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Years ago, as the holiday season approached ,  I was not anticipating a time of joy for the holiday ahead.  I was nearly overwhelmed with rapid life upheavals, which included my best friend moving far away. 

With leaden feet, I reluctantly headed to my apartment’s mailbox, doubtful I’d find any Christmas cheer there.

Instead, I was surprised to discover a delivery slip to pick up a parcel.

My three-year-old son insisted we set out immediately to retrieve it. On the long walk, he suggested maybe “Santa” couldn’t come to our apartment on Christmas, so he’d mailed our presents.

Plastered with thick duct tape, the parcel was stamped with my friend’s return address and boldly lettered: OPEN NOW. My son and I struggled homeward, balancing the huge box on the rickety stroller that also carted his baby brother.

We didn’t even remove our coats before we eagerly sliced through the tape.

Inside lay a nativity set. Not one made of wood or glass, but one my children could hold. It was an exceptional set of dolls, meticulously hand-sewn by my friend. Mary, Joseph, three wise men, two shepherds, a sheep, a donkey, an angel, and baby Jesus.

Notably, a Blond baby Jesus.


But, the box contained only one camel. Just one. Perhaps she was weary or ran out material.

Or perhaps, she ran out of candles. You see, she’d moved to a place without electricity, running water, or even an inside bathroom. She’d made my gift with her treadle sewing machine, adding beards and eyes by hand.

My five sons used these ‘dolls’ to recreate the Christmas story, year after year after year. Needless to say, they now look a little worse for the wear.

As I place these dolls this year into my granddaughter’s hands, I pause to honour my friend who turned a melancholy Christmas into a memory of joy.

Despite the often over-commercialization of the season, my friend’s ‘Santa’ delivery never fails to remind me that gifting others care and compassion will always be the essence of Christmas.