When Santa came to Silverton
An outback Christmas story from ABC Open
Janine Anderson moved to Broken Hill to work as a nurse for twelve months and fell in love with the outback. That was thirteen years ago.
"I’m no longer nursing," she says, "but I am taking the time to enjoy all that this wonderful region has to offer.
"If you ask locals and those from away why they love the outback, they find it hard to put into words. The spirit of the outback is everything that surrounds you out here and not being able to say what it is perhaps reflects the mystery and the aura of the place."
This is her story of how Santa came to Silverton...
Santa and his elves live at the North Pole, and they have to visit every child’s house before Xmas so they know where every child lives. That’s what Santa tells the elves anyway and they pretend it is the real reason. Really, it is so he can test whether he can fit down the chimney and, if there isn’t one, the elves help him remember another way to get in the house.
It was a really hot night when they first came to the outback. The elves are very small and the heat quickly made them feel a little sick. Santa was worried about them and thought he’d have to take them back to the North Pole. But that would mean lots of children in the outback would not wake up on Xmas day and find a very special parcel waiting just for them.
While Santa was thinking about what to do, he looked around and noticed how dark it was. He was used to cities with lights along the roads to help him find his way. He looked for a light and there in the distance he noticed one. In the window of a little hut, a nurse sat caring for the sick people so they could feel safe and sleep.
So, for the very first time, Santa tapped on the window and let an adult see him. When the nurse looked up and saw a jolly man dressed in red, she had quite a fright. She opened the window to tell him to stop tapping and not wake up the sick patients. Before she could say anything Santa said, ‘I really need help.’
The nurse sent a message to the men working down in the mines that night. They went and got the elves and hid them in a mine. Other nurses were woken and they crept out of their homes to go to the mine and care for the elves.
Some men went with Santa to help him find where all the children lived. When they took him back to the mine the elves were better. It was all kept a secret and all of those people never said a word.
That place was a tiny town called Silverton.
Santa was going to return to Silverton on Xmas eve a few months later. The men from the mines had all gone to a secret spot just out of the town. It was a hill next to the Mundi Mundi Plain.
There is one little tree, a special tree, but I can’t tell you exactly which one it is because it is a secret. The men put lanterns up on its branches. Because you can see almost to the North Pole from there, Santa only had to fly for a few minutes before he saw the tree glowing and found his way back to Silverton.
Without their lights he would still be looking for a tiny little town in the middle of the great big outback.
Santa’s reindeer had enough room to land on the hill because everything is big in the outback. He had the sleigh filled with presents and for the first time he had a trailer attached to the sleigh. This was to carry some of the men to help him deliver all the presents, because he had to leave the elves at the North Pole.
He also had to bring some water and grass for the reindeer because there isn’t much of that to spare in the outback.
The men went quiet when Santa landed. Santa knew something wasn’t right.
One man said, “Santa, umm, mate those reindeers can only fly in the cold.”
“You’ve forgotten that it is summer here in the outback. They will sweat and it will wash away all the magic and they’ll be stuck on the ground. How will you deliver the presents then?”
Poor Santa. He still had a lot to learn about the outback. Lucky for him the men were survivors, tough blokes who knew how to get a job done. They sent for the Afghans and their camels. Camels were called the Ships of the Desert because they carried everything that was needed by the people of the outback to be able to survive. Without them there wouldn’t be towns out here now.
They called for the Aboriginal people who knew the land better than anyone else. They had looked after it and the animals for years and years, too many to count. They were so clever they could tell stories that were like songs, with clues to help them find their way anywhere just by a rock that might look like a wombat or a creek that had a story all of its own. They could even do it at night, just by looking at the stars. How clever is that?
The Aboriginal people called to the emus and asked for their help, and the kangaroos wanted to help too. The emus tucked the presents under their feathers. The kangaroos put the presents in their pouches.
The women in Silverton made lots of sandwiches to feed Santa, all the men who were going to help, and the animals too. Everyone loves cheese, even emus, and that was when cheeseslaw was invented. There was something special in it for everyone to eat. I can’t tell you how they made it that first night because that’s a secret too.
I am happy to say that Santa had so much help that first Xmas Eve, the presents all got delivered. It was such a hot night that after it was all done everyone took Santa to a special deep well, covered over so you won’t fall in when you try to look.
Nearby is a tank up in the air. The women filled it with water, how many buckets it took I can’t even guess. The water was enough to give the people and all the animals a drink. Then what was left filled the well and they all went for a swim.
Santa had never been for a swim before and was taught to swim in that well.
The elves didn’t believe that adults could help Santa or even that he asked them to help. They had heard about the spirit of the outback and wanted to know what it was. Is that what helped Santa? That’s a secret too. Even the elves don’t know the answer.
The outback is a very big place. There aren’t many people living out here so sometimes you won’t know when you are going to need to make a new friend to help you out. The spirit of the outback is about being good to your mates. You never know who they are going to be until you meet them. So it’s always good to smile and say hello, because one day that person could be a mate.
People come here from all over the world to find the spirit of the outback. It is everywhere, in the the people, the sky, the animals, the land, but if they look too hard they won’t find it. It is like trying to find a needle out on that Mundi-Mundi Plain.
The elves are still trying to find out what it is. Rudolph is the toughest of the reindeers so they asked him, “What is so special about the outback that Santa can’t wait to return there?”
So now Rudolph started practicing, by flying around the world so he could get used to the heat and wouldn’t sweat. Now Rudolph follows Santa out here, every year, just out of sight. He has a camera on his bridle and because the outback is so big Santa has to finish delivering parcels in the morning light.
These photos were taken by Rudolph. Rudolph always ends up with a burnt nose because he forgets to put sun block on it. Have you heard of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer?
Every Xmas eve Santa returns and special adults go to meet him on the hill at the edge of the Mundi-Mundi Plain and help him deliver presents. He doesn’t use camels any more because there are faster ways to get around. He delivers the presents by train, by truck and even by car.
Now you might go to Silverton and think it is a tiny place. But, when the magic of Xmas arrives… well, you know the story now too.