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Monday, January 02, 2006

Grandpa Snow kicks Santa's ass

In the Soviet Union, where religious Christmas was replaced by secular New Year's as the main holiday, Europe's Papa Noel and St. Nicholas were rejected in favor of a Christless gift giver usually translated as something like "Father Frost".

This year, the government of Georgia has launched a campaign to reassociate Georgia's benevolent old character "Tovlis Babua" ("Granpa Snow") with Christmas. For this, he would need a mythology to match the European and American versions.

It's always been clear that where Santa is fat and happy, Tovlis Babua wears a coarse, square burlap sack, has steely eyes and would probably snap Santa's neck as soon as he would shake his hand.

But now we are learning that in the offseason, he hones his giftmaking skills with a hammer and chisel in a freezing cabin high in the Georgian mountains. He apparently also eschews elves in favor of swarthy, unshaven, vodka-bellied drinking buddies, who can be seen at any given time on Georgian TV loudly and aimlessly pounding away at stuff.

The new backstory of Tovlis Babua was first revealed when the Georgian prosecutor general gathered a press conference to announce the arrest of an important international criminal. Once the TV cameras started rolling, he announced to the totally unprepared journalistic corps that the arrestee was none other than Tovlis Babua--and to prove once and for all that Tovlis Babua is a Georgian, he produced Grandpa Snow's own Georgian passport!

Since global warming has made the north pole an iceless tropical paradise, it made sense when the prosecutor general explained that Tovlis Babua's base of operations was Ushguli, "the highest inhabited town in Europe", in the mountainous region of Svaneti, a place so remote that it didn't have the wheel until Stalin ordered it introduced there.

Over the next few days the president and interior minister got in on the act, promising that Tovlis Babua would be transferred by helicopter to Georgia's capital, Tbilisi, where he would land in the city's central square. After this dramatic entrance, he was placed under house arrest in a tower in the hills above Tbilisi, where he is currently giving out gifts to visiting children on one condition: that they memorize a Georgian poem, song or dance and perform it for him.

I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that in lieu of milk and cookies and entering via the chimney, he prefers vodka, tongue, and chainsmoking.

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