As the local supermarket has seen fit to start selling Christmas stuff already and someone-who-shall-remain-nameless has graciously shared the latest virulent bug with me, I thought I could do worse than to update a letter written in August three years ago…
I know, I know, I haven’t written to you in a very long time and it is only August.
Having said that, you are aware that your jolly red image is already being touted in the shops? I understand that with the global population having pretty much doubled in the last 50 years or so the time and motion studies would be pretty hot on you getting an early start, and the risk assessments have to be a nightmare with the aircraft and other stuff we regularly send flying through the skies. Missiles and the like. Now if you could do something about those….
Not to mention the working conditions of Rudolph and co. The red tape and constraints on their delivery service must be enough to turn your hair white. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see you having to mechanise. Which, I imagine, wouldn’t please the elves any more than the eco-warriors; having giant gadget factories at the North Pole just isn’t going to cut it environmentally.
Frankly, though, it does look rather as if that nebulous ‘they’ are trying to devalue your services completely. Redundancy and early retirement come too readily to ‘their’ pens these days. I suppose by corporatising the whole affair and replacing the oranges, footballs and granny’s hand knitted sweater that ‘you will grow into’ with technological gadgets, the entire emphasis of Christmas can be neatly shifted away from family, love and belief to crass commercialism in a generation or two without anyone being the wiser.
Suddenly it is all about what you get and how much instead of what a gift means and the spirit in which it is given. Stress takes all the joy out of it in the weeks before the Event for parents who feel duty bound to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ and even in my village streets there are the inevitable light wars between neighbours. Nothing wrong with starlight in my humble opinion. It seems a little odd when everything else has to fit in with the current ideas that we suddenly ignore power saving completely…
Mind you, if you should happen to call at my place, I can promise you there will be none of this healthy eating lark at least… proper homemade mince pies, or a slab of fruit cake and cheese and a glass of something suitably warming will await as always… and nibbles for the reindeer, of course. It will probably just be the dog and me, so make yourself at home. I guess I shouldn’t admit this, but I’ve no doubt you already know that I still listen for you, even now… I know, daft, isn’t it? But if you can’t be a child at Christmas you might as well give up.
I suppose even you are not exempt from progress though. You have evolved and adapted to the changing currents of the world and its various cultures over the centuries. I happen to know you didn’t start out as a jolly fat man with a beard and a sleigh. But maybe that is a more comfortable image for us than, say, Odin Langbarðr and the Wild Hunt, and maybe a team of reindeer is less disquieting than eight legged Sleipnir. Not that much difference between the winter solstice and the current December date though.
The gifts were always part of it though, weren’t they? Though I have to wonder if the gifts given by a god would have had brand names and logos… But the gifts of a god are given to fill need, not want… so I am in your hands for that.
With that in mind, I suppose I ought to go through my Christmas list but really, I can’t think of a thing that I want for myself. Oh, there are the abstract wishes like a job up north and the pipe dream of a cottage on the moors or a camper van to go travelling, but I only have small feet and they would never fit in my stocking. Just a new tennis ball for Ani who has been mourning the loss of a favourite one.
While I think on, can I just thank you for all the centuries of service, for all the joy you have given small children who delight in your magic and mystery and perhaps if I could have just one wish it would be to wake on Christmas morning with the heart and eyes of a child again.