To be Papa Noel at Navidad it is necessary to live Papa Noel for the other 11 months of the year……
For the third year I have had the joy of appearing as Papa Noel for school kids and residents of Cajamarca.
This year I started the day at an upscale private school where kids pulled out their cell phones to snap a selfie with the fellow in the red suit. When the fiesta ended the teachers motioned me to a waiting van loaded with wrapped gifts. Turns out the kids at the private school chipped in and bought presents for a school in the surrounding hills.
It could be said of the region we were travelling to that the campesinos (farmers) there started with nothing and after a life of back-breaking labor they still had a lot of it left. After a bone-jarring ride we reached the school and when Papa Noel exited the van, eyes opened in wonder and the shout went out – “Papa Noel…Papa Noel…”
Following a few “Ho Ho Hos” and “Feliz Navidad” (the lines are easy to learn) I sat down and proceeded to pass out presents. The kids lined up and patiently waited their turn, knowing this would likely be THE only gift they would receive all year. As one boy came up to me I reached for the truck pile when he politely asked if he could have a doll instead.
But of course! Papa Noel honors all requests. The other kids opened their gifts and proceeded to share them with their classmates. But I noticed the this lad kept his clutched to his chest. When the line ended I motioned for him to sit on my lap and asked the reason he wanted a doll instead of a truck. When he told me tears welled up and rolled down my bearded cheeks.
The doll, he said, was a gift he could give to his baby sister.