Ralf outed Santa the other day in front of our neighbors' kids. Well, sort of. He actually outed Nikolaus, who is a big guy in a red suit that brings presents on Dec 6th. To help Americans distinguish between Nikolaus and Santa, Nikolaus puts the presents in shoes instead of stockings and comes on the wrong day.
A popular ruse in Germany to get kids off their pacifiers is for kids to give them to Nikolaus in exchange for a present. I embellished the tale by saying he needs them as payment for the elves who make all the toys. This worked great for K, although we have our concerns about L, who is less materialistic than K. This makes it hard to know what sort of gift would make the trade worth it to her and we're expecting a bad week after the hand off.
But to do the hand off in the first place, you need a plausible Nikolaus. We used our colleague Albrecht for K but he's 6'5" with a distinctive voice and now that K's 5 and extremely observant we didn't think it would work. Ralf and his dad are also out, for similar reasons. Annette, alas, is divorced so no hubby to impose upon. So we hit upon our other neighbors, Berndt and Elizabeth, who live across from us and have two daughters that are a bit old to play with our girls. As it happens, they owe us, because Ralf played Nikolaus for them about 4 years ago when their kids were about the age our kids are now.
So, the other evening I sent Ralf over to ask and as these things go, the whole family came to the door in search of action. Ralf made his request, not really thinking that their youngest (who is about 8) could possibly still believe in Santa, sorry I mean Nikolaus, when he noticed Elizabeth making frantic throat-slitting gestures at him. Then Julia, the youngest, piped up with, 'Nikolaus comes on Friday anyway, why don't you just ask him to do it?'
It might have still been all right except for the little matter of the costume. Berndt, who was looking at Ralf, missed Elizabeth's 'abort! abort!' hand signals and asked if he should wear his own costume.
In the end the whole thing was glossed over with those lame parental excuses we all remember from our own childhood, the kind you accept at the time but file away to examine later on the therapist's couch. Ralf slunk home feeling sheepish, as befits someone who blows the whistle on Christmas magic.
Personally, I don't care that much if my kids believe in Santa once the pacifiers are gone. I mean, it's a nice fantasy that I'll keep alive as long as I can but I don't want to attach now that we have two informed older girls living right next door.