The school that I teach English in (a kindergarten for "fast-track" students or "Children of Rich Parents") put on a Christmas program. Near the beginning of December I'd caught wind of it taking place during the afternoon of December 23rd - a Friday. It was my hope that I'd catch the beginning of the program and then be given the liberty to bail after a couple of performances. Seeing as afternoon classes were cancelled I figured I'd take advantage of the diversion and hoard a bit a free time. I wasn't a part of any of the performances so I was quite certain I'd avoid any responsibility of serious involvement with the progam. It was requested that I help the classes learn their songs; ditties like "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" and "Frosty the Snowman" were the preffered numbers. I was relieved when I wasn't asked to actually perform any of the songs. My hopes of avoiding embarrassment on stage were shattered when on Wednesday, two days before the program was to take place, I was asked to be Santa. Not being a morning person I'm always a bit out of sorts and groggy upon arriving at work. Recognizing this the school, of course, chose that time to spring the proposition on me. My face flushed momentarily as I attempted to duck and evade, my brain working at half speed, to come up with an excuse as to why I couldn't do it. I stammered and choked on my own words until finally acquiescing to their proposal. I was briskly led to a rather disorganised and dimly lit store room off of the main floor of the kindergarten. Once my eyes adjusted to the single, naked bulb, illumination of the room I saw a pile of red polyester fabric clumped up into a ball sitting on a table. The Santa suit. Pants, an overcoat, fake beard and Santa hat were to be at my disposal for my portrayal of Old Saint Nick. I was a little pissed off as playing Santa in front of a couple hundred people, the students and their parents, techincally falls outside of my stated job duties. But I was trapped with no solid way out of fulfilling the charge given me. I was nervous in the lead up to the big day. I'd been told that I'd be given a big red sack full of candy to distribute to the children and that I was to merrily shout, "Ho Ho Ho!" and "Merry Christmas" as I distributed the goodies. I wasn't looking forward to it. To start with the clothes were ill-fitting and awkward. The pants wouldn't stay up and the legs weren't the same length. The overcoat was just as awkward and I was forced to use a sash/safety pin combo to keep it closed. The fake beard was totally askew on my face and, what's worse, was impossible to straighten. The hat was the only article of the suit that I was entirely comfortable with. It came down to my eyes and guarded my identity quite well. At any rate while in the dressing room I said few prayers to the Father asking that he allow me to get through the shindig alive, and most importantly, to have some fun while I wowed and dazzled the crowd with my yuletide charm. The big moment came. They had the whole thing choregraphed, right? At the tail end of the last performance, I was told, the lights would be dimmed and the emcee would then ask the students (in Chinese of course) who had just arrived. That was to be my cue for my grand entrance. The details were a little fuzzy as to what was supposed to happen next. My personal main goal was to empty the red bag of it's booty and then split. I'd have liked it if all of the students formed a nice, organised, single file line so I could give them their bags of candy and then get the hell out of the gym. This went a bit awry however, as things of this nature usually do when placed in the hands of inexperienced performers, and upon my entrance the whole body of students became a briefly stunned group of kids that quickly degenerated into a chaotic, overly excited and charged, mob. I'll always remember the few seconds of stunned silence when the kids had the look on their face that asks, "What the hell is going on?" It was all to apparent what was going on, however, Santa was in the house and the party had only just begun. They quickly got over their surprise and replaced it with ecstatic joy. So there I was in my derelict Santa suit passing out bags of candy to screaming kids while shouting at the top of my lungs, "Ho Ho Ho!" and "Merry Christmas!". Beneath the crooked beard that I was sporting I was sporting an even bigger smile. It turned out that I was having just as much fun as the kids were having if not more. It was hilarious and hysterical. It was the spirit of Christmas. Merry Christmas indeed.