(The real story of Santa Claus. Santa has feelings too, he goes through angst just like the rest of us…)
Santa Claus had been delivering toys from what seemed like time immemorial. He had first had the impression that there was something vaguely special about Christmas when he was a younger man who didn’t yet need to shave every day. At the time, he was in the process of going to university on a part-time basis studying commerce, looking at the girls’ legs when the short skirts came out in the summertime and meanwhile confirming his suspicions that there truly was nothing more to life than work, sex, ice-cream, family and death. But he was struck by the fact that at the end of each calendar year strangers would feed each other lines of goodwill as they crossed each other in the streets and that, even more incredibly, some of those people were actually being sincere.
This spirit of the December 20-somethings affected Santa, whose German grandmother had emigrated to America in a fit of spite after having divorced her husband of twenty-seven months. From this severed union had been left a son who would later experience a night of pure love, from which the long-lasting side effect was the birth of the child Santa Claus eight months later. Santa knew, more than the others, that as individuals the best that each person could do was to treat each other sort of well in order to make each person’s life just a little bit better and to make the world a slightly easier place in which to live. But there was precious little of this phenomenon to be witnessed, until the time of year when pine trees were cut down and brought into the unfamiliar environment of living-rooms with imitation fire-places. These trees would have a last hurrah in festive atmosphere until the day they died in darkened solitude. Around this time of year, people would make an effort to contact their relatives and think of others, which left Santa with a feeling of star-struck astoundedness.
Santa ditched his studies, his theories on economic activity withering like so many fir trees in disturbing Hans Christian Andersen ‘fairy-tales’. The season caused him to experience such uncharacteristic warmth in the heart region that he felt a compulsion to give another layer to his and others’ depth of feeling. He relocated himself to Europe for ease of movement, purchased a restored factory with his inheritance and began to make toys to give to children. Santa felt that, despite their innocent yet despairing occasional cruelty towards those who did not fit in, it was they who were the purest exponents of spontaneous friendliness and were thus the ones who best captured a Christmas spirit of sorts.
Santa was not prepared for what was to come next. The world-at-large, whose land mass was almost exclusively in the wayward providence of the governments of nation states, began to feel threatened by these acts of unregulated generosity. His own Germany, under pressure, expelled him and none other would accept his pleas of a new home. The only options left for this newly imposed wanderer were the tiniest of Pacific atolls, which were too small to fit his factory, or a life of devotion at either the north or south extremes of the Earth.
Choosing the north because of reasons of proximity, Santa continued to work in the same manner as he had before. He let his beard grow to protect against the cold as his legend began to grow. Others who had been shut off from the nation states asked for his help to start their lives again, which he gave, but like all disenfranchised throughout time one could only find the thankless tasks for them to do. So they did, but at least they were given a fruit mince pie to eat as a bonus on Christmas Eve – and a thank-you.
Santa married the daughter of one of these workers on her 22nd birthday. She was of Vietnamese origin and had lived various moments of her life in Indonesia and Australia, eventually having to leave that country after her father narrowly lost a bet with the Australian Prime Minister (“If you win, you become the new PM, but if I win you have to leave the country.”). Despite being considered ageless in later years, Santa was in fact not much older than his bride when the union occurred. As there were frequent sightings of Santa Claus in later years but none at all of the elusive Mrs. Claus, illustrators of children’s books would draw Mrs. Claus as a female equivalent of Santa: a homely old white woman with curly white hair. But though the reality was much different, Mrs. Claus was only slightly annoyed by the by the misrepresentation.
She was already accustomed to the ways of northern living, a culture that resembled that of the Scandinavian nations, only without any ports or markets as Santa’s generosity took care of many of his employees’ needs. They had money but no one knew what to do with any of it. Later, as the workers’ children grew older, arrangements were made for the building of a movie theatre and a place to dance when spirits were up in the eternal daylight of summer.
Santa’s calling was easier in the beginning. Children with no expectations of presents were ecstatic with what they were given, and in the early days a toy per child sufficed. Gifts for the most part were of the wooden or cloth variety. The augmenting of the children’s greed happened later, when Santa would have to try to find a way to fit racecar sets into his sack and counteract the fragility of Sega systems and computer screens. When these gift requests began to become the norm rather than the exception, Santa saw no recourse but to import a selection of the finest Japanese electricians to the North Pole every November/December period, turning his workshop into a madhouse. The on the whole short sizes of these Japanese techno-geniuses complemented the stout builds of some of Santa’s existing workers, many of whom were of Mestizo or Amerindian lineage who had left jobless, penniless and disenfranchised from wretched villages in the mountains of Bolivia. The natural heights and measurements of these workers would cause Western commentators, somewhat unfairly, to refer to them as ‘elves’.
Santa’s departure from his more idyllic and idealistic days of the beginning caused him to pursue a relentless self-examination, long before his critics were doing something similar. Had his successes been beginner’s luck? Suddenly disillusioned, he gave his attention to the fact that had often been at the edge of his consternation: he was giving more toys to children of richer families. He thought of the day – December 24th? – that the seed of this pattern of discernment had taken root. Rudolf, the reindeer of nervous disposition but whose godsend gift of a fluorescent nose was more than useful to someone who worked exclusively at night, was leading the way as he always had since his emergence three or four years beforehand. Rudolf was a reluctant hero, perhaps the inevitable consequence of the cruel (and jealous) insults his magical deformity always brought his way. That night he was not given a premonition. While Santa was delivering to one of the poorer, more dangerous areas, a bullet was fired from out of the darkness and Rudolf succumbed. He died, but not before waiting patiently for Santa so that he could give him a final despairing look from his large, sorrowful eyes.
That Santa had compelled Rudolf to participate in the annual escapades hardly assuaged his guilt. After that he took no chances. He would barely be inside each house for more than thirty seconds if he felt that the eight waiting specimens of reindeer were kicking their heels and jangling impatient bells in unsafe places. In addition, Santa could not quite dispel the nagging feeling that he was more generous to the wealthier recipients because of the richness of the food they always left out for him and the cosy façades of their plush living rooms.