A Christmas Memory – Valdivia, Chile 1964

By Lucia Preller

In Chile we follow the German tradition since the 1930s; the tree with the ornaments, the lights, Santa, the gifts under the trees. A nice late dinner on the 24th, mass, and after that we open the gifts.

I come from a large family of eight children, and we lived quite comfortably. For Christmas, almost always we got what we had asked Santa to bring; bicycles, roller skates, mecanos, board games, etc.

The Christmas I remember the most was when I was 8 years old.

We were all excited talking with our friends about what we were expecting to get from Santa that evening. When mother called us in for dinner my younger brother didn’t come in, we didn’t know where he was. The table was set, and we were starting to sit around it, when little Jorge came in, in tears.

He had gone to visit his friend Agustin, and all the lights on his house were off, and when he knocked on the door, nobody opened. Suddenly, one of the upstairs windows opened up, and Agustin told my little brother that they were all in bed.  His father had lost his job, so there was no Christmas for them that year.

Jorge cried and cried while he was telling us. Mother was always a very practical woman, and in no time had sent the three older children into the kitchen to get platters and serving stuff, in no time divided the salads, the lamb, potatoes, desserts etc, and made these gorgeous platters.

She then sent each one of us to the foot of the Christmas tree and made us each get one of our presents.  My older sisters changed the labels writing the names of all the members of Agustin’s family: six children plus the parents.

Two of my brothers got a couple of light garlands, and we all went around the block to bring Christmas to our neighbor’s home. Mother knocked at the door, while my brothers installed the lights, and all the rest of us waiting with our hands and arms full of food and gifts.

When Agustin’s mother opened the door, before she said anything, my mother said she apologized for intruding, but Santa had made a mistake and had left all that food and gifts in our house, when they belonged to their family.

The lights went on in the house, all the kids came downstairs, and in no time between my mother and Agustin’s mother, there was a table set, full of food, gifts for everyone in the living room, and children starting to sit around an unexpected Christmas table.

Some music came on, we all said Merry Christmas, and went back to our home.

Valdivia, Chile 1964.