Rener Gracie tells how grandfather Helio dressed as Santa Claus and rode a black stallion at Christmas

A few years ago I interviewed Rener Gracie near the holidays and he told me the most amazing story about the Gracie family Christmas celebrations they had growing up. Today I would like to share it with you.

Imagine being a little kid on Christmas Eve, waiting for the arrival of a fat guy in a red suit, squeezing his big bum down your chimney. You kind of have to wonder how he managed to never catch fire or burn any of those awesome toys. Then he devours all the cookies and milk you left for him, but still manages to hoist himself up the chimney, onto the roof, and into the sleigh, without ever making a sound, so when you woke up, you were all his handiwork .

This is how I have always imagined Christmas. Until I talked to Rener Gracie. He effectively took my traditional, if not boring, Christmas memories and blew them from my mind like a Mission Impossible explosion. The pictures he painted for me of a Gracie Christmas are like something out of a fairy tale.

“My father goes all the way. He has a story that comes from the Grandmaster. Grandmaster Helio, my grandfather, every Christmas in Brazil, would dress up in Santa’s regalia, and he came on a black stallion, a black horse, in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, came galloping into the compound with a bag full of presents. He got off his horse and climbed off the ladder and went in to hand out presents to all the kids in the Gracie compound, as we called it. My dad grew up with it all , so he tried to preserve it here.

My father has done everything necessary to preserve that situation for the little ones. He doesn’t ride a black stallion in the middle of the street in Torrance, CA, but he will dress up and walk across the street in the middle of the night, where he will get on top of the neighbor’s house, so that when the children look out the window, they will see the elf on top of the house. He comes down with all the presents and crosses the street like a little old man. Then he distributes the presents to all the children. He goes all the way, 100%.

It worked for me until I was 8 years old. It’s so funny because I sat down to open my presents and I reached up to grab his beard to look under it because he was really good at making this disguise. When I lifted my beard, he slapped my hand away from it and he reprimanded me with a Portuguese reprimand that only he did, all his life. Now my father lets me dress up as Santa because there are always children born in our family, so there is always a need for a new Santa.”

Happy holidays from all of us here at Bloody Elbow.

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