We try to have fun with holidays here at the sanctuary. To state the obvious, the chimps have no idea what we’re celebrating on Christmas or New Year’s or solstice. They do, however, enjoy a good party, and holidays are a great excuse for the staff and volunteers to treat the chimps to some creative food and enrichment.
I often wonder if by now some of the chimps – particularly the Cle Elum Seven, who have spent the last 13 Christmases with us – feel any sense of anticipation when the days grow short, the trees and decorations go up, and the snow begins to fall. When Jamie sees us move the potted Christmas tree from the hallway into her greenhouse on Christmas morning, does she know that she’ll soon find a new pair of boots underneath?
The chimps made the most of this particularly snowy Christmas Eve Day by scooping up snow and plucking the tomatoey eyes from Diana’s diminutive snowman.
We had a tradition in my house when I was a kid. On Christmas Eve, we’d get to open one gift, which would always contain new pajamas and a magazine. In hindsight, I realize that this may have been a way of working us kids down from our candy- and toy-fueled delirium and into bed. Nevertheless, at 44 years old I (and now Diana) still receive pajamas and a magazine from my wonderful mom. I know that Cy has no use for pajamas but I think he’ll like the other half of this tradition.
For our chimpanzee family, there’s no Santa Claus, no elves, no reindeer, and no magical snowman. But maybe, as they watch us assembling toys in the foyer and wrapping last minute gifts, they’ll go to bed knowing that tomorrow will be a special day filled with many of the things they love most.