Madrid, December 23
“Wake up! We’re late! We have to hurry!”
“Huh? What’s going on?”
“Why, it’s Christmas!”
“Relax, Oscar. It’s only the 23rd. Christmas Eve isn’t until tomorrow.”
“That’s what you say. What you obviously don’t know is that good old Santa isn’t always on time.” I’m sitting on the edge of the bed with my shirt inside out, putting on my shoes. “It doesn’t happen very often, I admit it, but some years, Santa comes early. Sometimes he’s already here on the 23rd, or even on the 22nd. He takes care of Christmas in a hurrry and on the evening of the 24th, before people know what’s going on, he’s already back on the North Pole!”
“You’re talking bullshit, Oscar. Like always.”
I’m putting on my coat, my hat. “Oh no. It’s true,” I say. “Santa likes to play with people. Once upon a time he even came to town in the midst of summer. You should have seen him, on the beach in his red coat shouting: ‘Ho! Ho! Ho! It’s Christmas everybody! Right here, right now!’”
“You better believe it. And there’s worse: when Santa gets angry, really angry, there won’t be Christmas at all!” I open the door. “Last time that happened was in 1824, if I remember well,” I stop to think, I look up at the ceiling, “or was it 1828? I don’t know, I should look it up in Wikipedia. Anyway – my voice gets really serious at this point – a year without Christmas! You don’t want that to happen, do you?”
“I thought so!”
I slam the door and I’m on my way.
Once I get to the centre of town I have to wade my way through thousands and thousands of desperate last minute Christmas shoppers. I look at their worried faces. Poor devils, they still have to buy presents for kids, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces. And then there’s Christmas dinner. What are they going to make? What about the sauce? I feel sorry for them. But fortunately, there’s hope. In a couple of days it’ll all be over.
When I get to Puerta del Sol, the madness is complete. There’s no way of crossing the square. It’s a sea of lost souls. And in between, there are dozens and dozens of animated characters trying to entertain the crowd. I see Mickey and Minnie Mouse in Christmas outfit, I see the Pink Panther, Super Mario, various captain Jack Sparrows and Spungebobs Squarepants. I see aliens, cowboys and numerous cartoon characters that I don’t even know. ‘Is this Puerta del Sol?’ I ask myself. ‘Whatever happened to the acampada? Whatever happened to the 15M?’
It’s already dark when I finally manage to get to the other side of the square. The 15M has gathered on the Plaza del Carmen. This is where the Christmas Working Group is in assembly. It turns out they have been here for over seven hours to discuss what to do about Christmas.
I spot Santa Claus on the edge of the square. I knew it! He is already here. I walk up to him. “Hey Santa, how’s it going?”
He sighs. “It’s chaos, Oscar,” he says, “I’ve asked a speaking turn this morning, and they still haven’t reached a decision about whether I should be allowed to speak in assembly. Most people are convinced that I’m an infiltrator. That I work for the banks and the state and the financial institutions. They think that Christmas is the quintessential counterrevolutionary holiday, that it’s all about consumerism, and celebrating the status-quo.”
I ask for a speaking turn myself. It’s a miracle. Before the stroke of midnight I convince people that Santa deserves to speak, not as Santa Claus, but as a private citizen.
So when the chimes have sounded twelve times, silence descends upon the square, and Santa Claus steps forward to speak.
“Comrades feminine, and comrades masculine! Please use an inclusive way of speach, mister Claus!” someone yells.
“Ssst!” answers the moderator, “let him speak!”
“Very well,” Santa says, “comrades of all genders, good evening.” He takes a deep breath. “Many of you think that Christmas is all about consumerism. About buying presents. About stuffing yourself all day long without thinking that there are people in need, people who are hungry, not just in far away places you only see on the news, but also right here, in Spain.” Santa pauses, he has got people’s attention. “It’s all true. This is what Christmas has become. A celebration of exuberance. A time for the lonely to feel more lonely than ever, a time for the needy to feel excluded of all the wealth that we as humans have been able to create.
“But there is something more,” he says, “something timeless.” At this point he takes off his beard and his red hat. “Look at me. I’m not Santa Claus. I’m one of you. I work for three euros an hour at the Corte Inglés department store, entertaining shoppers in this silly costume.”
A wave of awe rises up from the crowd. Santa isn’t real after all! Two girls faint on the spot.
“So there’s something more,” Santa says. “You can’t see it, you can’t hear it, but if you’re lucky, you can feel it. It’s called the Spirit of Christmas…
“The Spirit of Christmas isn’t about presents and food and loneliness. It’s about being kind, it’s about listening to each other, like you are doing right now. It took you some time, but finally you did decide to let me speak, and that makes me feel happy. I can feel that the spirit is upon us.
“Mind you that this is something extraordinary. The spirit isn’t always here. As a matter of fact, most of the time it’s absent. And although we call it the Spirit of Christmas, it isn’t confined to this particular time of year…
“Knowingly or not, you have carried the Spirit of Christmas with you for a long time. And this year, finally, you have all decided to share it with one and other.” Santa raises his arm. “The spirit was here on the fifteenth of May, when you decided to camp in Puerta del Sol. And ever since, each time you have provided a meal for the hungry, each time you have prevented a family from being evicted, each time you have occupied a home for those who were, each time you gave people a voice in your assemblies and lent your ear to listen to them, the Spirit of Christmas was upon you.
“Now the jolly season has arrived. You haven’t yet changed the world, but you have made a start. Carry on, comrades. Don’t be impatient, and don’t despair. As long as you carry the Spirit of Christmas along with you, and share it with others, you will succeed.”