Santa Came Early
Fifty-six children at the SOS Village in Bicesse wrote letters to Santa a month ago. They were advised to ask for items in the €10 range. Then Americans in Portugal (www.americansinportugal.org) sent out the list of children's names and their requests. The Club was inundated with generous givers: it seemed like everyone wanted to be Santa to children who have no parents to give to them. On the day of the Giving Lunch, December 16, sixty people filled the Cascais Cultural Centre bringing wrapped presents for their children. Their kind-heartedness was overwhelming. One woman bought a mobile phone for one of the oldest in the village and gave the Village Director enough money for €10 worth of calls every month for a year. Another woman said, “ I bought Catia ( all names have been changed) two gifts, one she asked for and an extra. The younger boys asked for beyblades ( Toys R Us), some kind of plastic gun that shoots harmless objects ( I didn’t approve but who asked me!) Then came the more heartfelt requests. Sergio wanted bedroom slippers- He got them plus a 2 cd’s. Lucia asked for a scarf and gloves to keep her warm.
On the day of the SOS Village Christmas party, December 18, the children, Village staff, guests and friends of the children packed the party room. First came a local music group (the Village will have its own music school in 2012), a clown, a magicians, a balloon artist and then, the long awaited Santa. He walked on the stage., with his pot belly, white beard and red hat, plus a large case full of wrapped gifts with each child's name . The children's instructions were to wait until midnight on December 24 to open their presents. But almost no one did. I saw Luis tear open his package as soon as he got it from Santa: “Yes”( Sim) he screamed , acknowledging that he got the Beyblades, just what he asked for. Joana had a modest request: nail polish and lipstick. Her giver packed more into the box, a green sweater from Zara which she proudly wore the rest of the afternoon. The party was followed by food, four tables filled with sugary desserts and soft drinks for all. Maybe it was sugar, or maybe the excitement, but I have never seen so much energy and happiness all at once. As we were cleaning up two children came to me with sad faces: Jessica whispered that she hadn’t written her letter to Santa but really wanted an MP3. Vanda had a tear as she told me she got a boy’s gift instead of the leggings she wanted. With all of the complex arrangements, it was inevitable that some mix-ups would occur. But Santa made another trip to the Mall and all will have their desired gifts by Christmas. If anyone is ever feeling sad on this holiday, all they have to do is to ask a child with no parents what gift they’d like to receive. Buying it will be the finest remedy for holiday blues anyone could ever have, and bring much needed joy into the life of a child as well.