists". Loose.

There was never any pressure on me to give up anything or convert to anything in marrying Tameem, I didn't even change my name. It was only when I was pregnant with our first child and the subject of Christmas came up that I realized I was somewhat attached to a tradition that mean nothing to him. I didn't even realize I was attached to it until I was asked not to celebrate it. No tree, no decorations, no Santa for the kids and no Jesus as the son of God. For someone raised with Christmas, no Christmas for your kids?

Like a lot of people there are some things about Christmas that I have issues with:  the stress people feel in having to spend more than they can afford on gifts, the pressure not to disappoint your kids. But my good memories of Christmas are of my sisters - lying on the lounge floor of our nana and poppy's farm house, watching the Christmas Eve movie. Going to bed too early and enjoying the fantasy, which faded out quite naturally as we grew up. Feasting for days with our family, which includes 35 first cousins and up to 70 people for dinner or tea (that's another serving of dinner, at night). Crates of brilliantly colored fizzy drinks that turned into more interesting fizzy drinks as the we got older, new clothes on the summer lawns and beach and river swims. 

This year my daughters got to experience some of this, with loud and generous aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins and tents on the lawn. You sort of forget about lawns.