Sunday, July 31, 2005

Some new residents - and jokes?

The celebration was wonderful.

We held it in the repaired great hall. I though we might to repair it again!

Zbigniew Ting and his family and friends got into the spirit of the evening by teaching us all a dance.

It’s hard to describe, but it leads to dancers being tossed into the air between lines of fellow dancers.

Well, it wasn’t long before human, elves, dwarves, gnomes, and even a certain bear were flying through the air.

Some flew a little too high or a little too far, resulting in elves and dwarves hanging from the lights, several broken tables, and a window that has to be replaced.

Fortunately, no one was hurt – not even the bear when he landed in a barrel of cider!

Today was a quiet day.

Zbignew and his fellow humans left us early in the day, flying back to Canada.

Most of the elves, dwarves and gnomes who had come to help also went home.

Some happy news, though.

A number of dwarves and gnomes decided to stay at the North Pole to work with us. Now we'd had gnomes and dwarves with us for short stays and to help out, but we haven’t had gnomes living here here in nearly 50 years – and it’s been a century since we’ve had dwarves living with us.

I am glad to welcome them. They can add so much to life here.

Besides, they might know some jokes I haven’t heard yet. The North Pole elves ran out new jokes a long time ago.

There’s nothing more that I enjoy than a good laugh – except, maybe a glass of milk and some cookies.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Saturday, July 30, 2005



I am covered with paint.

But that is good.

The reason is that were have finished the fireworks factory. The paint on all the now finished walls is drying as I type.

Meanwhile the main dining hall has been repaired after the giants’ feast.

It was thanks to the efforts of all the elves, dwarves, gnomes, humans and other friends of the North Pole who came here in case of trouble with the giants. There was no trouble, so they all put their energy to good use.

They worked all night, breaking into teams. The last of the plumbing, the wiring, lighting and walls all went up in the factory, then we painted.

We sang as we worked! It was almost like the days just before Christmas when we are all full of excitement and a sense of accomplishment.

Now, I must get ready for the celebration. I need a good shower!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Peaceful Blessings

It was a quiet day through the rest of yesterday. But it did get a bit crowded here at the North Pole.

Because they heard there might be trouble, many more elves returned early from their vacations. They brought some other elves with them to help. We also had a number of dwarves and gnomes arrive.

By evening, we were jammed to the rafters with guests! But because the great hall needed repair after the fest with the giants, we had no one place to put them all to eat. So they spread out through all the workshop dining halls. And when it came time to sleep,m they had to sleep four to a bed in some places!

When we woke this morning, the giants were gone, as they had promised. They did leave one gift: they dug out more of the cave so that there was more than enough room to build a workshop.

I suspect Kackanokack had something to do with that.

Since there were so many elves, dwarves, gnomes and humans (Zbigniew Ting and his family and friends decided to stay a couple of days) with nothing to do, Elniori, the elf in charge of construction, had a suggestion. Our guests could help to repair the great hall, and finish building the fireworks factory.

They al jumped at the chance.

My goodness, you should see how much they got done today.

They even agreed to work on Saturday, a day we normally rest, just to finish both projects.

This adventure with the giants may turn out to be a blessing!

Thursday, July 28, 2005

An awakening, and a feast

The night was shorter than I thought.

Then again, we are still in the season of near 24-hour sun, so night is not quite the right word.

I lay in bed for less than an hour, when there was a sudden bellowing.

The sound of one giant bellowing is awe inspiring. But 200 giants? It’s enough to turn your bones to string candy!

I threw on my clothes, ran downstairs and out of my home.

Elves in various states of dress were gathering. Some brought weapons.

I felt a sudden chill.

This is the North Pole. Weapons should not be here.

“Has anyone seen Eomar?” I asked.

He came to me a moment later.

“They woke him,” he said, gasping. “They hummed and hummed, and then suddenly we heard a scream. The humming stopped. Then the bellowing started. We saw them leading the frozen one out of the tent. That’s when they all joined in.”

“Santa,” one elf said, “should we prepare for battle?”

I looked around at the elves, the dwarves, the humans.

“No,” I said brightly. “Let’s prepare a feast.”

Many of them looked at me as if I was crazy. I wondered if maybe they were right. Butt I was not about to risk war at the North Pole.

What kind of example would I be setting for the children?

So the elves began preparing the great hall. The kitchen elves began to prepare all sorts of delicacies, including some giant favorites. The music elves dug through their closets for giant songs and dances.

Meanwhile, the bellowing stopped. It was replaced by chanting.

Watcher elves kept sending back reports of wild dances in the giants’ camp. They reported great clubs were being swung around in the air.

At 6 a.m. when all was ready, I summoned Eomar again.

“Prepare a color guard in full costume,” I said. “Ready some of the musicians in costume, too. We leave in 30 minutes. But remember: no weapons.”

At 6:30, we gathered in the village square.

“Musicians,” I said, “a giant marching tune.”

They began to play. We marched in procession, dressed in our best. The elves back in the village began to clam their ands in time to the music.

We marched around the hill that separated us form the giant camp. As we rounded the hill, we saw some of the giants standing there, staring with their mouths open. Many of them held clubs.

We continued to march to the music.

Kackanokack, Kracknovag, and Gikanogark suddenly appeared on the edge of the camp. They approached us.

I bowed.

“Honored guests,” I said. “We have heard your brother is better. We rejoice. We ask you now to join us in a feast to celebrate.”

They looked at each other. Gikanogark was scowling (well, scowling more than a giant normally scowls. He said something to Kackanokack, who growled!

Gikanogark sneered, but then nodded to him. Then he turned to me.

“We accept your hospitality,” he snarled.

We had a wonderful feast. There was much laughing, singing, dancing, and wrestling. It will take us weeks to repair the hall!

The frozen giant, Kickingik, was weak, but he joined in with the feasting.

It turns out he had slipped into a crack in the ice 600 years before. But being a snow giant, he simply hibernated. His family now lived at the South Pole. He planed to join them.

The feast lasted until noon. Then the giants began to go back to their camp.

Gikanogark was one of the last to leave.

“You have been a good host,” he said. “We leave in peace.”

“Maybe some day we can feast together again,” I said.

He smirked. Or was it a smile? Hard to tell with a giant.

“Maybe,” he said.

They will leave in the morning. I will be happy to see the southern giants gone.

But I fear we will see them again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

A tense day

My wife awoke first this morning.

She sat up suddenly. I looked up at her.

“Do you hear that?” she asked.

I listened for a moment.

A low hum.

“The giants,” I said, and jumped out of bed.

I dressed quickly and went downstairs. Eomar, the head of North Pole security, was waiting for me in the dining room. He was drinking a coup of hot chocolate. I joined him.

“More giants came during the night,” he said. “Some are strangers to the North Pole. They now have more tents up.”

I nodded and sipped my hot chocolate.

“The humming continued all night. They took turns. But about an hour ago they all went to the tent with the frozen giant, and this loud humming started.”

“Any messages from them? Any invitations to join them?” I asked.

“No,” he answered. “I took the precaution of calling back some of the elves.”

“Good,” I sighed. “I’m sorry about their vacations.”

I ran my hand over my beard a few times.

“How many giants?” I asked. “And how many who are strangers?”

“We don’t have an exact count. About 100, and about 30 to 40 are strangers.”

I thought back to the snow giant war. There had been several hundred then. They had almost won. But 30 to 40 could still be hard to handle if there was a problem, especially if some of the North Pole giants joined them And most of the elves were now away, so our numbers were small.

“Any sign of goblins?” I asked.


During the war, goblins had joined the fight. They had almost tipped the fight the giants’ way. And since then we’ve had ongoing problems with goblin uprisings. The worst outbreak had been in the 1930s.

“Very well,” I sighed. “Keep an eye on things. Maybe if they succeed in waking the frozen giant, they will celebrate and leave.”

The humming continued throughout the day. We all kept working, but our mind was not always on what we were doing.

More and more elves kept coming back early from vacation, having gotten word about what was going on. Even some dwarves showed up!

Early in the afternoon, Zbigniew Ting’s mail plane arrived. I was surprised to see him come in the large pane.

Then he came out – with a gaggle of uncles, brothers, cousins and other friends and relatives!

“I am hearing that you might be wanting some guests for dinner,” he said.

I laughed. “I’m sure Mrs. Claus will be more than happy to meet more of your family.”

“I am not liking this hum,” said one of the older men with Zbigniew.

“This is my uncle, Zum,” Zbigniew said, introducing us.

“Pleased to meet you,” I said.

He then introduced me to them all.

I must admit, I am normally good at remembering names, but the Ting names left me confused! I remember his brothers Juan Ting and Will Ting; his uncle Mel Ting; his cousins Ray Ting, Cy Ting and Everett Ting; and his brother-in-law Andy Ting-Atall!

There was much laughing at dinner. But it was nervous laughing. In the background was the humming. It had grown louder.

By night time - though, of course, in July we have sun almost the entire day - Eomar said there were nearly 200 giants.

I am taking a break now to write this. I think it will be another long night with little sleep.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Friends(?) come to visit

It was in the middle of the afternoon today that Aelira came to get me.

He burst into the new fireworks factory, where I was helping install the wiring.

“Kackanokack is,” was all he could get out before he tripped over a spool of wire on the floor. He rolled across the floor, the wire wrapping around him. He came to a stop against the far wall.

I bent over him.

“Are you all right?”

He moved wire away from his face.


“Yes. And you are Aelira.”

He blinked at me. I laughed.

“Now, are you all right?”

He rose up. “Yes. Yes. Oh, Kackanokack is here.”

“Thank you.”

A few minutes later I was approaching the ice cliffs where the frozen snow giant had been found. I noticed several more tents were going up in addition to the one that housed the frozen giant.

There were dozens of snow giants. Some, I did not know.

Kackanokack approached me. He was 25 feet tall. His long white hair hung down in two braids almost to his feet.

A snow giant I did not know was with him.

“Santa Claus,” Kackanokack began, bowing low. ”Thank you for your care of our brother.”

I bowed.

“Your brother is my brother.”

He nodded, then indicated the giant next to him.

“This is Gikanogark from the South Pole. He has come to help.”

I noticed that he did not call him “brother.” That meant to me that he was not a friend of the North Pole.

“Welcome,” I said to him. “We are always pleased to have guests. Especially ones who have come to help a brother.”

By calling him “guest,” I was telling him that we each now had a role to play: Host and guest. Those roles do not involve fighting. I also made it clear that I considered Kackanokack a brother.

Gikanogark nodded.

“Thank you. Your hospitality is well-known.”

“More of our people are on the way back,” Kackanokack said. “When enough have come, we will hold a waking ceremony.’

“Let us know whatever we can do to help.”

“I thank you. For now, we are best working among ourselves to prepare. We should be able to do the ceremony tomorrow.”

I understood. “working among ourselves” meant that it would be best if we left them alone.

I bowed, and walked away with the elves who had come with me.

As soon as we were out of the giant’s hearing, I turned to Eomar, the North Pole’s chief of security. He had come back during the night from his vacation when he heard what was going on.

“Choose some sharp elves to keep an eye on the giants’ camp” I said. “Elves who know how to see without being seen.”

“Understood,” he said.

He hurried away.

“Why do we have to watch them,” Aelira said. “Aren’t the giants our friends?”

“The snow giants who live at the North Pole are our friends," I said. “But we do not know these southern giants. Remember, we beat the giants in a war a long time ago, and giants have long memories.”

“Oh,” he squeaked.

I will not sleep easy tonight.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Waiting - and a love poem

More snow giants have gathered at the cliff. They have put up a tent over the body of the frozen giant. His body is now on a platform.

When I went to visit, I could feel the ice vibrating even hundreds of feet away because of all the humming giants.

Kinkako, a female giant, told me that Kackanokack was due to arrive tomorrow.

I stayed out of the tent. They deserve their privacy

Instead, the elves who had come with me and I went to the ice cave we had dug to get the giant out.

We all agreed: It will make a perfect site for a workshop.

The only other news of today is that we got a postcard from Lotina and Alegas in Ireland.

They are having a wonderful time. I am glad.

It brought back fond memories of my own honeymoon with Mrs. Claus.

So I scribbled her a poem:

thinking of you
my wintery heart beats
like springtime

I hope she likes it.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Freeing a giant

We returned to the cliffs earlier today.

The elves who had worked all night had reached the snow giant frozen in the ice. He was lying at an angle, so they had managed to dig around his head and shoulder, careful to leave a coating of ice on him. The rest of his body was still buried in the ice.

By the time we were ready to start again, we had been joined by a dozen snow giants.

Some of them were crying like Kracknovag. We had to keep jumping out of the way of showers of ice tears!

“Kackanokack is on his way back from the South Pole,” Kracknovag said when he saw me.

Kackanokack was the leader of the snow giants who were our friends at the North Pole. He was a wise giant, and knew how to take care of all kinds of giant ills. If anyone would know how to help this frozen giant, Kackanokack would.

We began to dig around the frozen giant, carefully chipping at the ice. Dozens of elves worked in the hole. The snow giants wanted to get in, took, but I was worried they might cause a collapse, So they just cleared away the ice from the hole.

As we cleared more ice form the body, some of the elves began building scaffolding around the frozen giant to hold him up. As we dug down closer to his waist legs, we feared he might suddenly fall down and be damaged.

“We’ve reached his feet,” an elf yelled at 6 p.m.

And suddenly the giant’s weight settled against the scaffolding.

Dozens of elf voices cheered, “He’s free!”

“He’s free!” bellowed a dozen snow giants.

The ice tears poured down, causing many an elf to run for cover!

Slowly, carefully, we pulled the scaffolding and the giant out of the ice cave we had dug.

Finally, he was lying on the ice outside the cave. Kracknovag and the other giants knelt beside him. Each touched the frozen giant. The all hummed a strange tune. The ice beneath our feet vibrated with their humming.

Finally, Kracknovag stood up and turned to me. The other giants stopped humming and looked at us.

“Thank your Santa and all our elf friends,” Kracknovag said. “Our brother is free. Now we wait for Kackanokack.”

He knelt down and touched the frozen giant again. Once again, all the giants began to hum.

I signaled to the elves, and we quietly left. This was a private moment for the giants.

I knew they would stay with their frozen brother until Kackanokack came.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A surprise in the ice!

My ice climbing adventure yesterday has turned into a real adventure!

I went to the cliffs with two elves who were skilled climbers, Alaban and Olida.

We took ice picks and ropes. We wore special ice climbing shoes. The shoes have spikes on the bottom.

We started up a cliff that was new. It was on a big block of ice that stood 150 feet in the air. Part of the ice face had broken away, so it was a new cliff face.

As I said, we were going to climb. I was also looking for possible places to put some workshops. I wanted to make sure the ice was safe and no more was going to break.

We had gone up about 50 feet when Olida said,”Look in there!”

We looked deep into the ice. There was a shape.

“It looks like a person,” Alaban said. “A big person.”

A snow giant!

Frozen in the ice!

“How’d he get in there? How long has he been in there?” Olida said.

“No telling,” I said. “But we’d better find out.”

We marked the spot, then climbed down and hurried back to the village.

I ordered elf teams to go out and find Kracknovag, the snow giant. He was the ranking member of the snow giants still at the Pole. Most of the others were on vacation at e South Pole.

The village shook as Kracknovag approached a few hours later.

“You are wanting something,” he bellowed.

“We think we found a snow giant frozen in the ice,” I said.

He sat down suddenly. The ice beneath us rumbled.

“A snow giant? In the ice,” he roared.

Tears began to form in his eyes. They tricked out, and froze, falling as chunks of ice. I had to jump out of the way so I wouldn’t be hit.

“This way," I said.

We went back to the cliff. A few dozen elves were up on the ice face, staring in.

Kracknovag was about 30 feet tall. He stretched, but he could not see the figure in the ice.

“I can’t see,” he bellowed, sending down a shower of ice tears.

“Are you missing any giants?” I asked

“Not in many years,” he said. “This is a terrible thing.”

“Then we will come tomorrow with a team to get him out and find out who he is,” I said.

We worked at the cliff all day today. But most of the elves are on vacation, so we don’t have a lot of workers. Several snow giants are helping.

But we have to be careful. Snow giants can survive in the ice for many years. We could easily damage him while trying to get him out, though. He could die. So we have to dig very carefully.

We managed to dig about 20 feet into the ice, but we have not reached him yet. Because it is still light almost all day, a second team is working through the night.

The rest of us have gone back to the village to get some sleep.

Tomorrow, after church, we will go back.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A quiet day - a climbing I will go!

It’s a quiet time here at the North Pole.

Most of the elves normally take vacations in July. After the wedding, many of them decided that since they were already away from the Pole, they might as well just continue to where they were going on vacation.

They scattered from Bavaria to all parts of the world.

We just flew back to the North Pole. We will take some time in August.

I began this day as usual. A time of prayer, then reading some mail.

I had a lovely breakfast with my darling wife. I am writing now because I plan to explore some ice cliffs near the Pole.

I like to climb. We also might build some new workshops. We’ve had to expand operations so many times in recent years.

There are those who say that belief in me is fading. I think it is growing. There are so many children in the world who are desperate to believe in someone or something they can count on.

They know that no matter what, I am there. They know that I will always love them.

A wise Teacher set that example for us all to follow.

That’s why I begin each day with prayer.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

I'm rich? Ho! Ho!

A friend told me about this list of the richest fictional characters. It was developed by Forbes Magazine.


I’m very real. Just ask my wife – or any small child.

But here’s the list.

Rank - Name - Net Worth
1. Santa Claus $ ∞
2. Richie Rich 24.7 billion
3. Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks 10 billion
4. Scrooge McDuck 8.2 billion
5. Thurston Howell III 8 billion
6. Willie Wonka 8 billion
7. Bruce Wayne 6.3 billion
8. Lex Luthor 4.7 billion
9. J.R. Ewing 2.8 billion
10. Auric Goldfinger 1.2 billion
11. C. Montgomery Burns 1 billion
12. Charles Foster Kane 1 billion
13. Cruella De Vil 875 million
14. Gordon Gekko 650 million
15. Jay Gatsby 600 million

Claus, Santa
Age: 1,600 years plus
Source: Toys
Net Worth: $∞
Hometown: New York City; North Pole (I only lived in New York for a short time)
Marital Status: Married, no children (My children will be surprised by this!)

Born in the fourth century as Nicholas of Myra in Anatolia, now southwestern Turkey. According to legend, gave away bulk of his inheritance to provide dowries for three beautiful--but impoverished--maiden sisters. Famously threw gold through girls' chimney where it landed in their stockings drying by fire. Later Roman Catholic saint. Relics stolen by Italian merchants 12th century; bones now in Bari, southern Italy. Moved to U.S. by way of Holland; settled in New Amsterdam, later New York City. Changed name to Santa Claus, gained weight, grew beard. Toy manufacturing operations at North Pole yielding apparently unlimited wealth. Spends every Christmas Eve trying fruitlessly to give away fortune to little children. Keeping up with the times: Compressive of naughty and nice boys and girls now available on the Web. Passionate interest in artic wildlife: Large reindeer preserve includes rare flying and red-nosed specimens. Member since time immemorial. --Michael Noer

Of course, they got many of the details wrong. But they meant well.

One detail I do want to correct is the idea that I make money off my toy operations.

My toys are free.

As for wealth, we have some money that kind-hearted people send us to help us with our work, but we still have to count pennies.

In my pocket and dresser drawer right now I have (in various kinds of money) the equivalent of about $61 U.S. I think in our private cash box we have the equivalent of a few hundred dollars. In our vacation fund, we have a few hundred more. That’s it.

Most of our wealth is in good will and good cheer, which are transformed into love and gifts.

Oh, but I do get plenty of cookies and milk!

If you want to see more of the story, go to:

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

An elf wedding - the end

We awoke Saturday to the sound of music. Elf music. If you want to know what elf music is like, watch a sunset, or dance beneath a rainbow, or put your hand in the water of a waterfall, or take a deep breath in a garden in bloom.

We all trickled down to the great hall. It glittered and glistened. A breakfast feast was laid out, elf style. Alegas and Lotina were waiting.

“Welcome to our wedding day,” they said, their voices blending so they sounded as one voice.

We all sat to find gifts. Mine was a small mirror that, when tuned over, showed the back of my head!

We ate amid laughter and burst of song and the music continued.

Even the North Polar Bear seemed to have his appetite back.

I looked around the room.

Elves, humans, a bear, dwarves, gnomes, snow giants, pixies, sprites, and many more. I thought for a moment I even saw some angels!

As we finished, we wandered back to our rooms to change.

As Lotina had requested, I put on my bishop’s robe. I was a bishop, after all – I remain one, technically - and I am often pictured as one.

I looked in my new mirror.

“Yes, the back of my head looks fine,” I said, and laughed.

My beloved wife put on a beautiful blue dress. I picked up her hand and kissed it.

“Do you want people to look at you instead of the bride, my dear?”

I led her to the chapel, where she was seated by the ushers. I waited at the back for the bride.

Lotina came in from the dressing room. She was wearing the green dress she had designed for the day.

“You look beautiful,” I said.

She blushed. (Have you ever seen an elf blush? It makes you want to laugh. So I did!)

I looked up the aisle, and saw that Alegas was about to enter. The processional music began.

“Thank you for letting me be part of this,” I said, and took her arm.

We processed in, and I presented her to Alegas. An old-fashioned thing to do, I know, but elves like tradition. (So do I – when they are good ones.)

I watched at they took their vows. I was reminded of all the weddings I had been part of over the years, especially those of my children. Rather than blending together, each was special.

Before I knew it, Alegas and Lotina were processing down the aisle, now a married couple.

Oh, the celebration that night! The music! The dancing! The food!
I danced with Lotina – she had chosen a Turkish tune to honor my homeland.

I danced with my wife many times.

I danced with several elvish line dances.

I danced a stomp with the dwarves.

I even danced with the North Polar Bear.

At the right time, I let Peri borrow my sleigh to fly the couple to Ireland for their honeymoon (the leprechauns had prepared a special cottage for them).

It was a good thing they left just then.

Not long after we had waved goodbye, the North Polar Bear got a little too enthusiastic.

As usual.

He jumped up on a table to dance.

Unfortunately, he landed on a platter full of cake and ice cream. He did a flip, and cake and ice cream showered on all the dwarves at the table.

Being dwarves, they decided they had to pay him back. They picked up their own servings of cake and ice cream and threw them at the bear.

Some of the cake and ice cream actually hit him.

The rest hit other dwarves. They just had to respond.

It also hit some nearby elves. They also decided they had to respond.

After all, what elf will let a dwarf get away with anything!

A full-fledged food fight broke out in that part of the hall.

Several of the snow giants tried to stop the fight. But they slipped and fell. The floor shook so hard several tables collapsed, including one with bowls of punch.

Punch flooded the dance floor.

Dancers were slipping and sliding and flipping and falling. One elf even ended up hanging from a chandelier!

Just at that moment I came back in to the hall from saying goodbye to the honeymooners.

Three pieces of cake and two scoops of ice cream hit me right in the face!

There was suddenly silence.

I reached up a finger and wiped away some ice cream from my forehead. I licked my finger.

I frowned.

“What, no strawberry?” I said.

Everyone laughed.

We all then started to clean up the mess. It took several hours.

That silly bear worked right until the end. He was so sorry.

On the whole, it was a wedding to remember!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

An elf wedding, part 3

I remember when I first found the entrance.

My beloved wife and I were hiking through the forest. We were on our first vacation together, resting from our gift-making and gift-giving duties.

I stopped under a tree to drink some water, when a bat flew by me. He disappeared into some vines.

“Did you see that?” I asked.

“What?” she said. She had been busy studying some plants to see if they might be a source of dye for the beautiful clothes she made.

“A bat. It flew into those vines.”

I approached the vines and moved them aside. There was a cave.

“I wonder how far it goes?” she said.

“Deep, I would imagine. Look here.”

I pointed to runes carved into the side of opening.

“Dwarves lived here. Knowing them, this cave could go throughout the mountain.”

The cave did indeed lead into hundreds of passages and chambers, dug in ages past by the dwarves before most of then disappeared.

We moved our wandering operations into the cave and lived there for many years. We were joined by the elves, most of whom moved North with us when the time came.

Now, here we were back.

“Did you want to look around first?” Elendil asked.

“If you don’t mind,” I said. “It’s been years.”

We spent the better part of an hour wandering form room to room. The doll assembly room. The train room. The stuffed animal room. The dress room. The scarf and cap room. The candy cane room.

Finally we arrived at the great dining hall. The dwarves had carved it out of the heart of the mountain, and had many feasts here. So did we and the elves.

The hall was brightly lit and already decorated for the wedding feast. But the tables were set – and piled high with chocolate creations.

“You have not forgotten you skills,” I said to Elendil, who had been the chief chocolate elf when we lived here.

“And I have not forgotten your sweet tooth,” he said with a grin.

We sat and ate. Chocolate cheese cake. Chocolate pudding. Double Dutch chocolate cake. Chocolate mousse.

In a place without magic, we would have gotten sick. But not in this special place.

Finally, I pushed my chair back, and looked at my watch.

“They should be getting near, if Eidin’s estimate is right. But, Elendil, you have outdone yourself.”

He smiled and led me to the radio room. There were several elves there waiting for us.

“Have you heard form them?” I asked.

“We last heard when they were just about to fly over southern France,” one of the elves replied. “Since then they have kept radio silence.”

I nodded.

But just at that moment, the radio squawked.

“Attention Bavarian center. We have an emergency,” the voice said.

I sat before the microphone and said,” This is Mr. C. State the nature of your emergency.”

We were using a code, just in case anyone did somehow pick up our signal. I was just Mr. C.

“That bear. No progress possible.”

That bear, was, of course, the North Polar Bear.

“Understood. I will arrive soon.”

Now, you may imagine that Santa is slow because of the way most people picture him – but if I were slow, how could I deliver so many gifts in one night?

I was in the stable, the team was hitched, and we were flying west before you could say Christmas pudding”

(Try it…Too slow!)

I knew from the elf radar that the fleet of blimps was had passed the German border.

Sure enough, I saw a massive bank of clouds near Stuttgart.

I carefully entered the clouds, no wanting to his one of the blimps.

The radio on my sleigh cackled. “Ten kilometers.”

They were telling me how far, without staying on long.

I approached their position and I saw…

The North Polar Bear hanging upside down held by a snow giant who was in turn dangling from a blimp held by his ankles b another snow giant!

I circled them. The giant had a look of relief on his face.

I went down by the bear.

His teeth were chattering. His eyes were wide with fear.

I got below him and yelled up, “Let go!”

The giant did, and the North Polar bear thumped into the sleigh.

I then made took some rope and circled the giant, wrapping it around his waist several times. I knotted it, then drew near his hand and held out some rope.

“Take it and hold tight,” I yelled.

He did. Then I said to the reindeer, ’Okay boys, we’ve got a load to lift. Slowly now.”

We rose, and slowly, the giant was pulled up. The other giant kept holding on to his ankles. At one point, the giant was horizontal, stretched between the other giant and the sleigh.
Then the other giant began to pull him back into the blimp.

The whole operation took several minutes, but then he was safely back on board.

The radio crackled. “Jets.”

That meant that we had been spotted somehow, and jets were nearing. Probably military one!

I rose to near the control window of the blimp and waved them on. Then I dropped to the bottom of the cloud.

“Okay,” I said. “Let’s give them something to follow.”

I dropped out of the cloud. Two German military jets were racing toward us.

“Strap yourself in,” I yelled to the bear. As soon as he did, I yelled to the reindeer, “All right boys. Half speed roll!”

We began spinning round and round in the air like a corkscrew, speeding toward the jets. Then we dove and turned south. I picked up the radio and began singing a German Christmas song! ,

“Rudolph, das kleine Rentier, Jeder bei den Lappen kennt, Denn seine rote NaseWeit und breit wie Feuer brennt,” I belted out loud.

The jets followed me.

I turn and headed for France.

The jets stayed with me. Far in the distance, the great cloud bank drifted east to safety.

Just as we reached the French border, I turned again to stay over Germany. The Jest followed. I continued singing.

“Und alle Tiere lachen, Seht nur seine Nase an. Rudolph ist so verzweifelt, Weil er nichts ändern kann.”

When I was sure the blimps were long gone, I pulled out of the spin, and slowed down. The jets approached.

I could see the pilot of one staring at me. I waved. Then called out,” Up and away lads.”

We rose high into the air, leaving the jets far behind.

“I wonder how they will explain this one,” I laughed.

I don’t know how many UFO sightings were really me!

In the blink of an eye, we were back at the mountain. It was shrouded in the cloud. I knew that the hanger door had been opened wide to let the blimps in.

We entered. The blimps had already landed, and thousands of elves, giants, and other were getting out.

Eidin ran up to me.

What happened?” I asked, looking at the bear, who was sitting in the sleigh with his head hanging down.

“When we got over Germany,” he squeaked,” we passed over a sausage factory. The bear went to a window and sniffed. Then he leaned out the window and sniffed some more. Then suddenly he disappeared. Olgal, the snow giant, was near and reached out at the last minute and caught the bear. But then he started to slip, too, so Ardwag grabbed his ankles.”

I looked at the North Pole Bear. “Sausages? When a feast awaited?”

The bear lowered his head even further.

I looked back at the blimps and spotted Olga and Ordway. I walked over to them.

“I thank both of you.”

They blushed. Snow giants never do like a fuss – unless it involved fighting!

Not long after, we were all seated in the great hall, enjoying a feast. There were all kinds of foods – including sausages.

The North Polar Bear quickly passed on any sausages that came his way.

(Tomorrow, the wedding.)

Monday, July 18, 2005

An elf wedding, part 2

Eidin, the head research elf, came running into my office one month ago.

“Sir, we have it!” he squeaked.

Whenever Eidin is excited, he squeaks. It gets the cats excited, too!

“Have what?” I asked. I didn’t know which problem he was working on.

He was working on many projects. Good tasting ice cream that can help you lose weight, for example. Or how to make it snow in Australia in December (don’t worry, even if he found a way, I wouldn’t let him!)

“The wedding,” he squeaked.

Ah, yes, how to get the population of the North Pole to Bavaria without being seen.

Now, I am able to do that with my reindeer, thanks to a little magic, some stealth technology the elves developed, and a little help from some military leaders who ignored a certain blip on their radar screens Christmas Eve! But moving thousands of elves and creatures?

“We will use the stealth technology we used on your sleigh,” he said. As he spoke, Mathom, our cat, looked up curiously.

“Yes,” I said, “that will help.”

“And we will use the weather to hide the transporters,” he squeaked.

Mathom began to purr.

“Transporter?” I asked.

“The blimps.”


“That sounds interesting,” I said. “But where will we get the blimps?”

“We’ll build them,” he squeaked nervously as Mathom stood up, eyeing him. “We’ve…we’ve started building the test one already.”

He ran out the door.

Mathom looked at me, blinked, sat down, and licked her paw.


A few days, Eidin called me to witness the test flight.

The blimp was anchored just outside the village. It was long and white. The main part was like a fat sausage. Below it, there was a cabin with dozens of windows. There were propellers at the back.

I had never seen anything so big.

“It will hold about 400 passengers,” Eidin said.

He waved his hand and elves released the ropes holding the blimp down. Its motors roared, and it began to rise slowly. It started picking up speed, and soared up higher and higher towards the clouds. Then it entered a cloud – and was gone!

“We will hide them in clouds,” he said with pride. “The white color will blend in. That, and the stealth technology will keep them hidden.”

I did some mental counting.

“We will need at least, yes, at least 10 of them,” I said.

“We’ve started building 11 others, just to be on the safe side,” He said. “We will fly down to the middle of the Atlantic, then use the weather patterns and fly with the clouds east over France and Switzerland to Bavaria.”

“But how can you be sure that there will be clouds blowing that way?” I asked.

He gave me a look that basically said, How can you ask?

So in between all the toys and Christmas items the elves were making, they were building the blimps. They finished them just in time.

The morning of July 15, all of the elves and creatures of the North Pole climbed into the blimps. Two had them had been specially made so that even the snow giants would fit.

Alegas and Lotina were to ride in the sleigh with Mrs. Claus in me. We were going to take the direct route.

I looked up to the sky.

There were no clouds.

Eidin walked over to me.

“We will see you there,” he said.

I looked back at the cloudless sky.

Eidin laughed. “Just watch.”

He climbed aboard the nearest blimp.

Soon all 12 of the blimps were rising into the sky. It was a beautiful sight.

As they started leveling off, all of a sudden huge clouds of white began swirling out of the blimps. In a moment, they were all invisible.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” I roared with delight.

We waited for the “clouds” to move south. Then we climbed into the sleigh.

“Dash away, all!” I called out. The reindeer began to run, then leaped into the air and we were streaking south toward Bavaria.

Shulun, our dog was hanging over the side, the wind flapping his ears.

In the wink of an eye, we were in Bavaria outside the workshop.

Anyone else standing here would just have seen a mountain covered with trees down low, and snow on the top.

I saw my home.

It was here that Mrs. Claus and I had our first real home. It was here that we started our family. It was here that we met the elves.

“Welcome home,” a tiny voice said.

I looked at the bush where the voce had come from, and out stepped Elendil, the head care-taker elf of my Bavarian home.

“Elendil, my old friend,” I said as we hugged.

After we had all hugged, he said,” Come inside. We have food ready.”

We followed him behind the bush and up to a sheer wall that vanished as we walked through it.

I stopped and smiled. My old workshop stretched out before me.

(Tomorrow: The workshop, a chocolate feast, and the blimps arrive – with a bear problem!)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

An elf wedding, part 1

I have been out of town for a few days, so I have not been able to write.

The reason I have been away is the marriage of Alegas – the nephew of the head ice cream elf Peri - to Lotina.

Several months ago the two announced that they were getting married. Then Lotina surprised me by asking me to give her away. Her own mother and father died several years ago.

I was honored.

I had given away my own daughters when they were married, but it’s been years since I’d had a chance to do it.

Lotina is a special elf. She works in the doll factory designing clothes – she is so skilled. She also makes clothes for herself and others (I have a few gifts in my closet from her.)

She even made her own wedding dress. It was beautiful.

But what makes her even more special is the love and care she shows for others. Any time an elf is sick, she visits with soup and homemade bread, and maybe a scarf or embroidered handkerchief. Her handkerchiefs are so beautiful you hate to use them!

When I sprained my ankle a few years ago, she knitted me extra-large socks to go over my brace.

Then she and Alegas announced their next surprise.

They wanted to get married in Bavaria!

Here at the North Pole, we have elves from all around the world. There are Irish elves, Russian elves, French elves, Chinese elves – oh, more kinds than I can remember.

But the biggest group of elves is the Bavarian elves. Bavaria is where I first met elves many years ago when I built my first workshop there. When I moved to the North Pole, many of the elves came with me.

Lotina and Alegas’ families were among the Bavarian elves who had come with me.

The couple wanted to show their love of their families’ homeland. Many of the other elves were excited about a visit there. I liked the idea, too.

Now, my old home is still in Bavaria. It is deep in the forest. Some elves still live there. So we called them. They were excited and began preparing for the wedding.

The one problem was how we were all going to get from the North Pole to Bavaria.

We had thousands of elves, gnomes, dwarves and other little people who were invited. So were the snow giants and some trolls, and many of Alegas and Lotina’s animal friends.

Our research elves came up with a wonderful idea. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The reason for the season

There are many pictures and statues of me around the world.

I have been shown as fat and skinny, tall and short, Black and White and Oriental.

I have been shown dressed in red and green and white and fur.

I have been shown doing all sorts of things, including fishing, sleeping, riding a motorcycle, playing basketball, and, of course, riding my sleigh.

There are as many ways of showing me as you can imagine.

But the ones I love the most are the ones that show me praying at the manger. After all, Christmas is the birthday of Jesus.

Here’s a site that shows one such figure: Kneeling Santa

And here are some poems about me praying.


The sleigh was all packed, the reindeer were fed,
But Santa still knelt by the side of his bed,
"Dear Father, " he prayed, "Be with me tonight.
There's much work to do and my schedule is tight.
My sack will hold toys to grant all kids' wishes.
The supply will be endless like the loaves and the fishes.
I can do all these things, Lord, only through You.
I just need your blessing, then it's easy to do.
I do this only to honor the birth of the One,
That was sent to redeem us, Your most Holy Son.
So to all of my friends, lest Your glory I rob,
Please, Lord, remind them who gave me this job."

Santa’s Prayer

On Christmas Eve I heard a sound
I'd never heard before.
A voice was softly speaking
And I wanted to hear more.

So very quietly I arose
From the bed where I was laying.
I tiptoed to the living room
Where I heard Santa praying.

"Dear Jesus, It's your birthday
And I just want to say,
Thanks for letting me be a part
Of your very special day."

"I always have believed in you
I know that you are real.
But there are some who don't believe
And how sad that makes me feel."

"Some houses have no Bible
They have no manger scene.
Some people speak of Christmas
But forget what it really means."

I pray someday they all will know
What Your love's worth, and then
I know that they will understand
The importance of your birth.

I always knew Santa brought toys
Like my truck and my sister's doll
But on this night I understood
Why Santa is the jolliest of all.

It is because he helps to spread
Good will and Christmas cheer.
And he helps Jesus celebrate
His birthday every year.

Then I quietly returned to my room
And snuggled back in my bed.
Knowing I'd always remember
The words that Santa had said.

In the morning I remembered
what I had heard and seen.
But I wasn't sure if it was real
Or just a wonderful dream?

-- Author unknown

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The coal truth

This poem arrived today:

Santa’s at work at the North Pole
checking the names on his gift scroll.
For the good girls and boys,
there’s a sackful of toys.
For the others, there’s plenty of coal.

First, let me say that I like poetry. I love to read poems out loud. And they don’t have to be about me!

Second, let me say that I have no coal. That’s just a story started by parents to scare their children into behaving.

If I did have coal, I might be tempted to put it in such parents’ stockings!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Potter problem

Happy National Day in Sao Tome. Parabéns! Saúde! (Congratulations! God Bless you!)

I’m on my lunch break. Right now we have mist falling, and 37 degrees. We had a little snow earlier. We expect more later.

I received a letter earlier from a worried mother.

Her son and daughter are big fans of the Harry Potter books. There is a new one coming out this Saturday.

She is concerned about the positive view of magic and witchcraft in the books.

I’ve heard from many people about this.

I can understand the concern.

Here is a summary of what I wrote back to her

My view is that it these books are fiction, just like any other novels or stories. Do we worry if a child is reading a story about a talking dinosaur, for example? No. The young child may “believe” that a dinosaur can talk, but as that child gets older he is able to judge what is real and what is not based on what he has learned.

As long as it is clear that the Harry Potter books are not real, not true, then there is no problem. In fact, they teach important lessons about courage, friendship, and right and wrong.

The only danger is that if the child has no sense of faith or belief in her own life to compare the stories to, then the child might start to believe the stories are based in a reality where magic of this sort exists. That is bad.

So to parents who are worried, I say the books are fine – as long as you make it clear to the child that the books are fictional.

I also suggest that you read them at the same time as the child. Then you can show interest in what is important to the child, you have something you two can talk about, you can share your adult insights, and you set an example by reading.

I’m all for anything that encourages parents and children to talk and read!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ginger cookies!

Today I kept my promise to Cupid.

He has gotten over his sore tooth, and I needed to run an errand in Moosonee, Canada, so I hitched him and the team.

He was so excited. He kept pawing the snow and snorting as we put on the traces.

But even more excited was Shulun, our dog.

Shulun loves to ride in the sleigh. When he realized that he was going to ride, he ran back and forth, yapping happily.

Mathom, our cat, was not as happy. She hid under the bed. It took three elves and Mrs. Claus to get her out and into the carrier. The elves had to visit the infirmary afterwards!

Mathom does not like to fly, because it almost always means a visit to the vet.

That was precisely my errand for that day. Both animals needed their annual physicals and Shulun needed his rabies shot.

When the team was ready, I opened the door. Shulun ran out and jumped up to the seat next to mine. His tail wagged furiously.

“Ho, ho,” I said. “It’s a ride you want, eh?”

He wagged so hard his body shook

I carried out Mathom in the carrier, and put her on the back seat, surrounding her with blankets to help keep the wind off her.

I didn’t worry about her getting cold. Part of the magic of the sleigh is that anyone or anything in it stays relatively warm.

But despite my obvious care for her and my soothing words, she just glared at me.

I climbed aboard, picked up the reigns, and called out, “Dash away all!”

We rose up, up, up, until we were above the clouds. I always try to fly high to avoid being seen. We go so fast that people can’t see us clearly, but we often get mistaken for UFOs! And there have been a few times I’ve had to outrun American and Russian jets after I got caught on radar! (The elves have developed a new stealth technology, so that hasn’t happened in a few years. But I don’t want to take a chance.)

Shulun sat on the edge of the seat, sticking his head out into the wind. He laughed in the way only dogs can – even as icicles formed under his chin.

In the blink of an eye we were in Moosonee. I landed in a sheltered field behind the homestead of Zbigniew Ting. He’s one of the bush pilots who flies mail and supplies to the North Pole.

Years ago, Zbigniew arranged for the town veterinarian in Moosonee to see our pets. The vets at the North Pole are experts when it comes to flying reindeer, the North Polar Bear, and other enchanted animals, but not common dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, skunks and aardvarks.

I put the reindeer in the shed Zbigniew had built on the field for them. As always, grain and hay were waiting.

I then walked to the house with the cat carrier. Shulun ran around us in circles. I knocked on the door.

Zbigniew’s wife, Annie, opened door and burst out laughing.

“Mr. Claus,” she said, “I am thinking you have come my husband not knowing.”

It took me a moment to figure out what she meant. Then I asked, “He’s not here today?”

“Flying fisherman he is. Now, coming in you are?”

“No, not now,” I said. “I have appointments for Mathom and Shulun.”

She reached in her apron pocket and bought out some keys. She gave them to me.

A few minutes later we were bumping along the uneven roads leading into town in their four-wheel drive truck. An hour later we were bouncing back along the roads.

We reached the Ting homestead. I parked the truck, and approached the house to return the keys. The smell of something delicious surrounded the house.

Before I could knock, Annie opened the door.

“Excuses now none,” she said. Before I could say “My wife is waiting,” I was seated at a table, a steaming cup of tea in front of me, and a plate of still warm ginger cookies next to it.

Mathom, meanwhile, was out of the cage and next to the fireplace lapping milk.

And Shulun was noisily chewing a bone.

Now Mrs. Claus is a fine baker. I love her cookies more than almost anyone else’s. But even she had to admit that Mrs. Ting’s ginger cookies can’t be surpassed.

I had to “suffer” my way through a second cup and more cookies.

Finally, I pushed away from the table.

“Annie Ting,” I said, “I don’t know whether you or your husband is my best friend, but right now, my stomach votes for you.”

She laughed, then handed me a bag full of cookies.

“Counted them, I did,” she said. “No nibble until you share these with Mrs.”

I promised.

Mathom did not fight when I put her back into the carrier. Maybe the elves just go about it wrong. Or maybe it was that warm milk. I swear she even purred.

Shulun was out the door and gone in a flash to the sleigh. He was sitting in the front seat, tail wagging as he waited.

We took off and circled the house. I waved to Mrs. Ting, who waved back. Shulun barked.

Then it was back home.

When I entered our house, I didn’t have to say a word. Mrs. Claus sniffed and said excitedly, “Ting ginger cookies!”

She just had to have a few right then.

I had a few, too.

So she didn’t have to eat alone, of course.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A man who loved Christmas

The question I dealt with yesterday about retirement is often linked with another question (sometimes stated, often not): If I ever stopped being Santa Claus, who could take my place?

Mind you, I am Santa only by the will and grace of God. The Lord could just as easily choose someone else to play my role.

When I look back at history, I see so many people who could play the role. Francis of Assisi, for example. There was a man who had the Christmas spirit. (Though that dear little man would have a hard time fitting in my suit!)

But If I had to pick just one person, it would be Gilbert Keith Chesterton.

Ho! There’s a man who could fill my suit! In fact, they’d have to let it out!

But beyond his physical size, there was a man who truly loved Christmas.

He wrote essays about it. He cited the feast again and again in his works. He wrote poetry about it.

And he appreciated me. Rather, he appreciated what I represent.

In writing about the loss of a sense of faith in one essay he said, “Father Christmas was with us when the fairies departed; and please God he will still be with us when the gods return.”

Yes, in all modesty, I must admit that all the stories that have grown up around me help to keep alive the sense of wonder and magic, the belief in something that can’t be explained, even in a time when faith is treated as something embarrassing.

In one of his books he wrote, "Father Christmas is not an allegory of snow and holly; he is not merely the stuff called snow afterwards artificially given a human form, like a snow man. He is something that gives a new meaning to the white world and the evergreens, so that the snow itself seems to be warm rather than cold.”

Perhaps that is part of the magic. Not my magic, of course, but the magic of belief.

As for those who don’t believe, he wrote in one essay, “Personally, of course, I believe in Santa Claus; but it is a season of forgiveness, and I will forgive others for not doing so.”

How like the man. That spirit was one reason why even the people he debated respected and loved him. That is part of what would have made him a good Santa.

We met a couple of time. In one essay he described one of our conversations, though, of course, he changed some things around to suit his purpose. He had us meet in a toy shop and had me lamenting the modern world. The conversation actually took place during a meal in a tavern. And I seem to recall some of the lamenting was on his part.

I remember fondly the first time I met him as an adult.

I was in his home delivering gifts (some items for his toy theater), when he walked into the room. I sank back into the shadows, and he did not see me. Even if I hadn’t sunk into the shadows, I’m not sure he would have seen me anyway. As usual, he was lost in thought.

He stopped in the middle of the room, and said loudly, questioningly, “Slipper.”

I looked at his feet. Sure enough, he had only one slipper on.

“Slipper,” he said again.

Then suddenly he walked over to a tall bookcase and reached up to the top.

He brought down a slipper, and a book that had been under it, propped open.

He looked at the book, reading a little from the open page. He chuckled, then walked out of the room, slipper and book in hand.

I reminded him of the moment years later. He did not remember it.

But he did remember the toy theater items I brought.

Yes, Chesterton would have made a fine Santa.

Of course, given his absent-minded ways, who knows what gifts would have ended up where. Why if he was bringing a book to someone, he might have just sat down to read it, and when the children rushed down to open their gifts on Christmas morning they might have found him still sitting there, reading, and laughing out loud.

Very Santa-like image, I’d say.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Retire? Ho! Ho! Ho!

Over the years, I have been asked many times if I have ever thought about retiring.

I can honestly say I have not.

From the moment the Lord asked if I would undertake this ministry, until this very moment as I write, the thought has never crossed my mind.

Oh, there have been times when my heart has been heavy. But that has been because of all the sorrow and suffering I have seen in the world, and especially how they have touched the lives of children.

Rather than making me weary, however, those moment have filled me with renewed energy for my mission.

My task is to bring joy and laughter into the lives of all. By touching lives, I help to give people a sense of hope and comfort even in their darkest momements.

I share with them a taste of God's love - a love that led to that great Christmas gift given to the human race in a stable in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

Can you imagine anything more satisfying than reminding people of that gift each year? Why would I want to retire from that?

No, until the Lord tells me it's time to come home, I will be Santa Claus.

Besides, I like the cookies here!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Quotations 1

Over the years, friends have sent me quotations about Christmas – and me.

Some of the quotations are serious.

Some are sentimental.

Some are funny (especially when they poke fun at me!).

Here are a few:

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
------- Francis Church, editorial in the New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897, responding to a
letter from 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon

You know you're getting old, when Santa starts looking younger. – Robert Paul

What do you call people who are afraid of Santa Claus? Claustrophobic.
- Unknown

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind. - Mary Ellen Chase

I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.
--Charles Dickens, Ebeneezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Unexpected fireworks (part 2)

(Here’s the rest of the story about how the fireworks factory was destroyed.)

We went back to the top of the hill. The snow was swirling, making it hard to see below.

We started down the slope.

Elves were calling out all around me for the elves who’d been on the fire sleighs.

We came across one sleigh. It had been flipped over. I saw none of the elves who’d been on it.

“Hello,” I called out.

A mound of snow moved. An elf popped up his head.

“I think we’re too late,” he said.

I laughed as I helped him out. We found several other elves scattered about. They had been thrown by the blast. But except for a few scratches, and headaches, they were fine.

We continued to where the factory had stood. Here was a hole in the ice. It went down at least 30 feet.

“Will the ice break?” An elf asked.

“No,” I said. “It’s very thick here. Maybe at the bottom of the hole, but not up here.”

Elves were scurrying all around the rim of the hole, searching for signs of any elves who were hurt. Finally, Lefrast, the elf supervisor, came over to me.

“We were lucky,” he said. ”A few elves on the fire sleighs suffered some minor injuries, but no elf was seriously hurt. All the elves got out of the factory before it blew up. All elves have been accounted for.”

“But,” Nobli stammered, “has anyone seen the bear?”

The bear. Nobli had mentioned him when he burst into my office.

The bear. No other name was needed. We all referred to the North Polar Bear as “the bear.”

Now some of you may remember the North Polar Bear from the letters I wrote to the children of my dear friend J. R. R. Tolkien. That bear was the great-grandfather of our current North Polar Bear. But like his ancestor, our North Polar Bear is constantly getting into trouble.

“What happened?” I asked. “Where was he?”

“The bear came in to help,” Nobli said. “You know how much he likes sparklers.”

“About mid morning he went in to the dining hall for break. He had some marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers. He wanted to make s’mores. I told him that he would have to settle for just the ingredients because we allow no heat or cooking in the factory. The fireworks, you know.”
“Of course,” I said.

“Well, when break was over, we all went back to work. But then the fire alarm went off. I checked the panel and it said the fire was in the dining hall.

“I ordered everyone to get out of the building and to close the fire doors. Then I went to the cafeteria.

That bear had started a fire to make his s’mores. Right on a table! He had turned off the sprinklers so that his fire wouldn’t get put out. The flames had risen up and caught the ceiling on fire. I told him to get out, and looked around for a fire extinguisher. But then I saw that the flames were spreading too quickly, so I..”

He stopped.

I waited, then gently told him, “Go on.”

He wrapped his arms around me (as far as they would reach, anyway!) and sobbed.

“Oh, Santa. I ran. I didn’t save him. I’m a coward.”

“Nonsense. You got everyone out of the building. You warned the bear. There was nothing more you could do. I think you behaved very bravely.”

I gave him my handkerchief and he loudly blew his nose. He gradually stopped crying. Then he asked, “But what about the bear?”

Yes. The bear.

Search teams continued working until it got too dark – considering how short the days are in November that was not long. The snow continued to pour down. Ten inches since morning, and more on the way.

“All right,” I said. “That’s all we can do in this weather and in the dark. We’ll look again in the morning.”

We all trudged back to the village by lantern light. No one said anything. We were all thinking about the Polar Bear. Even if he did cause the problem, no one
wanted anything to happen to him.

All work had ended because of the explosion, so I went home. Mrs. Claus and I had a quiet dinner. We read for a while, then we went to bed.

I had a hard time getting to sleep. I kept thinking of the bear.

That’s when I smelled something.

Something smoky.

Now I knew I had put all my dirty clothes in the laundry room when I got home, so that wasn’t it. And I had taken a shower, so the smell wasn’t coming from me.

I sniffed.

“What is it?” Mrs. Claus asked.

“I smell smoke.”

“Oh, no,” she said. “Not another fire.”

“No, I don’t think so,”

I got out of bed and sniffed around the room. The smell got stronger as I neared the closet.

I suddenly remembered back to when he was a cub. Whenever the North Polar Bear got scared – or did something wrong – he would hide in the back of our big walk-in closet.

I opened the door and said softly, but firmly,” Come out.”

Some of my spare red suits and some of Mrs.’ Claus’ dresses shook.

“Don’t keep me waiting,” I said.

The bear peeked out from between the clothes. Then he slowly came out, his head hung low.

He was in pitiful shape. Most of his white hair had been singed off, so he was a mix of black from smoke and soot, and pink from skin showing through bald spots.

“I don’t know how you got out, but you are one lucky bear,” I said.

Tears rolled down his sooty cheeks, leaving streaks.

“But I’m glad to see you,” I added, gently patting his head.
He looked at me with a mixture of relief and guilt.

“Come on,” I said. “Let’s go see the vet.”

He was fine in a couple of days, though quite bald over much of his body. He had to wear a coat to go outside most of that winter. The hair didn’t grow back until almost spring.

And that’s how the fireworks factory blew up, and why we are building a new one.

I’ve already left one special instruction for the new factory. On the front door there will be a sign saying: NO BEARS ALLOWED.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Unexpected fireworks (part 1)

Another day of work on the new fireworks factory.

Perhaps it’s time to tell what happened to the old one.

Last November, the factory was working at capacity to produce all the poppers and sparklers we needed for Christmas. It was also making sky rockets for professionals (never for children!).

I remember the day of the fire.

I was checking some names on the naughty and nice list. It was snowing steadily outside. Six inches had fallen since morning.

Suddenly Nobli came bursting in to my office. He was black from the top of his pointed cap to the tip of his pointed shoes. Trials of smoke rose from him.

“My goodness, Nobli,” I said. “What happened?”

“The factory. Fire. That bear.” He stammered.

“Ring the bells,” I bellowed as I grabbed my coat.

Soon all the bells in the village were ringing. As I ran toward the fireworks factory, elves began flooding out of the other buildings.

“Get the fire equipment,” I called out. Several elves turned and ran to the fire house.

I heard the fire sleigh sirens as I neared the top of the hill above the factory. We had built the factory on the other side of the hill, away from the village, for safety reasons.

Smoke was pouring out of the roof, visible even in the steadily falling snow.

Nobli caught up with me, panting heavily.

Where did the fire start?” I asked.

“In (gasp) the (gasp) dining (gasp) hall,” he said.

“Looks like it spread. Are the fire doors sealed?”

“I sealed as many as I could,” Nobli gasped. “Then I ran for help.”

“Is everyone out?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’s bad,” I said.

By this time more elves had joined us. The fire sleighs were already sliding down the slope.

“We have to go down,” I said to the elves around me. “Not everyone might have gotten out!”

Just as we started down the hill, the factory blew up with a mighty explosion! We were knocked off our feet.

Then the rockets started flying all around.

“Run!” I yelled, scampering back up the hill.

I jumped over the top. All around elves were flying over the top as well.

Debris from the building and the exploded rockets began to rain down on us, even as more rockets were bursting in the air above us.

We waited until the explosions stopped and the biggest pieces of debris had fallen.

I looked up. The snow was falling black with ash.

“We have to go see if anyone was hurt,” I said to the elves around me.

(Oops. There’s the dinner bell. I’ll have to finish the story tomorrow!)

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

A delivery of special nature

Today I got a wonderful surprise.

I began my morning by working in the new fireworks factory. I started painting the walls.

There were a few other tasks around the village that kept me busy until late afternoon, then the mail plane arrived.

The mail is delivered here by a variety of bush pilots from different nations. They follow a special beacon signal to the village. We only start the signal when we receive a special code from the planes as they near the North Pole. Without our signal, it would be almost impossible to find our village.

Today’s pilot was Zbigniew Ting, of Canada, but originally of Russia. He is one of my favorite mail men.

“I am muchly full of joy seeing you,” Zbigniew said.

He then gave me a big hug.

“Oof!” I said. He is a big man who gives mighty hugs, especially when he is “muchly full of joy.”

The elves were unloading the mail sacks, when Zbigniew reached back into the plane and pulled out a large, brightly wrapped package.

“Delivery of special nature,” he said.

I looked at the return address. Olongapo, the Philippines.

I invited him up to the house for something warm to drink. I also knew he was dying to
know what was in the package.

Mrs. Claus was happy to see him, too. After some more hugs, we sat at the kitchen table and enjoyed some hot chocolate. Meanwhile, I took an envelope off the package. I opened it, and studied the short message inside, which was written in a neat hand.

“Dear Santa Claus,” the note read. “How are you? Every year people send you letters at Christmas time. Does anyone write the rest of the year? I just want to say I love you. Here is a Filipino treat I hope you like. Love, Angelina Alejandro.”

“Angelina Alejandro,” I mumbled. “Oh, yes, 10 years old. She has a pet parrot named Philippe who won’t keep quiet unless you give him something to eat.”

“I have moose like that who lives near my cabin,” Zbigniew said. “Sometimes I not sleeping at night with noise.”

I opened the package.

There were several coconuts in it, and several sealed containers. I opened one of the containers and sniffed.

“Calamay!” I exclaimed.

“Calamine?” Zbigniew asked. “You getting rash?”

“No,” Mrs. Claus said. “Calamay. It’s a wonderful Filipino dessert. It’s toasted ground rice cooked in coconut milk and sugar.”

I held up one of the coconuts. “And then you serve it in a coconut half shell.”

“With ginger tea to drink,” Mrs. Claus said. “And wouldn’t you know it, I have everything I need to make ginger tea.”

We invited Zbigniew to stay for dinner. After a wonderful meal, we had calamay for dessert, along with steaming cups of ginger tea.

“I am thinking,” Zbigniew said, “this Angelina is getting a stuffed stocking this year.”

“She was anyway,” I said “She’s a good girl.”

Then I had a second serving.

Though it’s six months early, “Maligayang Pasko! Angelina.” ( Merry Christmas!)

Monday, July 04, 2005

An ice cream surprise, and a joke

Happy 4th of July to the people of the United States.

Happy U.S. Friendship Day to the people of the Philippines.

I am a citizen of all nations, so I honor all the holidays in my own way.

Tomorrow, for example, will the Independence Day celebrations in Algeria, Cape Verde, and Venezuela, and Unity Day in Rwanda.

My greetings in advance to all the peoples of those lands.

Yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to Peri and Milla’s house, expecting an ice cream surprise. I got one, but not the one I expected.

The visit started off with us chatting about recent events, and the upcoming wedding of Peri’s nephew Alegas to Lotina in a couple of weeks. Then Peri brought out some ice cream to taste.

I was nervous – remember the cauliflower cheese? – but I took a spoonful.

It was good. Very good, in fact.

“What flavor is this?” I asked.

“Why don’t you ask the maker?” Peri replied. Then his oldest son, Peri junior came out of the kitchen.

“You created this?” I asked.

He smiled.

“It’s wonderful,” I said. “What flavor is it? It seems familiar. Yet it seems unfamiliar at the same time.”

“Strawberry banana split,” he said.

Well, we complimented him again and again.

I also congratulated Peri senior on having a child who seems destined to enter the family business.

Today, meanwhile, we were busy working on the new fireworks factory. How appropriate for the day the Americans set off fireworks for their Independence Day celebration. The last factory burned down last year (I’ll tell you more about that at a later date – and about a certain silly polar bear).

Some of the elves were busy putting up walls. I was in the basement, painting the new floors much of the morning.

When I went home for lunch, Mrs. Claus said it looked like I got more paint on me than on the floors!

After a good scrubbing, then a good lunch, it was off to the candy factory to meet with the fore-elves to talk about ways to increase production. Demand is increasing all around the world. But we also talked about ways to make the candy healthier. (Don’t worry, I talked them out of trying to make spinach candy canes for this Christmas!)

Between the meeting, and sampling a few of their candies, much of the afternoon was gone. I did stop at the post office on the way home to pick up some more letters. I worked on them until dinner time.

And now here it is nearly bed time.

You can’t imagine what it’s like going to bed while the sun is still shining so brightly, but that’s the way it is here at the North Pole in the summer. Sun 24-hours a day!

So I’m off to kitchen for a cup of hot chocolate and a couple of cookies (raisin molasses tonight), then it’s off to bed.

Oh, before I go, there was a joke Peri’s son Leg’lil told me:

“What do reindeer always say before telling you a joke?

This one will `sleigh’ you!”

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Sunday is a day for...cauliflower cheese ice cream?

Sunday is always a special day here at the North Pole.

We began today with church (remember, I was a bishop!).

Today’s readings contain one of my favorite lines in Christian Scripture: “”... for what you have hidden from the learned and clever you have revealed to the merest child.” (Matthew 11:25)

Ho! Ho! Don’t I know well how wise children can be.

Then we came home for a brunch. I did the cooking – to give my dear wife a chance to rest. And, to be honest, I like to cook.

Today’s menu: French toast, Canadian bacon, melon slices, fresh orange juice, and tea (for her) and coffee (for me).

I remember years past when the children were here. Oh, the piles of food! Pancakes stacked until they nearly reached the ceiling. Platters of eggs, all styles, steaming up the windows. Pitchers of juice and milk so large that you could swim in them.


Did I mention that I’m a bit of a storyteller?

Ah, but the children are long gone. And the grandchildren. And the great-grandchildren. And the…you get the idea.

Why, there are descendents of Mrs. Claus and me all around the world. Most of them don’t know that they can trace their family trees back to me (though a few suspect).

But I know who each and every one of them is. I keep an eye on them. Maybe you are one of them!

Sunday afternoons here are reserved for visiting families and friends, or just catching up on a hobby. This afternoon Mrs. Claus and I are stopping by the home of the head ice cream elf, Peri, and his darling wife, Milla, and their ten children. I suspect he wants me to try one of his new flavors (the last time it was cauliflower cheese!).

Following that, we will be home. Mrs. Claus plans to read a mystery novel she has nearly finished. I will be adding to my painting of a mountain where I lived many years ago. Then we will work on a puzzle together, and have a quiet dinner.

After all the bustle of the week, it’s nice to relax with loved ones.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A sunny quagnog day

It’s a beautiful day at the North Pole today.

The sun is breaking through the few clouds and the temperature is in the low 40s (F). Of course, at this time of the year, we have sunlight 24-hours a day.

It’s Saturday, a day to close the workshops and have some fun.

When the weather is like this, the elves like to play sports. Oh, they play all sorts of sports that I’ve encountered around the world – soccer, lacrosse, hockey, American football, cricket, baseball, and so on.

But the favorite game is quagnog.

I discovered quagnog about a century ago while visiting a fishing village in northern Russia. The fisherman there says they learned from Norwegian fisherman, who says they learned it from Canadian fisherman, who says they learned it from Native Americans.

Wherever it started, I taught it to the elves.

The game is simple.

There are two teams of usually 7, 9 or 11 players – fewer players and scoring becomes too easy, more and it becomes hard to score. (I do remember one marathon game that involved two teams of 37 players. It took two days for one team to win. Good thing we have long days in the summer!)

There are two goals, one for each team. The goals are round in shape about two feet across. They sit on a pole about three or four feet off the ground. They look like hand-held fishing nets with the handles stuck in the ground– which, in fact, what the first ones were.

There is one ball, just a little smaller than a basketball.

Players advance the ball by throwing it to a teammate. Once a player catches the ball, he or she is allowed to take two steps, but then has to stand still. Opponents can surround the player with the ball. They can try to bat the ball away or can try to block it when it is thrown. But they can’t touch the player with the ball. (Not that it doesn’t happen. A few elves have ended up in the infirmary because of intense games!)

Opponents can also try to catch the ball in mid-air when it is thrown, sometimes colliding with other players trying to catch the ball. Ever see a dozen elves lying on the ground in a heap?!

The teams score by throwing the ball through the goal. The first team to score 21 points wins.

There were several games today because of the nice weather. I watched the stable elves play the doll house elves. Cupid, who was feeling better, and Randall sat with me (he was feeling better, too), rooting for the stable elves.

I rooted for both sides (I can’t play favorites!), and the contest ended with both teams winning two games.


They would have played a tie-breaker, but the dinner bell rang.

We have priorities here!

Friday, July 01, 2005

A frightening flight

Hello again, my friends.

Well, our trip yesterday turned into an adventure!

Poor Cupid was not well enough to fly because of his tooth. Oh, he wanted to, and he snorted loudly when I told him he had to stay. But I explained to him his health was important, and that we could fly another time. He accepted that, but he was not happy.

I chose Rudolph’s cousin, Randall, to fly in Cupid’s place.

Now let me explain. Sometimes the reindeer are not well enough to fly at Christmas – I remember the year Dasher had the flu! – so there are several reindeer-in-waiting.

Randall is the newest. He’s actually been in training for several years, but hasn’t had a chance to fly with the number one team. I decided to give him a chance.

Oh, he was so proud when he stood with the team. He looked around to make sure all the elves and non-team reindeer were watching.

I got in the sleigh and called out, ”Dash away all!”

We rose and flew to Finland without any problems.

Finland is one of the places where I have a home.
My main home is the North Pole, but I have several other places around the world I call my homes as well.

Sometimes I use the other homes to find out what is happening in the world. (You never know when I am traveling about in disguise. The chubby bearded man you see at the store buying yogurt might just be me!)

Sometimes I just use them as places to get away for a vacation. One of my favorite places in the Adirondacks of New York where I can get in some fly fishing.

Finland is a special place for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that’s where I get my reindeer.

We landed in Finland after a short flight.

“Hello, Joulupukki,” said the head herdsman, using the name I am known by in Finland. “You have been away too long.”

(Joulopukki is just one of the many names I am known by around the world. The name I had before I became Santa was Nicholas, by the way.)

“Hello, Gustav. Yes, it has been too long.”

He gave me a hug. I am a big man, but I felt like a child in his arms.

“So Gustav,” I said, “I hear you have a few potential candidates.”

“Oh, several I think will most please you.”

He led me to the herds. Most of the reindeer were contentedly eating grass. But when they saw me, they all crowded the fence to greet me.

I had brought along my gift bag filled with carrots. I gave each of the reindeer one.

Then Gustav led me to another field. There were fewer reindeer here, and they were not just eating grass. They were running and jumping. When they saw me, they tried to jump even higher. Some almost took off – but not quite.

I rewarded them all with carrots, too.

We continued to another field. It was surrounded by a huge net that extended 100 feet into the air.

There were just a few reindeer here. Many of them rose up to the net at the top, then drifted down.

“My,” I said, “there are some fine fliers here.”

“Oh,” Gustav replied,” they can go a short distance, but none have flown far enough yet to join the team. That one, though,“ he said, pointing to a reindeer doing a somersault as he glided down, ”I have hopes for him. And that one over there napping. He flew 1,000 feet last week.”

“Impressive,” I said.

Gustav whistled. The reindeer approached the net. I gave them each a carrot.

Gustav then clucked, and told them all to leave except the two he had pointed out.

“Voltan and Walki, you know who this is,” he said, pointing to me.

Both reindeer bowed their heads.

“Do you think maybe you would like to move to the North Pole?”

They both snorted.

I entered the field and worked with the two of them for a while, giving them commands, watching them fly.

I rejoined Gustav. “Yes, they both have potential. I think you are right: it’s time for them to join the flock at the Pole for advanced training.”

At those words, the two reindeer leaped high and circled each other several times, snorting gleefully.

I laughed.

“Send them up next week,” I said.

Then we went back to the house where Frida, Gustav’s lovely wife, had prepared a wonderful meal.

I finally rejoined my team late in the afternoon. We were soon soaring high above
the Arctic Ocean.

Several of the team looked back at me questioningly, expectantly. Oh Rudolph. Oh Prancer. I should have been more cautious with a new reindeer in the team. But I gave in a shook the reins, calling for speed.

Soon we were racing across the sky. Faster and faster. I was laughing as the wind whipped my beard around.

That’s when the problem began.

To fly straight and smooth, the team must remain in stride. But poor Randall, unused to this speed, lost the rhythm. The sleigh began to shake. Before I could slow them down, we began to corkscrew in midair.

Oh my. If I had been carrying gifts, they would have been scattered far and wide. If I didn’t have a seatbelt (thank you my wife for insisting years ago!) I would have flown out of the sleigh.

As it was, that wonderful meal I had just eaten was not sitting well in my stomach!

“WHOA!” I bellowed. “WHOA!”

The sleigh shuddered and shook as we came to a halt. All the members of the team looked back at me with relief and fear in their eyes.

All except Randall.

We started up again and flew back at a slower pace. When we landed, I made sure the stable elves gave the reindeer a good rub down and some extra food.

Then I led Randall back to his stall.

His head hung low.

Occasionally, he shuddered involuntarily.

I began to brush him gently.

“I remember the first time I flew,” I said softly. “I was so full of excitement I started doing loops in the air at full sped. I ended up hanging upside down in a tree. It took Comet and Cupid forever to get me untangled.”

Randall cautiously looked at me.

“You know, for the first time going full-speed, you did a good job,” I said. “Ask Rudolph about the time we almost crashed when he got al the he traces tangled.”

He licked my hand. I smiled and stroked his head.

I went back to the fields this morning. Randall was with the other reindeer. He was fine.

I wonder what adventures I will face today. But I think I’ll wait a couple of days until I take Cupid out for a fly.

At least until after my stomach finally settles.

I begin

Santa has entered a new world: Blogdom.

My dear wife has suggested this to me many a time – including last week.

“People should know all that you do,” she said. “They think you just work at Christmas, then spend the rest of the year sitting around eating cookies.”

Ho! She is right about eating cookies year round.

But being Santa is a lot of work.

Why just today I had to visit the reindeer stables with the veterinarian elf (Cupid has a sore tooth), stop in at the factory before the research elves arrive to test some of the new toys they are developing (wait until you see what they’ve come up with!), answer several hundred letters, and shovel the walk. And that was all before breakfast.

By the way, I ate a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. No cookies before noon at this time of the year.

This afternoon I have to fly to Lapland to see some new reindeer candidates. The trip will give the team some good flying exercise, too. They tend to put on a few pounds in the off season – even without eating cookies.

Ah, the noon bell. Time for lunch – and a cookie!