This is a story written for English Time by Tenerife author John Reid for our Christmas special
When Peter was a little boy, growing up in Tenerife in the 1960s, Father Christmas (or Santa) only had to climb down a dozen or so chimneys. There were very few European foreigners living on the island and local children knew only of the magic of the three wise Kings of Orient. Father Christmas was just a quaint old fellow they had begun to refer to as Papa Noel and he was definitely looked upon as very inferior indeed.
Little Peter, the foreigner from Great Britain, and his best Spanish friend, Manolito, each worshipped their own provider of Christmas gifts. Each had been taught, from an early age, that his own particular belief, or joyful tradition, was far better than the other’s.
Anyway, way back in 1965, Father Christmas came down the chimney at Peter’s house as usual on the night of 24th December with stockings full of brilliant toys. On the following morning, Peter was in a state of great excitement opening his presents and he played and played and played. His best Spanish friend, Manolito, was green with envy as Peter innocently showed off his lorry and train and cowboy pistol and he refused to talk to Peter for days.
A couple of weeks later the Wise Kings of Orient trotted up on their camels to Manolito’s house in the middle of a banana plantation. When Manolito opened his presents on 6th January it was his turn to leap about in a state of great excitement. His father was a very important man and seemed to get preferential treatment from the wise kings.
Pillowcases, not stockings, packed with extravagant and superb toys, far better, it seemed, than Peter’s were spread over a Persian carpet. Manolito had received many more and grander presents than Peter. He even got a belt with two golden cowboy pistols. What’s more, by the time Manolito began to play with his lorry and train, Peter’s were all very worn indeed, with wheels falling off and fit only for the poor boy who lived in a hovel down the lane. The pistol no longer even made a bang. It was Peter now who was green with envy and he too refused to talk to Manolito for days and days.
News of this envious behaviour between two little boys reached King Melchior, the senior of the three wise kings. He summoned King Baltazar.
“Ah! Good morning, Baltazar. My falcon tells me you’ve been having furtive meetings with that old snowy fool they call Santa, and in fact that you appear to get on quite well with him. Is this so?”
“Well, I don’t really know him well, your Majesty, but he is quite a pleasant old chap, actually. We meet every year and share a glass or two of wine on the roof of the English Anglican church. But I spy on him, of course! If you remember, you did send me to spy on him a few years ago in order to find out where he got his children’s toys from….”
“Did I?…Ah…Well. Well good”, stuttered King Melchior, rather caught off guard.
“Well, I want you to negotiate a truce with him. All this competing for the finest toys and between our religions and beliefs is confusing and stirring up trouble amongst ordinary human beings. We can’t have little children like Peter and Manolito falling for adult tricks and jealousies and about beliefs and religions being better than the other, what?”
So, when King Baltazar and Father Christmas had their annual meeting on the roof of All Saints Church in Puerto de la Cruz the very next year, it went on for much longer than usual, a bit like today’s Brexit business. Negotiations were quite tough and each needed to consult advisors around the continents. But a treaty was signed under which children should not be affected by adult interests, predilections or political and religious nonsense.
The process would take a few years, of course, but the idea was for the Three Wise Kings and Father Christmas not only to share the same shopping centres and toy manufacturers but also to share the duty and pleasure of bringing joy to children.
And so it happened. In fact, the island of Tenerife had the great honour of becoming the headquarters of this new association of shared beliefs and religions. Today, children on this and other islands under Spanish dominion have been blessed. In fact they are very lucky indeed. That very sensible and uniting agreement signed by King Baltazar on behalf of the Wise Kings and Father Christmas on the English slate roof of All Saints Church in the Taoro Park enables them to receive gifts from Father Christmas and the Three Wise Kings.
In other words, children of all nationalities enjoy visits from Santa on Christmas Eve, celebrating the birth of Jesus, but can also expect equally wonderful gifts from the wise kings in January when they come to present baby Jesus with gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Actually, between you and I, the adults keep most of the gold and things…..and Father Christmas has taken to climbing over balconies because of the lack of chimneys on the island. Well, we don’t really need heating, do we?
But the whole point is that it works. As a result of that meeting on the roof of All Saints Church, both Peter’s and Manolito’s grandchildren love both Father Christmas AND the Three Wise Kings of Orient. Sharing and being tolerant of each other’s beliefs, especially at Christmas, is a wonderful thing, you know.
So, long live Father Christmas and the three Wise Kings of Orient.