Santa, then and now
The Santa Letter was a magical thing when I was a child. The rule that he had set at my house was you could ask Santa for one thing. That meant you had to be very careful to make sure it was the one thing you most wanted. No one would ask for a new coat, or a sweater. That was the kind of stuff your parents or grandparents would get you. That was the stuff you needed, not the stuff you wanted. The Santa Letter had to request that one toy that would make your life complete.
For this reason, my parents had to make a rule that no one could go downstairs to see what Santa brought before six o’clock on Christmas morning. “It’s a big night for Santa,” they explained. “He might not be done before six o’clock.”
I remember the year the Santa Letter failed. When my mother asked me what I was going to ask Santa to bring, I said, “The Imperial Walker from 'Star Wars.'”
“I don’t know,” she said, “the Imperial Walker is pretty expensive. Santa might not be able to afford it.”
“That doesn’t matter with Santa,” I said with great certainty. “He doesn’t buy the toys. His elves make the toys.”
My logic was impeccable. I could not believe my mother did not understand how things worked.
“With all of the children in the world, sometimes Santa’s elves just don’t have time,” she said. “So sometimes he has to buy the presents.”
That explained why some of the toys Santa brought said they were made in Japan instead of the North Pole. A lot more things were made in Japan then than now. That Christmas, Santa had to buy my present. It was not the Imperial Walker.
My children have not had the benefit of the Santa Letter. Santa made a different set of rules in our home. Santa just brings whatever he feels like bringing. He usually brings candy, gum, small puzzles and favorite snack. Santa also always brings my children socks. He is a lot less cool now than he was when I was a child.
This did not stop my children from wanting to get up before six o’clock to see what Santa brought. Socks and candy were just as exciting as anything else. Fortunately, Santa did not change the six o’clock rule. Maybe it is still a busy night for him, or maybe he took pity on a priest who had a service at ten o’clock on Christmas Eve. In either case, he still brings me what I want.
I have been a priest for 16 years. I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010. If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.