I still believe in Santa, but the bigger question is: does Santa still believe in himself?
I mean, sometimes I am just awed by the sheer physicality of what he does. And I think, “really?”
He’s an overweight, mid 60s-ish, bearded man — who has been in his mid 60s for many decades — venturing airborne into the cold night once a year, squeezing in and out of tight spaces, eating unhealthy cookies and lactose-laden beverages. Surely he has some self doubts creeping into his mind, some worries about his durability and his future.
There are over seven billion people on the planet. That’s up from 2.5 billion in 1950.
So Santa has nearly tripled his deliveries in the past 64 years, but the deadline remains the same. You can’t exactly deliver toys at breakfast, can you? Many businesses turn toward automation for efficiency. But Santa can’t mechanize his deliveries. Would you leave milk and cookies for a drone Santa or a droid Santa? It’s just not the same to have the robot slip in and out of the house, is it? So he’s had to streamline the process and require the elves to log additional hours, though they know they won’t get overtime pay. He’s heard the whispers of an elf union. And the reindeer may jump in, too. They have had to do more work for no additional lichens (reindeer food).
All these decades take a toll on the body, be it human or reindeer. I’m sure there was a time when the reindeer and Santa carried on a good-natured, casual banter during their skyline drive. But I bet they’re too winded to speak now and if Blitzen ever does open his mouth, I bet it’s a quick word to Donder about how cod liver oil would help his joint pain.
Of course, Santa loves the kids. That’s why he does it. But they seem to expect more these days. And that makes it harder on Santa. The toy market is more diverse, more complicated than it once was. Funding these toys, especially the electronics, is also hard on Santa’s wallet, particularly with the recent total revaluation of North Pole property that I heard about, which jacked up the assessed value of his toy storage sheds, as well as the elf houses. He’s got to appeal that. Can’t Kris Kringle get a tax break around here?
The toy business is tough, too, because if you really want to make a kid smile, you have to be on your game. You can’t just browse a couple of catalogues for ideas, like Mrs. Claus used to. I bet Santa pines for the days of the Yo Yo back in 1932.
That was the year the Duncan O-Boy Yo Yo first became a hit. Times were sure tough then, even in the North Pole. So, the load was really light that year, because every kid wanted a Yo Yo, and most were content with just that one toy. That was the year Santa set a speed record, three hours and 12 minutes.
But these days it takes more like 12 hours. Of course, Santa has to start in the east and work his way west along with the time zones. Kids don’t think too much about how time zones factor into Santa work. But they are the basis of all Santa decision making. He works his way north to south, south to north, from one time zone to the next, like cutting a lawn across the globe. Let me tell you, by the time he hits the United States, he’s whipped. And if a 10-year-old boy expects a new football, but gets a Barbie makeover kit instead, well, it’s probably going to happen somewhere in the Pacific West, when he’s too drowsy to think straight.
He never wants to mess up like that again, because children sure have a hard time letting go of his mistakes. In fact, there are several pending “Child v. Claus” suits that Santa’s hoping his lawyer can keep out of court. Santa doesn’t like bad press. He likes to stay completely out of the public eye and has many fake Santas taking his place in shopping malls and parades.
Santa, I know times are getting rough. You’re getting older and the demand for toys has skyrocketed. But I believe in you. The question, it seems, is does Santa believe in himself? He’s got a lot to live up to, right?
And yes, I still believe in Santa, at least the St. Nicholas of history and what he represents. He was a Christian born in the third century to wealthy parents, who died when he was young. He chose to fully embrace Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor.” He gave up his entire inheritance to those less fortunate. This generous nature is often lost in the celebration of Christmas, but the giving of everything without expectation of return is the heart of goodness. I believe this spirit needs to live on in this world. And if you are focused on political angst or material goods, I think you’re missing the heart of the matter — to give to the world and not receive. It’s a truly difficult — somewhat impossible goal. But one well worth the sincere effort. And that is the true Santa.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.