By Arwen-Wynter Oakley 2023
Do you remember? When the common gift that was given to in-laws and acquaintances was a homemade mason jar of hot cocoa. As children – we were ecstatic to see that jar. That sweet jar of brown with white swirls spiraling around the chocolate.
“Oh! It is so bitter!”
“Very! It barely tastes like chocolate! Who made this?”
I paused, stroking my chin, “I think it was Aunt Mary’s sister-in-law. She said it was a white and dark chocolate swirl.”
“More like a white and dark chocolate swirlie!” Alice snorted, inhaling the bitter steam of the mug below.
I leaned back into the red-and-green crocheted Christmas pillows and sipped the dark liquid filtering between fluffy islands of marshmallow. I still hate it. The bitterness gave it that holiday zing that people speak about typically in reference to eggnog. I also hate eggnog. It hasn’t personally slighted me though but come on… it’s eggnog.
“You’re not used to it?”
“What, the flavor?” she asked, the corner of her delicate mouth stained with a small line of dark brown.
It brings out your eyes.
“Yeah, the flavor. Moreso the bitterness.”
“Oh my, no way. I just drink it for the purpose of tradition.”
“We seem to do a lot for the purpose of tradition,” I whispered, flashing her a smirk.
She lifted her bare leg from the side of the red floral chair diagonally placed from the primary bed. It’s the shoe-tying chair as we dubbed it. Or the doggy-style chair, but who’s asking anyways?
Alice stood, the lace gown draping softly over her bosom. It was quite see-through. I am her only audience after all, she could remove it.
“Wipe your chin, darling, you’re drooling. I need to get back to the presents,” she jeered, “You know what will happen if I don’t give them out this year.”
My chest went icy. Breath abated. Hands chilled.
“I would rather not think about it, Alice.”
“That is too bad. It is our turn this year. I must continue to make it. I am running out of time and the materials will go bad if I don’t get them mixed into the jars in time. I know you didn’t ask for this, but it is the way.”
“I know,” I answered. I could feel my throat going dry, tensing – tears pushing the boundaries of my eyes. “I just wish it weren’t us. Why were we chosen?”
“We were chosen.” she answered.
Alice turned her perfect posterior towards me and made her way back to the kitchen table where she would prepare hundreds of homemade cocoa jars for the entire family.
Her family ancestry goes back to times before the Christian Christmas practices. Before conventional trees and plopping your toddler onto a stranger’s lap for photos and tears. She belongs to a family of Krampi. She and all of her relatives are Krampi descended from the Krampus himself. When he was burned by the English soldiers – her family entered the site in the cover of night and collected his ashes in small pots and jars.
The ashes from the Krampus were what the family needed to keep his spirit alive until a new Krampus is born. The family has his DNA, and in the future – a new Krampus will be born to take the position of his deceased descendant.
“I hate hot cocoa.”