December 2018

- Christmas Wight -

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It was at Christmas time that I discovered the little knobbly felt figures. In the shop window of my Danish neighbour Tanja's translation agency, little wights glanced out between fir branches – figure heads with bulbous noses and long pointed caps. I was enthusiastic about them and immediately bought one of the little guys. "That's the father Julenisse," Tanja enlightened me. "But there's something special about him." – "What's that then?" I wondered – "You see, the Nisser have their own mind," Tanja warned me, "if something doesn't suit them, they can cause quite a stir in the house. And if the father Nisse really gets going, well, even the rats skedaddle." What was Tanja talking about? Seriously: The Nordic world of wights really couldn't have been stranger to me.

Anyway, I took the father Julenisse home with me and put him on our shelf. But strangely, as soon as he had moved in with us, strange things started to happen. Where were my glasses again, why was the second sock missing? Hadn't I put a CD on top of the pile of paper that had now disappeared without a trace? And who had tipped out the laundry basket, how did the sweet paper bag get into the aquarium? "Rice pudding," was the only thing Tanja said when I told her about the tonne of strange events at home. "I'm sure the father Julenisse is hungry and that's why he's making fun of you." – So rice pudding it was. It was worth a try. So that same evening I cooked it as best I could in Tanja's Danish style: little rice, lots of milk and stirred for an hour until it was deliciously creamy. I put a small bowl of it under my sofa the following night. "Tanja, you won't believe it", I told her the next day, "the little bowl was indeed licked empty." – "I told you so, didn't I?" Tanja triumphed, "Rice pudding is simply the absolute favourite food of all Nisser. Now he will definitely stop dancing on your nose."

Back home I looked at the father Julenisse from the North, who was still sitting on the shelf. Traditions and rituals distinguish countries and people. It was nice that I had learned more about Tanja's world. I got my painting materials and sat the father Julenisse on my hand. "Now I know how to get you, you little sweet tooth," I said and throughout the painting I was titillated by his facial expression. He was obviously embarrassed that I had uncovered his sweet secret.

 

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