It makes sense for Santa of course that Armenians expect his arrival not on December 24 but a full week later on New Year’s Eve. This gives the bearded one time to nip back to the North Pole and replenish supplies. And the reindeer get a rest. It is only right too that Santa’s holiday here is kept separate from that celebrating the birth of the little Baby Jesus. Christ’s arrival is celebrated in the Caucasus on January 6,meaning that the good shepherds, wise men and choirs of Angels don’t get mixed up with the elves and Rudolph and sleigh bells in the minds of infant Armenians as so often happens at home. Here, December 25 is an ordinary working day, made worse this year by being a Monday. Thus it was that I spent today hunched behind my computer in a cold office designing our organization’s greeting card and feeling really quite glum. I thought a trip to the post office– open all day– might cheer me up but no:parcels promised from the US and UK have yet to arrive. Things are a little more merry and bright now I am home. The fire and the candles are lit. The Christmas lights are twinkling. I have reheated the mulled wine (is it possible to over-mull?) and opened the liquor chocolates. The Facebook fairy has delivered a video of my granddaughter jingling all the way from the US East coast where it is 5am and the presents are already opened…
Whatever and however you celebrate the holidays here are a few party games as practiced by this Peace and Joy Corps Volunteer. These are particularly good if you and your ungrinchy guests do not share the same language.
Pin the Red Nose on Rudolph.
Draw a rudimentary reindeer head on a piece of paper and tape it on a door at child height. Arm child number one with a red push pin. Blindfold said child and spin him or her at least three times or until disoriented. Invite the child to pin the nose on the reindeer. Mark the pin prick with the child’s initials and repeat the process until everyone has had a go. The winner is the child whose initials are closest to the reindeer’s actual nose.
The Tray Game.
Put about 25 items on a tray– a button, a match, a leaf, a tiny spoon etc. give the children one minute to look carefully at everything on the tray. Cover the tray with a cloth and remove one item. The winner is the kid who can correctly identify what is missing. If you need to spin out the party until midnight, you can do several rounds of this and/or give everyone a pen and paper and ask them to list all the items they can remember. A prize for the child with the longest correct list.
Christmas Musical Statues.
If you have internet, stream Christmas songs on the phone and encourage dancing. Kids must stop as the music does and are “out” if they are found swaying in the silence. Repeat. Last one standing stock still is the winner.
Winner Winner Chocolate Dinner.
Place a large bar of chocolate in a soup bowl or dinner plate with a rim. Give child number one a knife and fork. Can they cut the chocolate and eat a piece without touching the chocolate with their hands? (Answer: they can’t). Keep going until everyone has had a go. Then let them use their hands to divide up the chocolate.
Create a lucky dip for the prizes. This can be a box filled with polystyrene peanuts, strips of old wrapping paper or similar and small wrapped gifts. Or just put some chocolate, mandarin oranges, coins, tiny notebooks, sparklers, erasers or similar into a festive looking bag. The winner must close his/her eyes and grab a gift at random. This generates a lot more excitement than seems likely.
Pass the Parcel.
Armenia is a land entirely devoid of wrapping paper and so this game didn’t feature at my weekend party, but if you can find even a newspaper that isn’t destined for the fire then this is a good game. Wrap a small gift– chocolate, watercolors, slime– in a layer of paper. If you and your guests can read and write in the same language add an order– sing a carol, imitate a reindeer, pretend to be a shepherd abiding in the fields–and then add multiple layers of wrapping and similar messages. Sit the kids in a circle on the floor and play some Christmas music. When the music stops the kid holding the parcel unwraps a layer, follows the order, and passes the parcel to someone else. And so on until the last layer is unwrapped.
My colleague Mariam made some particularly lovely New Year Decorations for our office. Here’s how– and Happy Christmas.