Strange Christmas

By V.J. Pacilio

It was Christmas morning. Children everywhere were waking up and excitedly rushing to see what Santa Claus had left under their tree. None of them had any idea that this particular Christmas would be different than any they had ever known before. Carlos quickly found the big red fire engine, the robotic pet, and the action figures that Santa had brought.

BUT WAIT… where was the remote control car he had hoped for?. ‘I know I asked for one,’ he thought. After a short while, though, he stopped looking for the car and just started playing with his other presents.

As Cassie quickly ran to look under her tree, she had no trouble finding the large rag doll she had hoped would be there. “Oh, thank you Santa,” she yelled, as she scooped it up and cradled it in her arms. Holding her new doll, Cassie could see the tricycle and the tutu and ballet slippers that Santa had also left under the tree. But where was the toy baking oven? She looked everywhere, but it was nowhere to be found.

Carlos and Cassie were not alone. This was happening everywhere…..kids were finding something missing under their tree. Most just shrugged and enjoyed the presents Santa had brought, but some became very upset, and some even threw tantrums. Long after the children had forgotten about the missing presents, however, the adults swung into action. It soon became the lead story on the TV news and on the radio talk shows. What was going on? How could this have happened? What can we do about it? Everyone had the same Questions…… but no one knew the answers. The next day, headlines of the morning papers screamed, WHERE ARE THE MISSING TOYS?, WHY DID SANTA GOOF?

Soon even the government got involved. After days of discussions, the President of the United States appeared on television to announce a plan. “There is only one way to solve this mystery,” he began. “We must send 2 Ambassadors to the North Pole to get the answer from the one person who can best provide it; Santa Claus, himself. After much thought, my advisors and I have decided that these two Ambassadors should be a politician – to represent the government – and a mother – to represent all the parents and children. We have, therefore, chosen Senator and Mrs. Daniels to go on this important mission. They will leave tomorrow for the North Pole.”

Early the next morning, Senator and Mrs. Daniels boarded a plane and began their trip. Since there is no airport at the North Pole, their flight took them only part way. Then they were flown by helicopter to their final destination.

When the helicopter had safely landed, the two Ambassadors stepped down onto the snow-covered ground, not far from the house they had seen from up above. Within seconds they were greeted by a large, bearded man wearing overalls and a heavy flannel shirt.

“Greetings,” said he, “And welcome to the North Pole.”

“Why, thank you,” said Senator Daniels. “My wife and I have come here from America to talk with Santa Claus. Can you take us to meet him?”

“Ho Ho Ho,” laughed the bearded man. “My dear friends, you have just met him. I am the man you seek. I am Santa Claus.”

“But,….” Started the Senator.

Before he could say another word, Santa finished the question for him.

“But where is my red suit and cap? My big black belt and boots? Ho Ho Ho,” laughed the jolly, fat man again. “That is the special outfit that I wear only around Christmas time. The rest of the year I wear clothes that are warm and comfortable – just like everyone else.”

As they spoke, they could see 8 or 9 elves, dressed in warm sweaters, scarves, and stocking caps, skating on a frozen pond not far away. About 10 other elves appeared to be having a snowball fight in front of a building close by, that was their living quarters.

“Things sure are different here than I imagined they would be,” said the Senator. Mrs. Daniels nodded in agreement. “They sure are.” She added.

“Most people think of me and the North Pole only around Christmas time,” said Santa. “They never stop to think about what goes on here during the rest of the year.” Pointing toward the house, he continued. “Please, come inside and meet Mrs. Claus. We can all sit and chat at the kitchen table, and drink some hot chocolate.”

As they entered the house, they were aware of the sound of a tea kettle whistling on the stove. Mrs. Claus had seen them arrive, and had immediately begun heating the water for hot chocolate. When they reached the kitchen, the two visitors were greeted by Mrs. Claus.

“Welcome to our home,” she said. And then, to their astonishment, she added, “We’ve been expecting you.”

Senator and Mrs. Daniels looked very confused by what Mrs. Claus had just said. “What did she mean by that,” they wondered? They were also quite surprised to see that Mrs. Claus was standing with the aid of crutches.

“It’s a great pleasure to meet you,” said the Senator, after a brief pause. “I am Senator Alex Daniels, and this is my wife, Terri. We have come to the North Pole in hopes of solving a mystery for all of the children and parents back home.”

Before he could continue, Santa’s laugh filled the room. “Ho Ho Ho,” he bellowed, “Of course,… you’ve come to ask about all the missing presents,” he said. “We knew that someone would be arriving soon for that purpose.”

“That is exactly why we’ve come.” Said Mrs. Daniels. Then, with a puzzled look on her face, she asked, “But, how could you know that?”

Santa smiled as he answered her question. “This is the very first year that my 40 elf helpers and I were unable to make enough toys for all the boys and girls. We knew there would be many disappointed children and parents. Mrs. Claus and I would have been surprised, and even a bit disappointed ourselves, if no one had bothered to come to find out why.”

As he talked, Santa set out 4 cups, spooned hot chocolate powder into each, and then poured in the hot water to complete the drink. Mrs. Claus was now seated at the table, with her crutches leaned up against her chair.

“So why weren’t you able to make enough toys?” asked Senator Daniels, sipping his hot chocolate. “Did you get more letters from children than usual?”

“No,” answered Santa, “that was not the reason at all. Actually, something happened that we had not counted on. About 2 months before Christmas, just when all the letters from the children started coming in, Mrs. Claus slipped on a patch of ice and twisted her left knee and her back. Her injuries were not too serious, but as a result, she was not able to get around for quite a while. That is the real reason why there were not enough presents this year.”

Now, the two Ambassadors were really confused.

“I’m afraid we don’t quite understand,” said a puzzled looking Senator Daniels. “Aren’t you and your 40 elf helpers the ones who make all the toys? What does Mrs. Claus’ injury have to do with anything?”

Santa and Mrs. Claus looked at each other and smiled. Then Santa spoke.

“My friends, I think the best way to answer your question is to start by describing to you exactly what normally goes on at the North Pole in the months leading up to Christmas eve. Then, perhaps, you can take what you’ve learned, put all the pieces together, and figure the answer out for yourself.

As you can see, things now are very slow. It’s what you would call “the off-season.” After Christmas Eve, we all take a well-earned vacation after working so hard. In a few months, we’ll start making all of the toys that we know children ask for every year – the toy trains, fire engines, and trucks, the dolls and doll houses, and so on. Then, about 2 months before Christmas – when the children’s letters start coming in – my 40 elves and I work 7 days a week making all the other things that the boys and girls have asked for in their letters. It’s the busiest time of the year for all of us.

From then until Christmas Eve, the elves are awakened each morning at 5 A.M. They all shower, put on their clean clothes, and come down to the dining hall by 6 A.M. where a warm breakfast awaits them. After breakfast, at 7 A.M., it’s off to Santa’s workshop to begin making toys for all the boys and girls.”

As Santa spoke, a puzzled look was clearly starting to form on Mrs. Daniel’s face. It was as though she was beginning to wonder about something that she had thought of a few times before.

Santa continued. “The elves and I make toys from 7 A.M. until 12 noon. Then it’s back to the dining hall for a hearty lunch, complete with large cups of hot chocolate and marshmallows. There is usually fresh, warm pie for desert.”

Mrs. Daniels was smiling, now, and nodding her head in a way that suggested that she was definitely on to something.

Santa went on. “After lunch, we return to the workshop to finish the day’s toy making. Then, at 6 P.M. the factory whistle blows, announcing the end of the workday. Once again, it’s back to the dining hall, where a hot and healthful dinner is waiting on the tables for the 40 hungry elves. After a long day of toy making, they are usually very tired, so when they are finished eating, they all return to their living quarters to relax for a while before bedtime. At around 8 P.M., they change into their freshly washed pajamas and get into their warm beds for a good nights sleep. The next day, at 5 A.M., it all starts again, and continues every day until Christmas Eve. That is how it has been done every year, until this very year.”

When Santa was finished, a silence followed. He and Mrs. Claus were now looking at each other and smiling. Senator Daniels was looking as puzzled as ever, and Mrs. Daniels was just shaking her head from side to side and smiling at her two hosts. Santa’s words – although confusing to the Senator – had certainly brought a sense of understanding to Mrs. Daniels.

Looking, now, directly at Mrs. Claus, Mrs. Daniels began speaking. “You are really a remarkable woman.” As the look on the Senator’s face appeared to grow even more confused, she continued. “I have only one question to ask, the answer to which should clearly answer the question of why there were not enough toys for all of the children.” And then she asked Santa her question; “How many did it take?

Santa was smiling broadly ,now, knowing that Mrs. Daniels truly understood, but before he could answer, Senator Daniels started waving his hands, and, with a totally mystified look on his face, asked, “What is everybody talking about? How many WHAT did it take – to do WHAT?”

Mrs. Daniels, Mrs. Claus and Santa all looked at each other knowingly. Then Mrs. Daniels, staring directly at her husband, spoke.

“My dear husband. We know that the only people at the North Pole are Santa, Mrs Claus, and the 40 elves. As Santa has described, after the 40 elves are awakened at 5:00 A.M., they all shower, put on clean clothes, and come down for breakfast before heading off to work. How do you suppose the clean clothes got there? Or the clean towels the 40 elves use for their morning shower? Or the breakfast they all eat before going off to work? And for that matter, the lunch and dinner? And who do you suppose does all of the cleaning up after these meals. And…….”

“Whoa, whoa” interupted Senator Daniels. “Now I get it. Now I understand what the problem was. But I’m still not quite sure what my wife’s question means.

What does she mean by ‘How many did it take?’”

“Ho Ho Ho” laughed Santa again. “What she meant was, ‘How many elves did it take to do all the things that Mrs. Claus usually does?’ To answer that question: it took 10 elves to do all that Mrs. Claus has done by herself each and every year, and thus, 10 fewer elves to help make toys at the workshop. That is the real reason why there were not enough toys to bring every child all that they had asked for.”

Senator Daniels was now looking directly at Mrs. Claus and speaking to her. “All these years children and parents have been giving thanks to Santa Claus for the things he brought them on Christmas Eve. Well, they should be thanking you, also, for all that you do to make that possible, and we’ll be sure they all know about it when we get back home” He then leaned forward and gave Mr. Claus a kiss on her cheek. “you are truly a remarkable couple” he added. He shook Santa’s hand and Mrs. Daniels gave each of them a hug.

The mystery of the missing presents had been solved. Senator and Mrs. Daniels were now able to go back to America and tell the President what they had found. The next day the President went on the TV and the radio and told all of the children and their parents the real truth about the missing presents. From that day on, they all thanked Mrs. Claus, as well as Santa, for all of the presents the children received on Christmas day.

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