A Visit From Jack Frost

I was walking along the reindeer pastures when I felt a chill on the back of my neck. Looking around I called out, “Jack! Is that you Jack?”

“It is Santa!” Jack Frost shouted from the corner of the pasture as he made his way toward me.

“What brings you here this time of the year? Shouldn’t you be making snow down in North America, Europe, and Asia?”

Greeting me with a chilly handshake, he continued, “I know your reindeer worked hard for Christmas and spent a lot of time in warm areas, so I wanted to make sure it was cold enough for them up here at the North Pole.”

“They will appreciate that! Nothing better than some fresh snow and extra cold temperatures to make the reindeer happy,” I replied smiling.

“It’s also nice to come where my work is appreciated,” Jack responded.

“What do you mean?” I asked, giving him a strange look. “I thought the children liked having the snow and cold. Many of them did ask for sleds and ice skates for Christmas.”

“You’re right, the children love sled riding and ice skating, but I also like to think of my work as art, and I don’t think people even notice it.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” I responded. “What do you mean by art work?”

“People today are in such a hurry, that when I create ‘Frost Flowers’ on the plants, they don’t even notice.”

“Frost Flowers?”

“That’s what I call it when I put various ice crystals on the plants, trees, or leaves, to make them look like flowers made out of ice. I used to ‘paint’ some pretty cool fern-like frost and decorative swirls on windows as well. People would always notice them when they looked outside in the morning to see if it snowed. Children would often point to the designs telling their parents what they saw. But now most houses have these new insulated windows, and my frost does not stick to them.”

“I see what you mean now,” I said as I patted him on his back.

“To make things even worse, with this climate change, my winter art does not last long enough for them to notice.”

“This climate change is having effects everywhere, and it bothers me that not everyone is taking it seriously. I have managed to find one bright spot to climate change though since we last met.”

“What bright spot did you find because I can’t imagine anything good coming from it.”

“While you were gone, climate change brought me a couple of new friends before Christmas,” I answered proudly.

“Climate change and new friends?” Jack asked with a quizzical look on his face.

Sighing a bit, I responded, “It’s quite a story, but basically, they fell asleep on an ice shelf one night near the South Pole. The shelf broke off and the two penguins floated all the way up here to the North Pole.”

“And they’re still here? The polar bears didn’t frighten them into going back?”

“Why not ask them yourself. I’m sure they are outside the southern entrance to our village about now,” I said looking at my pocket watch.

As we walked out the east tunnel, I could hear Wiggle and Waddle laughing. Looking to the left, I caught a glimpse of them playing in the snow and shouted, “Hey Wiggle, Waddle, I got someone I want you to meet.”

Looking over to see who was calling them, both penguins yelled, “Santa! Be right over.” They threw themselves down onto the snow and slid all the way over to where Jack and I were standing. “What’s up Santa?” Wiggle asked.

“I wanted you to meet another friend of mine, Jack Frost. Jack this is Wiggle and Waddle, my friends from the South Pole.”

Looking a little confused, Waddle asked, “Is there something wrong with you? You look so . . .”

“Blue?” Jack responded. “I am responsible for the frost as the climate goes from Fall to Winter, as well as snow and ice. So, my bluish color comes from my job.”

Wiggle jumped into the conversation, “We thought you were a myth. We always heard stories, but no one actually saw you.”

“There are several stories being told about how I came to be,” he began.

“I get a chuckle from the story where you and your sister were ice skating,” I said. “According to the story, you both were in the middle of the lake when the ice began to crack. You saved your sister but ended up falling into the deep lake. You sank to the bottom and were never found.”

“But yet here I am,” Jack snapped, leaping into the air.

“The tale goes on to say that about 300 years after you disappeared into the lake you came back to life as a guardian of beings who live forever,” Santa explained. “To make people believe about your existence, you frost over windows, gardens, lawns, roads, car windows, and everything else.”

“That’s an interesting story,” Jack responded as he sat on a block of ice. “Scandinavian tradition says I’m the son of Kari, the Norse god of the winds. In Finnish folklore, there is the legend of a Frost-man and Frost-woman who control weather and must keep good conditions for the reindeer to live in. Many cultures like to give a human face to things related to the seasons and weather. In Japanese folklore, for example, there are stories of a Frost Man and his brother, Mist Man, who are the keepers of frost and dew.”

Scratching his head, Wiggle asked, “So what is the true story?”

“Just like Santa,” Jack responded while pointing at me, “I choose to let everyone believe what they think and try to live up to their expectations. When Autumn shifts to Winter, you can be sure that I will bring about a frosty environment complete with some of my best frost art work. But enough about me. I’m surprised that you both are still here at the North Pole. I would think that the threat of polar bears would make you want to return home.”

“Well I admit that Waddle and I were pretty frightened when we first saw Polar Pete, but he was so nice to us. He introduced both of us to all the other polar bears and made sure we would be safe here.”

“That’s Polar Pete!” Jack exclaimed laughing. “Always looking out for his friends. You know that I spend half the year south of the equator, near Antarctica, where you are from. I could help you get back home if you’d like.”

Looking at Wiggle, to be sure he agreed, Waddle responded, “That’s nice of you to offer, but we like it here, and with all the friends we’ve met, we actually feel safer here than we did at the South Pole.”

“I don’t think the elves would like that either,” I said as I pulled my hat down further over my ears. “They have become very attached to these two, especially when they are all playing outside.”

“Sounds to me like you both have found a new home, and you certainly have made plenty of new friends. I can understand why you would want to stay.”

Giving Jack a hug, Waddle said, “And now we have another new friend in you, Jack.”

“You can never have too many friends,” Jack responded. “They can help you get through difficult times, like when you found yourself at the North Pole after a long and frightening trip. You can also learn a lot from your friends.”

“You are right about that. Both Waddle and I have learned many things from our new friends, and I’d like to think we taught them some things as well,” Wiggle added giving a wink to Santa and Jack.

Santa’s Notes:
To learn more about Wiggle, Waddle, and Polar Pete please check out “Santa’s Newest Friends‘, which was posted on July 8, 2019 and Wiggle and Waddle Meet Polar Pete‘, which was posted on July 15, 2019

I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .

Illustration by FireMane Studio 

The Art of Gift Giving

“Now that you have completed all your deliveries, and production for next Christmas will not start for several months, you should be feeling pretty good,” Anya said as we sat near the fireplace. Passing a plate of cookies to me, she continued, “But the look on your face tells me something is bothering you?”

“I am a little frustrated by the misunderstanding many children have over the presents they find under the tree on Christmas,” I responded as I took a gingerbread cookie from the plate.

“I’m not sure I understand.”

“Well as you know, I deliver two or three gifts to each child.”

“I do. We just don’t have the ability to make and deliver any more than that,” Anya said. Taking a sip of her tea, she asked, “Are you saying they are not happy with just two or three toys?”

“No, not at all. What seems to be happening is that parents buy things for their children and place them under the tree as well.”

“That makes sense.”

Leaning back in my chair and putting my feet up on the foot stool, I replied, “It does, except for one thing. They don’t tell the children that they bought them; instead they let the children think their gifts are from me.”

“I’m still not seeing a problem.”

“Some of these presents are very expensive, and some things, like phones, need to be something the parents are ok with their children having. When they are placed under the tree, as if I had left them, the children think I can make and deliver anything they ask for.”

“I’m beginning to see the issue. Do you think parents are giving too much to their children?” Anya asked as she placed a blanket over her legs.

“I don’t think that is for me to say. But one thing I can say is that children tell their friends what they get for Christmas. When parents buy gifts and let the children think they are from me, it becomes a problem, especially when friends ask for the same thing and only one receives it.”

“What do you mean?”

“When Tyler visited with me this season, I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and he responded by asking, ‘Does it matter?’ I was a little surprised by his question, and then he continued, ‘Last year both my friend Tom and I asked for a Nintendo Switch. You gave Tom one, but I did not get one.’”

“How did you respond to that?”

“I explained to him that I did not leave the Switch, and that Tom’s parents must have given it to him. But I am not sure he believed me.”

“Do you think that any of the children whose parents can buy them a lot of extra gifts understand how others who do not get as much are affected?”

Placing another log on the fire, I continued, “Absolutely! This year I had more children than ever tell me that they had everything they needed and wanted me to give the gifts they would get to others who really needed them.”

“That has to make you feel good! I see that as a sign that the parents are probably teaching them about helping others.”

“I agree. I just wish that they would be honest with their children on where those extra gifts come from.” After sitting back in my chair, I continued, “But the children I really wish I could help more are the ones from poor or broken families. There was one little girl this year who told me all she wanted was ‘To have a happy life.’”

“What did you do?”

“She was with her class on a field trip, so there was not much I could do at the time. I stood up and gave her a big hug while explaining that I was not capable of that sort of gift. I told her that sometimes we have to make our own happiness out of the situation we are in, and try not to let things we can’t control make us feel sad.”

“What did she say?” Anya asked.

“She said she was not sure she could. I explained that eventually her sadness would pass and that she would be much stronger in the future because of her situation. She began to cry, and feeling helpless, I could feel a tear on my cheek as well. I wish I could have done more.”

“How sad for her. I’m sure there are more children like her than anyone knows.”

“Yes, there are. Fortunately, not all families, and not all countries, place such great emphasis on the ‘value’ of the gifts they give or get. Many people still focus on the season to give the gift of themselves.”

“Sort of like the girl who wanted you to give her presents to someone who needed them.”

“That’s right. But somehow gift giving has become who can give the biggest, best gift, or the most gifts,” I stated.

“How do you change that?”

“I’m not sure you can. Everyone gives for different reasons. Maybe the best thing to do is just keep stressing that the true meaning of gift giving is the reason for giving the gift and not the gift itself,” I said with a sigh.

Reaching over to hold my hand, Ms. Claus responded, “I find that when I give a gift from the heart, I receive the gift of gratitude and love in return.”

“And you don’t spend weeks or days worrying if your gift was appreciated by them, or worse, worrying if someone else gave them something better,” I said softly.

“Santa, we both know you are doing the right thing in your gift giving, and as your message reaches more and more people, maybe things will change back to the gift of oneself to help others instead of multiple expensive toys.”

Raising her hand to give it a light kiss, I responded, “I knew you would understand, and hope others will as well.”

“Maybe they do understand, Santa. Could it be that some parents are trying to give their children things they never had growing up? You and I understand that material things eventually wear out, but knowledge and values last a lifetime.” Walking over to the back of my chair, Anya slipped her arms around my neck. “Besides,” she added giving me a hug, “I think most parents eventually figure out how to teach their children what they need to know about the art of gift giving.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .

Illustration by FireMane Studio 

The Last Deliveries

“I think the elves enjoyed their cookie and milk party on Christmas Morning,” I said to Bernard, my head elf, as we walked towards the toy shops to check on production.

“They certainly did. I could not believe that the extra cookies from your visits would be enough to give each elf three cookies. Ms. Claus seemed especially pleased.”

“I think she was just happy knowing that I did not eat all the cookies myself, as I have in the past. She is really looking out for my health these days.”

“And it seems to be paying off.” As he opened the doors to the stuffed animal shop, he continued, “You seem to have more energy after the ‘Big’ night and are ready to get the last day of deliveries completed.”

Walking into the toy shop I responded, “I do feel better after delivering the toys to the 122 countries that have already celebrated Christmas. The 18 countries that are left should be like a walk in the park.”

“I never did understand why everyone can’t celebrate Christmas on the same day.”

“I think that is part of what makes Christmas such a great holiday. Traditions and religious beliefs are different across the world from country to country. For example, the Netherlands and Belgium celebrate on Saint Nicholas Day, December 6th, and I arrive the day before as Sinterklaas.”

“Sinterklaas?” Bernard questioned.

“Sinterklaas is Dutch for Saint Nicholas. As time went on, Sinterklass became Santa Claus. Their tradition is based on Saint Nicholas, and the children leave shoes out for me to fill, instead of hanging stockings on the fireplace. I do not arrive in my sleigh with reindeer either. In those countries, I arrive by boat with Black Pete and travel on a white horse.”

“Who is Black Pete?”

“He would be your equal, Bernard. He is like my head elf, and some legends have him taking care of the Naughty List.”

“What about the eighteen countries you deliver to on January 7th?”

“The date to celebrate Christmas comes from an ancient calendar that dates back over 2,000 years to 46  BC, called the Julian calendar. While our modern calendar has the date as January 7th, the calendar they use has the date as December 25th as well. So, they do celebrate on the same date.”

“Wow, 2000 years is a long time ago.”

“Most of these countries observe a fast of some kind before Christmas, and then have a feast on Christmas Day. But the real emphasis for these countries is on the time to reflect on their lives and enjoy the company of friends and family members.”

“But you deliver toys to the children …”

“Why of course I do,” I interrupted. “But the toys and other gifts are secondary to the gift of helping others.”

“That sounds a lot like our elves. We would rather do something for someone than give them something.”

“But let’s not forget; when you do something for someone, you are giving them a gift of love and respect.”

“If my math is right, that accounts for about,” Bernard paused as he added in his head then concluded, “140 countries.”

“That’s right,” I replied.

“But there are more countries than that.”

“Fifty-nine more to be exact. But they do not celebrate Christmas.”

“I thought everyone did. Why don’t they?”

“Christmas is a Christian celebration, and not all religions are part of Christendom. For example, the Jewish religion celebrates Hanukkah in December, which honors their ancestors who rose up against their oppressors in the second century BC. In August, the Hindu in India celebrate Ganesha Chaturthi, which is the birth of Lord Ganesha. He is the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. To the Hindu, Lord Ganesha is the symbol of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. He also plays an important role in Buddhism.”

“I never thought about different religions having different holiday celebrations.”

“And, not everyone follows the beliefs of a religion. Some people, like atheists and agnostics, believe the story of Christmas is a myth.”

“Santa, I don’t know how you keep up with all the different religions in the world,” he replied picking up the production report from the desk in the toy shop.

“It’s important. We need to ensure that those who celebrate Christmas get the most out of the holiday. They should rejoice in their religious beliefs while enjoying the traditional celebrations with me as Saint Nicholas, Sinterklaas, or Santa Claus.”

“And those who are not Christians?” Bernard asked.

“They should be respected for their beliefs, just like they respect others’ religion.”

Putting on my reading glasses, I continued, “Now let’s take a look at that report. We have eighteen countries left who are looking forward to their celebration, and we don’t want to disappoint the children.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .

The Santa Trap

I always look forward to relaxing after the hectic Christmas preparations. It gives me time to unwind with Ms. Claus and share my adventures during the time leading up to my delivery of presents on Christmas Eve.

One evening while Ms. Claus and I sat before a roaring fire drinking hot chocolate, I began telling her about the children I had met and my adventures at Holiday Junction. “You’re not going to believe this Anya,” I exclaimed, “but I was almost trapped by some scheming helpers at Holiday Junction.”

“Now who would want to trap you, Santa?” she asked, “especially when you deliver gifts on Christmas. I can’t imagine who would risk getting on the naughty list.” Pausing to take a sip of hot chocolate, she turned and smiled. “Tell me, did you get caught or did you manage to escape?” Laughing, she added, “I don’t believe you could ever have someone outwit you.”

Slipping my arm around her shoulders to give her a hug, I answered quietly. “This time, I was almost outwitted, so I have lots to tell.”

“Well…. I am all ears,” Ms. Claus chuckled. “Let’s hear that story of yours.”

*   *   *   *

 When Ben and his younger brother Jacob came running up to me all excited, I knew something was wrong. Having just talked to them earlier, I asked, “Did you forget to tell me something you wanted for Christmas?”

“No, but someone is planning on trapping you today,” they said breathlessly, “and we came to warn you that……”

“Whoa, slow down and take a breath,” I suggested, thinking that this must be a joke.

“We were just at Kids Space in the Children’s Museum,” explained Ben, “when we heard that someone was setting a trap for you.”

Breaking in, Jacob added, “We wanted to let you know that they are planning on tricking you so that you can’t make your deliveries tonight!”

“What? Who would want to do that?” I asked a little confused.

“Jacob and I aren’t sure,” said Ben, “but we heard that someone found out that he was on the Naughty List and wouldn’t get any presents tonight, so if he wasn’t getting presents, he didn’t want anyone to get any.”

“Well that worries me. I never tell children they are on the Naughty List. They find out Christmas morning, so how do they know?” As I stroked my beard, I realized I needed to know what the plan was. “You did not happen to see the plans, did you?”

“Not really,” said Jacob. Looking over at his mom, he added, “But Mom took a video when we were in Kids Space, and they show something weird.”

As the boys’ mom walked over to me and pulled up her pictures I immediately knew what Jacob meant. Three workers were gathered in a corner of Kids Space where children were playing with Magna-Tiles and Legos. I could see them whispering while pointing to a large piece of paper. I stopped the video and tried to enlarge the picture, but it didn’t work. However, I recognized Graham and Bill, who wanted to catch me in his house last year.

“Well I am very thankful that you told me about this,” I said as I gave them both a hug. “I will have to be careful today.”

I continued talking with the children who wanted to make last minute changes to their list, when Samantha came up to me with her camera. Holding it out for me to look at the picture on it, she asked, “Do you know what that is?”

“Is this the trap I’m supposed to get caught in?”

“It is,” she responded. With urgency in her voice she continued, “They think it will be completed around 1:30 and plan on catching you in it!”

“I didn’t think they were serious, but now that you’ve shown me this …” I tapped my temple as I studied the picture of the trap, and said, “Looks like the key is the cookie on a string there in the center.”

“You’re right Santa. They have the cookie tied to a string, so that when you take the cookie a net will fall on you.”

“Humm, so I probably need a pair of scissors to cut the cookie down so I don’t pull the string. I think that will work!”

“That won’t work,” someone said from behind Samantha. “There is a backup release. Once you’re inside the trap you won’t be able to get out,” the voice continued.

As I leaned to the left to look around Samantha, I could hardly believe who I saw. “Graham?” Somewhat confused, I asked, “What are you doing here?”

“Santa, I got to thinking. I could not think of anything I have done that would get me on the Naughty List,” he explained.

“You’re right. You are not on the Naughty List.”

“But if I helped Bill trap you, I would almost certainly end up there. So, I want to help you Santa.”

“I appreciate that, but what can we do?”

“I was thinking that I could take the cookie out of the trap and tell Bill to hang a new one up and set the trap for you. Then while he is putting the cookie in the trap, I will spring it on him using the backup release.”

“Are you sure it will work?”

“Absolutely. Send Nicole, your social director, into Kids Space and that will be my signal to get Bill in the trap. Then I’ll spring the trap when you walk in.”

At 1:30 sharp, I walked into Kids Space with a robust “Ho Ho Ho.” And the children all cheered when the trap’s net fell on Bill, who tried to disguise himself as a gingerbread man. I approached the trap and all Bill could say was, “The cookie is definitely not bait. It’s not a trap.”

I gave Graham a thumbs up for his work, and turned to the children. “So, what do you think we should do with this gingerbread impersonator?”

“Naughty List,” they all chanted. All but one that is. To my left Joshua said, “I think he should get a second chance.”

“You think he should be on the Nice List?”

“I just think that we all make mistakes, and we all deserve a second chance, and he is not any different than the rest of us.”

Turning to all the children again, I said, “Joshua thinks Bill deserves a second chance and should not be put on the Naughty List. What do you all think?”

All the children began staring at each other, as if looking for someone to decide Bill’s fate, when Joshua spoke out. “If you had done something bad would you want a second chance to make it right?”

I began to see all the children nod in agreement with Josh, I turned to Bill and told him, “I’m really disappointed that you would risk all the children not having Christmas by trapping me, but Josh is right. Down deep inside I believe you are a good person, and I am sure you will not try anything like this again. So, I forgive you and believe in you.”

*   *   *   *

“I am telling you Anya,” I said shaking my head as I finished the story, “all the children cheered and Josh smiled brightly. I handed the cookie ‘bait’ to him and said, ‘Thank you for standing up for Bill. You have shown kindness, compassion, and maturity. I hope you stay true to who you are and always follow your heart.’”

“What a wonderful thing to say Santa,” responded Ms. Claus. “Josh sounds like a special person who understands people better than most adults. I’m sure your compliment meant a lot to him.”

Turning to face my wife, I responded softly. “Anya, children touch my heart because of the innocence, honesty, and love they reveal. I am especially proud of those who stand up for others and believe in second chances. Besides,” I laughed, “it’s one more year when I have outwitted those who want to trick me, but this time I had the help of kid power.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .

A Christmas Eve Morning

On Christmas Eve morning the toy assembly lines stopped, the mail room grew quiet, and the elves gathered excitedly in the Elven Dining Hall. It was a special time that my elves and I looked forward to every year, for it was the day we celebrated Ms. Claus’s birthday.

The kitchen was humming that morning as I walked through the door. Cheesy egg casseroles were baking in the oven; slices of cinnamon-raisin French toast sizzled on the griddle; bacon and sausage popped and hissed on the grill. The pleasant aroma excited my nose and made my mouth water. Watching the elves bake, cook, and arrange food, I finally called out loudly, “Is there anything I can do?”

Pausing in mid-stride, all the elves looked at me strangely. The head chef, Blanch, finally said, “But Santa you have the most important job. You must escort Ms. Claus down to the dining hall at exactly 900 hours.”

Yes, I know,” I answered grinning, “but all of you are so busy that you look as if you could use some help.”

“Don’t worry Santa, we got this,” responded Chester, “but before you go upstairs, check out the decorations in the Elven Dining Hall. You’ll be impressed.”

Nodding, I exited the kitchen and walked down the hallway and entered the dining room. “Wow,” I exclaimed, “you certainly have outdone yourselves this year. It looks like a winter wonderland in here.”

Several of the elves cheered and clapped their hands. “Thanks Santa!” they yelled.

Walking around the room, I marveled at the woodland scenes covered in snow with small lights twinkling while a variety of forest animals peeked out from behind bushes and trees.

“We thought that Ms. Claus would like to see something beyond the North Pole,” a voice explained.

Startled, I turned and saw Kristen, one of several North Pole designers, at my elbow.

“We spent a lot of time designing a New England forest in wintertime, similar to the area you visited this past fall. Nothing’s too good for Ms. Claus. She deserves the best,” Kristen explained proudly.

“I agree, but it’s so realistic,” I responded shaking my head. “How did you do all this?”

Smiling slyly, Kristen replied, “Now Santa, you know I can’t reveal elven secrets.”

I laughed. “I know, but this entire room is beyond what I expected. Ms. Claus is going to love it. Thanks to you and your staff, her birthday celebration will be even better than last year.”

“I hope so, but Santa, aren’t you forgetting something?” Kristen whispered.

“Well… I don’t think so,” I answered. Then I smiled and turned to make my way upstairs. “You didn’t think I’d forget to escort Ms.Claus did you? Tell the staff we will be in the hall promptly at 900 hours.”

Quickly making my way toward our room, I opened the door and slipped inside as quiet as a mouse. Picking up her gift off the dresser, I walked toward the bed and heard Ms. Claus’s sleepy voice. “Did you think I could remain asleep once that wonderful aroma from the kitchen made it to our bedroom? Breakfast smells amazing.”

Leaning over to give her a kiss, I quickly pulled out the gift from behind my back and set it on her lap. “Happy birthday Anya,” I said, while sitting down beside her.

“Santa, you shouldn’t have, but I always love getting presents from you,” she said, examining the wrapped gift. “I feel very special, especially since this is a big day for you.”

Unwrapping my gift, Ms. Claus opened the box and pulled out a larger than usual snow globe. “Oh my,” she exclaimed, “the scene is so realistic. Isn’t this the place where we…?”

Pausing, Ms. Claus looked at me mystified. “This scene reminds me of the red and white striped lighthouse in Maine…” Stopping short, she watched as that scene faded and another one appeared revealing a forested area by the ocean. “How did you do this?” Ms. Claus asked, giving my hand a squeeze.

“We had such a wonderful time visiting Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont last fall, so I gave the elves several of our pictures and asked them to create a snow globe of memories. I don’t know how they do it, but this is more magical than I even expected. Now when you want a memory,” I explained, “all you have to do is touch this globe and it can take you back to our fantastic adventure in New England.”

“Oh Santa,” Ms. Claus whispered as she threw her arms around my neck and gave me a kiss. “What a wonderful present – a gift of happy memories.”

“Now my dear, the elves are waiting with a mouth-watering breakfast and a room decorated beyond your wildest imagination.”

Laughing, Ms. Claus quickly got out of bed, slipping on her warm robe and slippers. “I must look a fright,” she exclaimed, running a brush through her hair.

“You are always a pleasant sight to my eyes,” I said, giving her a hug. “Shall we?” I asked, extending my arm.

As we exited the room and made our way down the stairs, the breakfast aroma became stronger. Excited, we paused before the doors to the Elven Dining Hall. Pushing them open, we heard a loud chorus of ‘Happy birthday to you’ which dominated the hall.

Looking over at Anya, I noticed tears in her eyes as she waved to everyone in the hall. Taking in the scenery, she gasped and clapped her hands startled by the realism of the winter wonderland landscape encircling the entire hall. “Such a wonderful family I have,” she said, turning her eyes toward mine.

Nodding in agreement, I proudly escorted my wife down the center aisle. Tonight, I would deliver presents, and tomorrow children and their families would enjoy Christmas. But for now, the elves and I would celebrate Ms. Claus’s birthday.

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .

Discussions at the Lego Table

I knelt down beside the Lego table at Holiday Junction, and asked, “Anyone here know how to make a car out of these blocks?” All the children seemed happy to tell ‘Santa’ how to make a car.

As we were putting our cars together, I sensed someone starring at me. Looking down to my left I saw little Samantha looking at the key hanging from my belt. “Do you like my key?” I asked as I lifted it up so she could see it better.

“It’s shiny.” After a short pause she continued, “And really big. Is that the key to the North Pole?”

Laughing, I answered, “No. Would you like to know what I use it for?”

“You bet!” Samantha exclaimed.

“Well first, can you tell me how ‘Santa’ gets into your house on Christmas to leave your presents.”

“Everyone knows you come through the chiminly,” she said giggling.

“That’s right. But not everyone has a fireplace like you do. And then sometimes daddies forget to put the fire out.”

“So they don’t get presents? See Daddy, I told you that it was important to put out the fire on Christmas Eve.”

“So Mom, I guess we’ll have to remember that,” he answered, nudging his wife.

“I think your mom and dad have that under control,” I responded winking at Samantha’s parents. “However, since some homes don’t have fireplaces, I need to come through a door, usually the back door so that all the children on the nice list get presents.”

Before I could continue, Samantha said, “So you got keys for all the houses?”

“I have one key,” I explained as I took the key from my belt to show her. “All I have to do is tap the lock three times with this key, and the door unlocks.”

“Then you leave the presents?”

“Yes, then I leave the presents under their tree.”

Satisfied Samantha returned to the Lego table and began making a house. Placing my key back onto my belt, I realized Samantha had moved on from talking and was busy playing. Looking to the left, I saw mom and dad give me a relieved smile.

“We appreciate your answer,” dad remarked, “because that’s been bothering Samantha for a long time.”

As I continued to walk along the Lego table, it made me happy to see the children using their imaginations while building things. I also noticed how some shared with one another, while others helped those who were not sure what to do. Though it was crowded, I also noticed parents, relatives, and friends working with their children. Feeling the love in the room, I was grateful. Finally I announced, “Since all of you are so busy creating unique things, I think the elves and I could use your help.”

Some of the boys and girls looked up and grinned; others continued to work steadily on their creations. However, Connor and Leeanna, a brother and sister, soon came running in my direction.

“Did you really mean that Santa,” exclaimed Connor. “Can we really go to the North Pole to make toys?”

Catching up with her brother, Leeanna added, “We’re really good at making stuff.”

“Hummmmm, well we can always use the help,” I answered bending down to talk with them. “But you do realize that you’d have to live at the North Pole all year long. Would your parents be OK with that?”

Surprised at my answer, Connor responded, “All year??!! Couldn’t we do it maybe in the summer when we are out of school?”

Shaking her head, his sister said loudly, “Are you crazy? What about swimming and playing soccer with our friends….and family vacations? We couldn’t do any of that. Besides,” she added hesitantly, “I’d miss Mom and Dad.”

A serious look came over her brother’s face as he thought about what his sister had just said. “Santa,” he said quietly, “I don’t think we can come to the North Pole. I mean… what will our Mom and Dad do? Who will take care of our dog, Crosley? I guess I never thought we’d have to live up there all year.”

Finally the two quietly muttered together, “Sorry Santa,” and dropped their heads.

Smiling, I reassured them that it wasn’t a problem and thanked them for their offer. “Besides,” I explained, “that’s why I have elves. The North Pole is their home, so they never have to leave anyone. I’m glad that you love your mom and dad. They really need the two of you.”

Relieved, the two looked me in the eye. “I’m glad you’re not mad at us,” Leeanna remarked, “because we love you.”

“And I love both of you,” I answered, hugging them. “Now do me a favor and be extra good for your parents, and stop fighting so much with one another.”

Giving me a startled look as if to say, ‘How’d you know that,’ the brother and sister gave me high fives and ran back to their grandparents who smiled and gave me a thumbs up.

Walking back to my chair in the Santa room, I thought about how important it was for children to have people who loved them. Though some didn’t have two parents or even any parents, those who stepped in for them- relatives, friends, guardians, teachers- were just as important. Entering the Santa room, I looked at the smiling faces of the children and adults waiting in line and knew that love made all the difference.

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .

Toys for Santa

“Bye Tommy,” I said waving to the little boy. “Remember to take care of your baby sister and listen to your parents. Have a Merry Christmas. HO! HO! HO!”

“Don’t worry Santa, we will. I hope your Christmas is good too.”

I watched as the boy and family walked away unaware that another child had quickly taken his place. Standing in front of me with a big grin, she announced, “Hi Santa, I’m Sarah.”

“Well Sarah, it’s good to see you again. Now tell me, what do you want for Christmas?”

As Sarah launched into her list, I felt that there was something different about this little girl, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As she finished telling me what she wanted for Christmas, I said, “You know there is something I would like for Christmas. Do you think you know what it might be?”

Turning to look at me, she asked, “You want me to be good?”

“That’s right! I want you to be just as good as you have been, and try to be even better. Do you think you could do that?”

“Yes” she responded simply. “But,” she added hesitantly, “I’m not done yet.”

“Really,” I remarked surprised at her answer. I could see she was thinking about saying something else, so I waited.

After a few seconds she said, “Santa, if I leave a bag of toys at my house by your cookies, will you take them?”

“I could do that, but why would you leave toys for me?” I asked amazed at this unusual request.

Laughing, she responded, “They’re not for you Santa. They’re for other kids who might want them.”

“That’s awful nice of you. What made you decide to give some toys back?”

“Well I always see people asking for toys for kids who do not have much, especially around Christmas. So when I was helping mom clean my room the other day, I saw some toys in the closet that I never play with anymore and thought someone else would want them. Mom reminded me to tell you about my plan when I saw you today.”

“Sarah, I am very impressed with that. You know what that makes you?”

“Nice?” she asked, not understanding the question.

“Well it certainly makes you nice, but how does giving your old toys to less fortunate children make you feel inside.”

“Happy!” she exclaimed.

“That’s how I feel when I deliver presents on Christmas,” I explained. “You see,” I continued, “when you choose to give to someone else, even if it is just something as simple as helping mom or dad around the house, you get this warm feeling inside. You have given them a gift. Does giving your toys to someone make you feel as good as when you get a present?”

“It does,” she responded quietly, “but at the same time sort of different.”

Giving her a surprised look, I asked, “What you mean?”

“Well…. I like getting presents, especially when I’m not sure what’s in the box,” Sarah admitted adding quickly, “but…. I think I like giving things to others even more.”

“Hummmmm, is that so!” I remarked stroking my beard. “Sarah, I like your style.”

Feeling more comfortable, she leaned in next to me and whispered, “I like kindness.”

“I agree. One time when Ms. Claus wasn’t feeling so well,” I recalled, “I went into the kitchen and made her a pot of her favorite tea and took that and a blueberry scone up to our room. She was reading in bed, but when I came in, Anya gave me the warmest smile. ‘I was just thinking how wonderful some tea would taste,’ she said, ‘and then here you are. Santa, you are so good to me.’ That made me feel…. well…. wonderful inside,” I finished, smiling at the memory.

“Santa, I know what you mean,” Sarah said excitedly. “One time when my Mom was feeling sad, I went across the street from our house where there was a field of daisies and just picked a bunch of them for her. Later when I gave them to her, my Mom hugged me real tight and whispered, ‘You are the best.’ I liked the way it made me feel…. sort of special.”

“That’s a wonderful story,” I responded. “Being thoughtful makes the world a better place. By putting others’ needs first, you are showing an act of kindness and maturity well beyond your age. You now understand the real reason for the season! I am going to tell Ms. Claus about this tonight when I return to the North Pole. Then we will begin sharing your idea with all the boys and girls in the world. Hopefully they will be encouraged to put the toys they no longer play with in a bag for me to pick up when I deliver their new presents on Christmas!”

“That would be great Santa,” she responded smiling broadly.

After giving me the biggest hug I have ever received, Sarah ran straight to her mom. As she squeezed her around the neck, her mom looked at me and whispered, “Thank You.”

As they began to leave, I said, “You have a very special girl there.”

Sarah’s mom responded, “You don’t have to tell me. She’s the best.”

 

 Note from Santa: If you are interested in your child doing the same as Sarah, let them choose toys they want to give away and then leave them out for Santa. Later you can take the toys to one of the many organizations in your area, so that they can give them to other children. The bag shown above can be purchased through Design Blank

I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .

A Helicopter Ride to Holiday Junction

“I am so excited,” exclaimed Ms. Claus. “This is my first helicopter ride with you.”

“Though it’s not my first time, it always is fun,” answered Santa grinning from ear to ear. “What a way to get to the Cincinnati Museum Center for our special visit. I think all the children and their families will be impressed.”

Suddenly the doors leading to the U C Medical Center’s helicopter pad were pushed open as the pilot entered from the outside. “Hi, I’m James,” he said smiling. “I’ve been told that the two of you need a lift to the Museum Center, correct?”

“Well,” Ms. Claus responded with a grin. “I’m not sure how else we’ll get there.”

“After all James,” Santa interrupted chuckling, “since I had to leave my reindeer at the North Pole, we were counting on you to get us there safely. If not, lots of boys and girls will be disappointed.”

“Now we can’t let that happen, so let’s move out toward the copter and get the two of you situated.” he stated, leading the way.

As Nurse Katie and Doctor Shawn followed us, they explained some of the procedures of the hospital’s emergency helicopter. “Finally,” Nurse Katie added. “Shawn and I will be flying with you because each flight requires the presence of an emergency team no matter where James flies.”

That’s nice to know,” said Ms. Claus as she stepped on the copter’s side rail and entered through the door. Taking her seat, she added, “That makes Santa and me feel much safer.”

As all of them buckled their seat belts and put on their helmets, the pilot started the helicopter’s engine.

“Well Anya, are you ready?” I called out through the small microphone attached to my headset. “This ride will be a blast.”

“You bet Santa. Let’s get this bird in the air,” she responded while the blades began to spin.

As the copter began to rise, it shuddered until James announced, “Once the stabilizers are engaged, you can expect a smooth ride. Since this is Ms. Claus’s first flight,” he explained, “I thought I’d fly over downtown Cincinnati. Then we’ll make our way towards the museum. Enjoy the view.”

Houses, businesses, and skyscrapers soon passed below the helicopter. Making his way towards the downtown area, James pointed out the Carew Tower and the Great American Tower, the city’s tallest buildings.

As the copter flew close to the Ohio River, I spotted the Bengals football stadium and that of the Cincinnati Reds. “Whenever I fly to this area on Christmas, those two stadiums and the Suspension Bridge sitting between them are my markers for the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky area. That helps me get my bearings so that I know where to go and what to deliver,” I announced.

“I bet it looks a lot different in the daytime than at night,” Ms. Claus remarked.

“You wouldn’t believe the difference. City lights, especially in a metropolitan area, light up the sky at night. It’s magical,” I added, enjoying the memory.

Banking to the right and heading northeast, James spotted the Museum Center. “I think you have quite a lot of people waiting for you Santa and Ms. Claus,” he announced as the crowd in front of the Museum Center came into view.

Preparing to make a landing on the concrete area in front of the cascading fountain and the concrete stairs, James set the helicopter firmly on the ground. When the blades stopped spinning, Ms. Claus and I exited, waving.

“Look at the crowd of children and their families. What a sight,” I commented to Ms. Claus. “HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas,” I called out.

“So good to see all of you,” Ms. Claus shouted, “Merry Christmas.”

Making our way up the stairs, Ms. Claus and I greeted the boys and girls with high fives, hand-shakes and hugs. Then I caught sight of one little boy smiling at me. “Those glasses make you look very handsome,” I remarked, “Merry Christmas.”

“Oh Santa,” his mom exclaimed, “Can we get a picture of you and Ms. Claus?”

“Certainly,” I responded.

Suddenly her husband stepped forward with two other children who immediately stood in front of us. “Look at the three of them, Ms. Claus. They wear glasses just like we do,” I commented smiling.

“What a good-looking group we make,” remarked Ms. Claus as the two of us bent downward and grinned at the camera.

Slowly walking up the stairs, Ms. Claus and I continued with the hand-shakes and Merry Christmases until Ms. Claus stopped and directed my attention to another boy. “What do you think of all those dinosaurs on his jacket, Santa?”

Bending towards the boy standing next to his dad, I added, “Did you know that Ms. Claus and I love dinosaurs? We especially love Dinosaur Hall at this museum, and I bet you do too.”

The boy grinned and nodded in agreement.

“Give me a big high five,” I called out.

Continuing our way through the children crowding the steps, Ms. Claus noticed a little girl with blond hair clinging to her mom’s neck. “Hi little lady,” she said. “I love your curls and your unicorn shirt. Purple is one of my favorite colors.”

Smiling shyly, the little girl gave Ms. Claus a hug and whispered, “Thank you.”

“Well will you look at these two brothers,” Santa exclaimed directing Ms. Claus’s attention. “Aren’t you two handsome in those matching sweater vests?”

“Indeed they are Santa,” Ms. Claus responded turning to face the parent’s camera as the mom snapped a group shot.

Reaching the doors of the Museum Center, I pointed towards a little dark-haired girl in red velvet

“What a beautiful dress you are wearing,” Ms. Claus commented. Sliding closer, Ms. Claus gathered her skirt and pulled it close to the dress of the girl. “Notice how the shades of red almost match. We look so Christmasy, don’t you think?”

As the girl grinned, Ms. Claus straightened up and stood on one side of her while Santa walked to the other side. After snapping the picture, the dad whispered, “Thanks, you made my daughter’s day. She loves that red velvet dress.”

Waving to the girl and her father, Santa and Ms. Claus finally made it to the top of the stairs. Crossing the driveway in front of the entrance doors, the two turned and shouted, “Merry Christmas everyone.”

Entering the museum, I took Anya’s hand and asked quietly, “Are you ready for the music, singing and dancing on stage?”

Giving me a quick kiss on my check, she smiled broadly adding, “You bet I am. What a great way to begin the Christmas holiday in such a beautiful place. Let the fun begin.”

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. It is the busy time of year for me, so my stories will be more about the children I run into during my visits.  Until next week . . .

The Nutcracker

“Do you think Fiona, the hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo, will be in the Cincinnati Ballet’s Nutcracker again this year?” I asked as we strolled through the courtyard holding hands.

“I think that might have been a special thing last year. If we can find the time, I would like to see it again,” Ms. Claus responded excitedly.

“It’s a great ballet, that brings Christmas to life,” I responded.

“It’s no surprise that this has become a favorite during the Christmas Season. There is so much magic in his story, sort of like the magic You bring to the season,” Anya said as she began to dance while humming ‘The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.’ “The music and dancing bring the story to life!”

Smiling, I remarked, “Maybe you should have been a dancer. You definitely have the moves.”

“Marrying the best toymaker was better than becoming a dancer!” she exclaimed. “However, I sometimes wonder if the children’s godfather in the story, may have been better than you,” Anya said grinning broadly.

“What? You don’t think I could create a life-sized doll that dances?” I responded with a laugh.

As we took a seat on a bench along the sidewalk in Santa’s Village courtyard, Anya explained, “That is why I love the Nutcracker so much. There is so much magic in the story, and the children, as well as their parents, think Christmas is magical.”

“But the best part of the story,” I said putting my arm around Ms. Claus, “is when Clara, the little girl, sneaks back down to the Christmas tree, after everyone is asleep, to check on her Nutcracker. The toys all seem to come to life and then the Mouse King and his army of mice fill the room.”

Anya chimed in. “Thankfully Clara’s Nutcracker comes to life and leads his army of toy soldiers to battle the mice, like a knight in shining armor.”

“Except the knight in shining armor, was not able to defeat the Mouse King. Clara ends up hitting the King’s head with her slipper to defeat him.”

“I love stories where the girl saves the boy, like Clara saves the Nutcracker.” Giving me a poke in the side, she added, “Kind of like I saved you from being single and lonely.” Unable to hold in her chuckle, Ms. Claus exploded into uncontrollable laughter.

Looking at her I simply replied, “Very funny.”

“You should be happy! You became my Prince, just like the Nutcracker in the story!” Squeezing my arm, and laying her head on my shoulder, she continued. “And then you took me on the most wonderful journey.”

“The Prince and I took our newfound sweethearts to the Land of Snow. For the Prince and Clara, it was a forest and dancing snowflakes that welcomed them. You, however, were greeted by little elves with pointed ears, and ice and snow as far as you could see.”

“You know I wouldn’t change that for anything in the world. But I have to admit, that when you took me into ‘Santa’s Village,’ Bernard did not even come close to the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker story.”

“No arguments from me,” I answered as I laid my head on the top of Anya’s.  But I did take you to Neverland where you met Queen Clarion.”

“You’re right, and I very much enjoy knowing her. The truth is, that if you want to compare me to Clara and you to the Nutcracker, then I got the best deal. Clara eventually awoke from her dream with the same wooden Nutcracker that her godfather made for her. For me, it has been a wonderful on-going adventure with you!”

“I feel the same way,” I explained. “And I hope it never ends.”

“One should never stop dreaming, for you never know when a dream will become reality,” Anya said as she gave me a kiss on the cheek.

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. It is the busy time of year for me, so my stories will be more about the children I run into during my visits.  Until next week . . .

Sensitive Letters

“I’m going to take a break now,” Ms. Claus announced to the elves in the mailroom. Turning to Carter, director of the mailroom, she asked quietly. “Can you ask Telsa, in the communication office, to call Sophia and have her come to my study as soon as possible?”

Carter smiled as he reached for the intercom. “Glad you are taking a break Ms. Claus. You’ve been working a lot lately, and you need to stay healthy. The holidays are nearly here.”

Smiling, Ms. Claus replied, “Thanks Carter for your concern.”

Reaching her study, Ms. Claus began to make a pot of tea. While the water boiled, she called down to the kitchen. “Blanch, can you send some sandwiches and those yummy scones to my study? I have a lot of planning to do with Sophia, and I want us to work comfortably.” Elves are a delight to work with, she thought to herself; what would Santa and I do without them?

Shortly after the food arrived, Ms. Claus heard a quiet knock at the door. Hoping it was Sophia, she called out, “Come in and make yourself comfortable.” Since Santa had allowed Sophia to become her assistant, Ms. Claus knew that she finally could tackle the concerns she had about making the mailroom more efficient.

Entering quickly, Sophia smiled. “Hey Ms. Claus, how are you doing today?”

“Fine, and you?”

“Good,” Sophia responded setting her notebook and pen on the table. Seeing the food, the elf breathed a sigh of relief. “I’ve been so busy that I haven’t eaten much today, but you think of everything. Thanks.”

“No problem. I thought we could eat and plan at the same time but without the noise of the mailroom, so enjoy the food.”

Sophia had been a good choice. She was on time, worked hard, and understood the mailroom and the importance of the Wish List as well as Santa’s Nice and Naughty List. “I’ve been thinking,” Ms. Claus began, “about the mailroom and how to improve working with children’s letters.”

“But Ms. Claus,” Sophia remarked putting her half-eaten sandwich on the plate, “I thought we had everything under control and that both you and Santa were happy with the improvements the elves and I have made?”

“We are,” Ms. Claus quickly responded as she noticed the shocked look on Sophia’s face. “But…  well… there is one area that is close to my heart that we need to look at this year. So, I thought today we could come up with a plan about what I call sensitive letters.”

Giving Ms. Claus an odd look, Sophia finally said, “I’m not sure what you mean Ms. Claus. No one in the mailroom has ever talked about sensitive letters.”

“You’re right, so let me explain. You know how Santa receives letters that bother him more than others?”

“Sort of.”

The mystified look on Sophia’s face made Ms. Claus realize that she and Santa had not discussed the issue. “Well let me give you an example so that you can see what I mean. Do you remember a little girl by the name of Carmen and how concerned Santa was about her?”

The elf nodded, pushing her plate back to the middle of the table. “Wasn’t she the little girl who was very sick with pneumonia and other health problems and didn’t seem to care about doing anything?”

Smiling, Ms. Claus nodded adding, “You have a good memory. Santa and I were very concerned about her. She didn’t even want to write her letter to Santa, so her dad wrote it for her in early November explaining Carmen’s situation. That’s what I call a sensitive letter. It describes how unhappy, worried, scared, or angry a child can be.”

Picking up on what Ms. Claus meant, Sophia shared another memory. “I think I know what you mean. Recently a boy named Noah wrote that he had no friends because his family kept moving from place to place. Whenever he settled into a new neighborhood and school, the kids already had their own friends and kind of ignored him. Was that also a sensitive letter?” asked Sophia.

“You definitely have the right idea,” said Ms. Claus. “Most children are happy when the holiday season begins. Their letters are full of stories about how they are trying to be good, and then they include their Christmas list. However,” Ms. Claus added shaking her head sadly, “there are other children who only see the sad things around them or are worried about their family and friends. Some are even angry and scared about what’s going on in the world.”

“You and Santa never really talk about that,” answered Sophia. “Why?”

“We don’t want to make things harder on the elves. Santa can’t find lost pets or heal someone who is really sick. These issues are beyond his control; yet that’s what many children write about in their letters, so I call them sensitive letters.”

“But if Santa can’t do anything about them, how can we do that in the mailroom?”

Sophia’s simple answer made Ms. Claus chuckle. “You’re right Sophia, but I wasn’t exactly thinking about the mailroom taking care of children’s problems. Instead, I want to get these letters to Santa more quickly. I’ve heard him often say, ‘If only I knew about that child’s problem sooner.’ In Carmen’s case, do you know what Santa did?”

Sophia shook her head.

“The same day that he read the dad’s letter, he called Carmen on his special phone and left her a message of encouragement,” explained Ms. Claus. “This year Santa has already received Carmen’s letter. It’s positive, and she is healthier. To her, his words made a difference. Mailroom efficiency, especially regarding sensitive letters, is my priority this year.”

Sitting up straight with a gleam in her eye, Sophia grabbed her notebook and pen. “I’m thinking that Carter and I could do some training with the elves who work the mail room, so they can recognize these letters. Then we should put them all in a special book, just like the Wish Book and Behavior Book. Maybe we could call it the Comfort Book?”

“I knew you were the elf for the job,” Ms. Claus responded. Grabbing the mugs, she poured some hot tea into both. “Let’s talk about how we can make that happen.”

As Ms. Claus sat back and listened to Sophia explain her idea in more detail, she thought how kind-hearted the elves were. When it came to children, especially those in need, she and Santa knew that bringing joy into a child’s life was the most important part of Christmas.

Note from Santa: I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. It is the busy time of year for me, so my stories will be more about the children I run into during my visits.  Until next week . . .

Illustration by FireMane Studio