December 16, 2013
Santa Claus, also known as Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or simply "Santa", is a figure with legendary, mythical, historical and folkloric origins who, in all the cultures of the world, brings gifts to the homes of the good children during the late evening and overnight hours of Christmas Eve, in December. Santa Claus is generally depicted as an ageless portly, joyous, white-bearded man - sometimes with spectacles - wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots, a flowing white beard and moustache almost covering his ever smiling lips.
According to tradition, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a large number of magical elves, and nine flying reindeer with whose help, Santa Claus has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior ("naughty" or "nice") and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the ďwell-behavedĒ children in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He is supposed to accomplish this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer that pull his sleigh.
Is he really like that, or is that his stage persona? I decided to find out. Does he too, like all of us, constantly wear a mask? Christmas was approaching and I thought, unmasking the Santa, would make for a good news story. But I was in for the surprise of my life.
I requested a meeting via email Ė SantaKlaus@heaven.com. I was taken up to heaven (not the North Pole as is widely believed) by angels with wings on their backs, each one of them holding an arm Ė a delightful experience that lasted (sadly) for only a couple of minutes. I was taken straight to his office. I was wearing my best suit and was feeling a little out of place in an office that was frugal - a desk and a chair for Santa, and a couple for visitors. The room was circular and had a rather airy and pleasant atmosphere, I realized, that came from the almost seamless open windows that circumscribed the room. I looked around, and curiously peeked outside. I realized that I was looking into white clouds and I became apprehensive about the time the angels gently put me down to attend to their other duties. Fortunately I found myself on firm cloud. Santa was reclining in his chair, looking a little weary Ė but still his joyous smiling self Ė the eternal optimist. And yes he looked exactly like tradition described him. And going by the equipment surrounding him, he was fully into cloud computing.
Me: Morning Santa. Pleasure to meet you. Heard about you, never had the opportunity to meet you. May be when I was a child, I missed you on a couple of occasions. But thank you for consenting to meet with me and for this interview.
Santa: (Smiling) Welcome, itís a pleasure. The Media is an important part of our plans for this year, to extend our reach, reinforce Brand Santa and attract more children to our cause.
Me: And that is?
Santa: (Still smiling Ė at my ignorance) Spreading the message of Jesus.. love your neighbor and show that you care by sharing..
Me: But Santa, I must ask. How can children do that, they are just interested in the toys and gifts that you bring, and the fun and laughter that you symbolize.
Santa: (a fond expression that cannot be described, shining through his eyes) You will be surprised by how the message of Jesus touches children. Many of the toys and gifts that I distribute are given by those that can afford them. They send them to me and tell me that they should be given to a specific orphanage / special child or friend in difficulty. Some just leave it to my office to choose. But even those children that have very little to give, send in their gifts. These children are so so special to me. There was this one child from India who sent me ten balloons and accompanied it with an instructional note to blow them up and leave them in the pediatric cancer ward in a hospital in her town. A strange but compassionate request. I did exactly as instructed. I was actually drawn back to the hospital the next day to see the outcome of my efforts, and was overwhelmed to see the happiness and joy among the children in the ward. By the way, I went invisible when I visited the next day. I have that privilege!
So the children of this world do think about their neighbor as much as they do about themselves. The world can still be saved Ė Thatís what my mentor Jesus keeps telling me. Though I myself am a little skeptical. He was down there a long time ago. I keep visiting every year.
Me: Santa, there is a question I must ask and I hope you wonít mind. My readers will not forgive me if I donít. So here goes... Do you, as is widely believed down below, make a distinction between nice and naughty children and do you actually deny them your blessings?
Santa: (with a naughty look on his face) Children are born innocent, but are by age and nature, naughty. Some, more than others, in that they donít conform or donít fall into patterns set for, or expected of them by their parents or society. But they too love Jesus and Jesus loves them, does he not? Can I make a distinction? No. But the message must go across and the only way is through an expression of love and caring from their parents and their favorite hero around this time of the year Ė Santa. So the answer is a firm no. I donít make a distinction. But Iíve noticed a tug on their conscience when theyíve opened their gifts. So my method does work.
Me: Santa, from where I come, children continue to believe that itís Santa that brings them gifts on Christmas Eve, sliding down the chimney or crawling through an open window or even coming through walls into their homes. You and I know that you pass on these gifts through their loved ones - parents, friends and family that does it. How do you maintain the legend?
Santa: (Smiling) I donít. It's people like you who do. Human beings, unlike us up here want something or someone to take the away the humdrum of routine. They need a figure, a crutch on which to lean on, in times of trouble. Both children and their parents look up to me to provide them with an opportunity to bring joy into their lives and the lives of those around them at least for that one night and day in December. Have you seen anyone refusing to shake hands with Santa? Or refusing a gift from him or failing to return his smile? Or not welcoming him into his home? If you treat your neighbor as Santa the world will be a different place, will it not? So itís you who want to believe in Santa and rely on him to provide cheer and joy and not the other way around. The legend will go on. as you people tend to forget Jesus Message of love and brotherhood very quickly and conveniently.
Me: Isnít it hard work Santa? Visiting so many homes in one night? How do you manage the logistics?
Santa: (the tired look is now back on his face) Lots of work goes into preparing for my journeys across the earth. Iím lucky that I have so many people here in heaven to help me out in sifting through the letters, chalking out the distribution programme, receiving and packing the gifts and then sending me on my way.. The task is humongous both in terms of number of children and the distances involved Ė all to be done in a limited period across different time zones. There are over half a billion children under the age of 14 (I avoid visiting homes with children above 14 due to sheer work load) in the world who are expected to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. In other words, I have to deliver presents to almost 22 million kids an hour, every hour, on the night before Christmas. That's about 3,65,000 kids a minute; about 6,100 a second. Totally doable!
Luckily not all countries celebrate Christmas on December 25. There is January 5th. That's the day I have most of the night to hit parts of Russia, Georgia and the Ukraine before Eastern Orthodox celebrations on the twelfth Night. This calendar shift takes about 11.5 million kids out of the line-up on the 24th, meaning that on the 5th I can do a leisurely 800,000 kids an hour.
Not all children that celebrate Christmas are Christian. The secular elements of Christmas are extremely appealing: a tree in the house? Gifts? Cake and Candy? I have to get into each house that has a Christmas tree and a star at its approach. So add 5%. Luckily, I do get more than 24 hours especially as there are only 9 hours of light in New York on the 24th.
And last but not the least I do have my co conspirators Ė Parents and Loved ones who do help me out, if I fall behind.
Me: The number of kids keeps growing every year doesnít it? How do you cope with the increasing costs and current economic crisis?
Santa: (with a serious expression for the first time in the Interview) ah, that is an important and relevant question. Parents and Elders on earth are very helpful. When they go through tough times due to a variety of human created crises, parents often tell their children, not too expect too many gifts from Santa. I keep my ear to the ground, and I get fewer gifts to distribute from the people of the world. We donít want to impose a divine intervention, although we could if we so desired, and I therefore, reduce the number of gifts I give each child during such times. The best part is that, while the parents do whine and complain, I have never heard a word of misgiving from any child. They are just happy to share the Christmas spirit.
Me: Do you write back to the children? Or do you hear from them after you visit and leave them gifts?
Santa: (smiling) I am available on Email, Whatís app, Face book, Twitter and other social media. Children too, are now very tech savvy and are constantly in touch with me on my Cloud Computing network. I do try and answer every mail or post that is on my social media pages or messages on my Phone, but my time is limited and I do miss out on quite a few. However there is a special mail that I received last year on the 30th. Let me read it for you: I have it here somewhere, (Searches through the mail on his computer)
I waited up for you on Christmas Eve. I wanted to see you come into my house on a sled with your elves and reindeer pulling you. I wanted to pat them and run my hands through their fur. And your beard Santa, your flowing beard, I wanted to run my fingers through it and hoped you would pat me on the head with your gloved fingers and bless me with the gifts I was expecting. And then I would give you a big hug. My Mom kept on telling me to go to sleep and that she would wake me up when you came.. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was morning.and I saw the gifts you had left behind near the Christmas tree. I was both, disappointed and delighted. And then I had a big fight with my mom as to why she didnít wake me up. She said. I too fell asleep. Next Year I promised myself I will stay awake when you come. And then I found a piece of your beard. Did you keep it for me Santa? knowing that I wanted to run my fingers thru it?. Iíve kept it safely under my pillow. for when you come next year.
Me: Santa, if you donít mind, shall we get on to a slightly different subject? You are considered a close confidant of the Almighty, part of His inner circle, and a favorite, if I may say so. What are his views on the civil strife, crime and the wars between nations?
Santa: (looking rather sad) what has changed? During Jesusís time on earth, the situation was the same if not worse. Human beings have evolved and progressed, and the pursuit of and greed for wealth and power over the earth, over fellow human beings and the flora and fauna of the world has depleted the humaneness that God had inbuilt into each one of you. I am not clear as to what end this pursuit is for Ė Some do it for the greater glory of God, some for the greater glory of their nation, province, community, race and religion, and some purely for themselves.
Me: So is there a solution to this or will it continue?
Santa: (Pensive) God is concerned. It was expected that there will be deviations from the created norm, thatís why you are human, but the extent has exceeded even our imagination. But we donít sit idle. Every year God, through his various angels, saints, clergy, the institution of the family, and me. He tries to spread his message of love and brotherhood, even using modern methodology like the TV and the internet. but it does appear that Satan is often far ahead of us and we have to catch up with him. Often a grim reminder is necessary to remind you all that a human being cannot be separated from his humanity Ė thatís why the periodical earthquakes, famines, tsunamis and the like. They are just gentle reminders and they never fail to remind you on earth that love and brotherhood can never be replaced by fame, fortune or power.
Me: You never seem to age. So how old are you actually? And what is your secret? Iím sure all of us on earth would like to know...
Santa: (Laughs) certainly more than 14 years old. Thereís no secret in my longevity. Itís the love of the children that keep me going.
Me: Thank you Santa for such a wide ranging and honest exchange of thoughts. A couple of quick ones to end our conversation. How do you celebrate Christmas here in heaven? And what is your favorite Christmas carol Santa?
Santa: (guffaws) Just like you do down there on earth. Eat, Pray, Love. And my favorite Christmas Carol has to be ďSanta Claus is coming to town.Ē
Me: Thank you Santa. I will disseminate your message in the world as much as possible.
The return journey was uneventful. As I promised Santa, I am spreading his message through this article.
Brian Fernandes Archives:
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- Motivation - Why Do We Do What We Do, When We Do?
- A Mangalorean Fishy Tale