Does Christmas exist in space?

Gary starred at the black outline of Santa on his colouring pad. He could taste plastic as he chewed his stylus. He preferred pencils and paper, but he had to leave his large case and colouring books behind. The Space Captain didn’t want anything that could be lit on fire. Gary had argued that pencils were for colouring, not lighting on fire. For a Space Captain, they were really dumb. At least he had something to colour with. And now, he had a project. He was making Christmas decorations for the little dull grey room his family shared on the ship. He was going to print them out on the special paper and hang them around the room.

Behind him, his Dad and his sister, Ollie, were wrapping his mum’s gifts. It was the rare moment that Mum was at work, and Dad wasn’t. But Gary was on decoration duty. Most of the usual decorations were in storage, and the Captain wouldn’t let him take them out. You could only take things you really needed. Not even Sally’s family could use a real menorah. However, that was more because of the fire thing. That was the Captain being dumb again, but Gary was not going to let these stupid rules ruin his Christmas. He went back to his Santa picture.

Clicking the red colour wheel, Gary began from the top and made his way down. Halfway through, he paused.

“Will Santa be able to find me, all the way out here?”

He looked out towards the slow-moving starfield.  Santa could travel around the world and visit millions of homes in one night on Earth. They could make their way here. Perhaps a little late, but still, it was Santa after all. Gary had to make sure. He turned around towards his sister, who was busy wrapping presents.

“Where’s Dad? I need to ask him a question!”

“He just popped out for a moment,” Ollie answered. She had a tight grip on the bunched up ends of some green cloth which wrapped around an object. “Could you pass me the red ribbon over there? I want to finish this present before he gets back.” She pointed the ribbon that was out of reach.

“Does Santa have a Spaceship? Does he visit kids on the moon?” He tilted his head to the left.

Ollie blinked and sighed. “There are no kids on the moon. It’s full of mines.” She attempted to reach the ribbon.

“But the miners have families,” Gary argued as he slipped off the stool.

“Yeah, and they all live Earthside. It’s too dangerous for kids like us. Now please, pass me that before Dad gets back.”

Gary’s face dropped. If Santa didn’t go to the moon, had they ever been into space? Ollie was at least five years older than Gary was, surely she couldn’t be wrong? But if she was right, Santa might not be able to find him.

“Gary, please, the ribbon. I don’t want to let the wrapping go.”

Gary took a few steps, picked it up and passed it over. “But if Santa can’t get to us, we can’t have Christmas.”

“Oh boy,” Ollie responded, grabbing the ribbon. She began tying the present. “Listen, Ollie,” she paused for a moment. “We need to talk about…”

At that moment, the unit door swished open, and Gary’s Dad entered.

Ollie pulled the ribbon and stood in front of the package. Dad put his hand over his eyes and smiled. He swore he hadn’t seen a thing as Ollie frantically tried to find a place to hide it. This wasn’t easy in the small three-room unit. Gary took the opportunity.

“Dad, does Santa know we are here?” Gary looked up to his father.

“Of course, they do.”

“How does Santa know?”

A draw slammed closed. “You can open your eyes now, Dad! Just don’t go looking through my stuff.

Dad put a hand on his heart and nodded in agreement.

“How does Santa know Dad?”

Dad looked down. “Because we told them. We sent the elves the flight plans and everything.” He knelt to meet Gary eye to eye. “Are you worried that Santa won’t come?”

“But how is Santa getting on the ship? I don’t think the Captain will allow them on board.” Gary snuggled close to his Dad. His worried look said it all.

“Of course, Captain Davies will allow Santa on board. They have special permission for the Department of Colony Settlement.”

Gary grimaced. The Captain had some dumb rules, though. “Does Santa have a ship?”

His father sighed. “Yes, they do. Santa hasn’t used a sleigh in a very long time.”

“What type of ship? Is it faster than ours?

“To be honest, I don’t know mate.” He sighed. “How are the decorations coming along?”

Gary huffed. Why couldn’t anyone give him any straight answers? “It’s going okay, I guess. “Are you sure Santa will be here? We are so far away from Earth!”

Gary’s Dad walked over to the children’s bed, which doubled as the family sofa during the day. He patted the surface, asking Gary to join him. He looked up at his father, his face covered in dirt and mess after fixing whatever on the ship needed fixing. “Come on, let’s have a chat. What are you really worried about?”

Gary shuffled over, jumped on the bed and planted his face into his chest. “Christmas is not going to be the same. Everything has changed. Why did we have to leave?” The waterworks started.

Gary’s Dad put his arm around him. “Oh, Gazza. I know a lot has changed over the past few months. A lot of things are changing.” Gary wiped his nose on his shirt.

“We don’t even have a Christmas tree or tinsel or anything else. It doesn’t look like the holidays. Is it going to be like that on Mars?”

“I’m sorry, mate. That’s just how things are in space. But Christmas is not about the decorations or presents. It’s about being a family, being together and celebrating our life.”

Gary looked up to his father in confusion. “Then what about Santa?”

“Santa teaches us that giving to others is important. He visits all the kids in the world and beyond and asks only to be nice to each other in return.”

Again, Gary looked confused.

“It’s okay mate. You’ll learn soon enough. Now, how about you finish your decorations so it can look a little bit Christmassy in here.” He patted Gary on the head.

He went back to the stool next to the window and picked up his pad. He picked up the stylus and tried to get back to his colouring. His Christmas spirit though had disappeared.

What does Christmas really mean?

Walking down the narrow windy corridor, Gary’s family were singing carols. All except for Gary. They were heading to the central mess. The ship’s cooks were apparently cooking up something special. Hopefully, something more than the bread and nutrition pastes they usually did.

As they opened the door to the mess hall, Gary was surprised to see that the room had been transformed. All the tables had been moved together and covered with pictures and other decorations, his included. The regular light strips had changed to red and green and were flashing. Over the comms, Gary could hear music. It wasn’t like back home, but it was certainly better than it had been. He looked up at his father and smiled.

“Merry Christmas,” came a voice on the other end of the hall. One of the cooks waved them over to the buffet line.

As they lined up for food, Gary was happy to see that it was more than paste. There were roasted vegetables, loaves of bread and … was that a turkey? The smell was undeniable. As he got closer, though, the illusion was broken. It may have smelled like roast turkey, but it certainly wasn’t. His face dropped. It was the paste again, it just smelled differently than average.

“Isn’t this great, mate?” his father asked as they went to sit at the big table at the centre of the room.

“It’s not the same,” he mumbled to himself.

“Come on, son. We’ve talked about this. It’s going to be different, but it’s still Christmas.”

Gary wasn’t letting go of his mood. His father sighed.

Gary’s Dad, Mum and sister ate with gusto and chatted with the other families around them. Everyone seemed to be in a jolly mood, except for Gary. He ate a little bit but sat in silence, moving his food around.

“I hear they’ve got some of the ice-cream out for dessert,” one of the parents rang out. “Not much, but enough for all the kids who finish all their dinner.”

That had gotten Gary and all the other kids moving. He finished up his meal quickly as he could as the other kids began to line up. With the last gulp, he pushed his chair away and ran over to the buffet line. It was true. The kids who finished first were carrying their ice cream bowls over. He was second to last in line. Sally was behind him.

As the line got shorter, Gary got excited. It had been a very long time since he had ice cream, at least 5 months; just before they left Earth.

“Here you go, lad,” one of the cooks said. That’s the last of it.

Gary looked down in appreciation. “Thank you so much.”

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t see you there,” the cook sounded guilty.

Gary looked over to Sally. She looked like she was about to cry. He had gotten the last of the ice-cream, but he wasn’t the last in line.

“Can’t we get some more from storage?” Gary asked the cook.

“I’m sorry, this was all we could spare.”

Sally looked sullen. Gary could tell that she was holding back the tears. She probably hadn’t had ice cream for a very long time as well. He looked down at his bowl. There was only enough for a few spoonfuls. He looked back at Sally. She had dropped her arms, her bowl clanking on the floor.

“Here, let’s share this one.”

Sally’s eyes lit up. “Are you sure?”

Gary grabbed a second spoon. Let’s go.

As the two sat at the table, his father leant over to him. “Now, that is what Christmas is all about,” he whispered.

Gary looked to his Dad and smiled. As they quickly finished the bowl, the music stopped. Everyone looked around, wondering why it had stopped so suddenly.

“Proximity alert,” came the Captain over the comms. “There’s another ship headed our way, it’s coming in fast. Should be here in about an hour.”

Murmuring filled the hall.

“There’s a message coming in.”

The sound of bells filled the room. Gary could see everyone’s faces lifted up, a sense of anticipation.

“Well, it sounds like the special convoy from Earth his headed our way. As the rules state, everybody needs to be at their post or quarters before we dock with another vessel. Looks like it’s time to head to bed.”

The hall fell into pandemonium as parents tried to rally their children to clean up before they left. Gary looked over to Sally.

“Thank you for the ice-cream, Gary!” She smiled.

“You’re welcome,” he smiled back. He paused for a moment. “Will Santa be getting you a gift this year?” He sounded concerned.

“I’ve already gotten my holiday gifts during Hanukkah. But Santa usually leaves some chocolate.”

“Well, tomorrow if you want, we can play together?”

“I’d love that!” she smiled.

Gary’s parents interrupted the conversation.

“Let’s go, mate. can’t be up when Santa docks.”

As they walked out of the hall with all the other families, he pulled on his father’s arm. His father looked down.

“I get it now.” He smiled. His father smiled back.

Not the Same

Gary tried to get some sleep but was too excited, too restless to do so. Everyone else had fallen asleep quickly. However, there was one thing that he still needed to know. He went over to the window and looked out at a far angle. His quarters were near one of the docks. He was hoping to see Santa’s ship. There was nothing. Perhaps, Santa had already come and gone. They were usually pretty quick, but Gary was hoping to see something.

He looked out for a couple of minutes until he decided that he had missed him. As he went to look away, something red caught his eye. Outside something was flying along with the ship, but for only a moment. As soon as it appeared, it disappeared. That was all that Gary needed. Christmas was not the same, but it was still Christmas! Happy Spacemas!

Happy Spacemas Everyone

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