Festival of consumerism and greed that it is (see Graham's comment below), this week I got a brief glimpse of the magic of Christmas through the eyes of a five year-old.
A colleague of mine came up to me at work on Thursday morning and asked to have a look at a sample of my handwriting. She looked at it (a scrawled football teamsheet for that evening's 5-a-side game) and then disappeared. A little later on she came back and asked me if I would write a letter for her. Why certainly. She went over to her desk and reappeared with a blank sheet of paper with a freshly printed reindeer motif at the top and the slogan "from the desk of Santa Claus, the North Pole".....
It turns out that her eldest daughter Hannah had submitted a Christmas list to Santa up through the chimney as usual, but just after Santa had been out to buy gifts from the list, Hannah submitted a second list having changed her mind. Clearly some expectation setting was going to need to be done and so Santa was going to have to write to Hannah and give her a taste of what was, and more importantly, what was not likely to be coming her way on Christmas Day.
The gist of the letter was to thank Hannah for her letter ("I particularly enjoyed your story about me getting stuck in a chimney. I am happy to be able to tell you that this hasn't happened to me for a little while"), to let her know what was on the way ("Mrs. Claus is getting on really well with those dressups you asked for, and they're looking really nice") and to begin to prepare her for what wasn't coming ("I'm afraid the elves aren't having much luck with that Doll's House you asked for and we may not be able to get it ready in time. Was there anything else that you wanted instead").
I got my fountain pen out (as I did essay subjects throughout school and university, I have always written with a proper ink pen) and I wrote as neatly as I could.
Later on, I met up with my colleague again at a Christmas Party (I survived, thanks for asking). She beamed at me and told me how she had put the letter in the chimney breast and had sent Hannah in there on a pretext.... Apparently when she found it, her little face lit up and she was so thrilled that Santa had personally sent her a letter that she didn't much focus on the content. My colleague told me that if Hannah received nothing else this Christmas other than that letter, then she would still be completely made up. She was so excited that she didn't care about the Doll's House and was just itching to get to school this morning so she could show the letter to her friends.
I know that this story is rooted in the consumerist wishes of a small child, but I prefer to focus on the joy that Christmas can bring. It's easy for us cynical adults to forget, but when my colleague told me this story it brought a little part of that magic flooding back for me.
Hannah thought Santa had really nice handwriting, by the way.