Gypsy Christmas in Radvanka

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Christmas in Radvanka

Christmas, 2012, was in full swing. Santa had been busy with programs, gift giving, festivals, several interviews and, even a TV interview on a local Uzhgorod station. You could feel the excitement in the air. It was a new experience having a “real” Santa in the area. Many people paraded around with fake beards, and hair. But a Santa with real, attached beard was a sight never seen before. Several children even pulled his whiskers to see first hand. Then giggles of joy were expelled after the “old man” squealed. It was a fun time for all.

Christmas in the former Soviet Union has taken on much more of a western flair, while, at the same time, retained the old customs. They observe two Saint Nicholas’ Days and then Western Christmas on December 25, New Year’s Day on January 1, and Orthodox Christmas on January 7. Since most of the churches celebrate on January 7, it was a real treat to be able to celebrate with the kids at Radvanka on December 24. The Gypsy community worships with the Hungarian customs on the 25th.

The Saturday before we had fed 50+ children at Radvanka. We figured there would be more for this special occasion. Santa’s Elves helped Santa fill 100 bags of Christmas treats. We included fruits, candy, and, most importantly, a Bible. It WAS Christmas Eve and, of course, most of the elves and the reindeer were all preparing for the big night ahead. Santa had other obligations. One of Santa’s Elves, Andre, had taken an early retirement and now drove a taxi in Uzhgorod. This was a blessing. When Andre delivered us to the little church, a crowd had already started gathering. The youth leaders in Radvanka had begun by having the children discuss the birth of Jesus and recite Bible verses. The kids were remarkably attentive and quite interested in the lesson.

In due time, to the kids excitement, Santa arrived. One by one, the children were invited up to sit with Santa and receive a gift. The joy of these children was not unlike that which Santa had experienced from children all around the world. Some hugged the old man. Some kissed him. Others shied away. The two year-olds refused to sit in his lap at all, just as they do everywhere. Eager children were everywhere. Another of Santa’s elves, Ishtvan, helped Santa give out the gifts. At one point, Ishtvan whispered to Santa that there may not be enough gifts. We had left some in Andre’s taxi for another program later. As quick as a wink Ishtvan called Andre on their Santa-mobile. Very soon Andre arrived with the remaining gifts. The children continued to visit Santa.

When all was said and done, there were 100 gifts and 100 children. God is so good. He knew exactly how many were needed. But then, why should Santa have worried? The children all thanked Santa and went their ways. It was a wonderful gypsy Christmas celebration!

Santa and Ishtvan left with Andre……….Their night was just beginning!!!!!

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Santa and Elves

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