Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year

I have a little work to do tonight, so just a quick Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Other times, other faces

One of the things that people forget is that I don’t just deliver toys at Christmas.

I deliver on my feast day (December 6), and on the Feast of the Epiphany, as well as on Christmas.

And I don’t always deliver as “myself.”

Nor, for that matter, is the popular image of me in the United States even the real me!

Yes, I am overweight, but not nearly as overweight as I am picture. Why, one time when I worked briefly as “Santa Claus” at a store during one of my visits, I had to wear padding!

I have a beard, but not nearly as long as commonly shown. When I visit other lands I look “normal” enough not to draw notice.

I do wear red. I am a bishop, and the color is the color of my robes.

But I also wear other colors. I’ve even delivered wearing other colors. (My favorite was a green plaid outfit I wore a few times.

I am about 6 feet tall, not short as sometimes shown.

But more than just my clothes or appearance change.

I am Father Christmas, Baba Noel, Jultomten, and others – all with slightly different appearances.

I have been a child (even called the Christ Child, El Nino, in South America), a woman (Befana in Italy and Baboushka in Russia, and the Old Lady of Bethlehem, for example), and even Three Kings(!) in Spain.

All the gift giver stories come together in me.

I am me – the me my wife and the elves here at the North Pole see.

But around the world, people see what they believe.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Maintenance begins

On Christmas day I rested after getting back.

On Boxing Day I slept late. So did all the elves. Then we checked the gifts and the lists.

After that, we began to inspect the workshops.

You see, working full speed for months, things tend to get dirty, worn down, broken. In some of the workshops, equipment was being held together with duct tape the last few days!

So yesterday was spent taking things apart, cleaning, and repairing. This process will take a few weeks. We go slow. The pace here does not really pick up until summer.

No rush. We’ll soon have a list of parts that need to be replaced. Some we can do here. Some will be ordered and shipped.

I also have some more gifts to deliver. Some folks give gifts up through Epiphany.

But for some of those gifts, I go in different forms.

I’ll explain tomorrow.

Right now, I’ve got a doll head molding machine that needs some TLC!

Monday, December 26, 2005

Before I forget

Happy Boxing Day!

Happy feast of St. Stephen!

Happy first day of Hanukah!

Happy first day of Kwanzaa!

Another Christmas

It’s over for this year. (Well, except for the 12 days, and the feast of the Three Kings.)

The reindeer have all been cooled down, washed, rubbed, brushed, and fed. They are now snoring!

The elves have begun the cleaning and repair work on the sleigh. (Some roofs in need of repair resulted in some dings and snags. And then there was that flag pole in Bolivia I didn’t see until the last moment.)

The suit is in the laundry, waiting to be cleaned of soot, pine, cat and dog slobber (some of them are quite friendly when I pop in!), cookie crumbs and milk and hot chocolate dribbles (I have to work fast!), and some good, honest sweat.

The gift and list elves are checking to make sure that everything got delivered (sometimes we have to send a few items late because they got overlooked, or the lists came in too late for packing).

I have showered and changed. I have my comfy robe and slippers on. Ahh.

But no cookies or hot chocolate or milk today - Please!

I will relax. Read a little. Nap.

Tomorrow I get back to work.

After all: Christmas is just 364 days away!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

All is set!

Everything is packed. My bag is bulging with gifts.

The sleigh is polished. The runners waxed.

The reindeer have been fed, and brushed.

Their harnesses have all be softened and stretched.

The suit awaits.

Mrs. Claus and I will soon eat a light dinner.

After that, we will pray.


Sunday, December 18, 2005

In praise of Mrs. Claus

Mrs. Claus made me a wonderful lentil soup last night – with homemade bread.

It was just what I needed after a long day of work.

It’s just one week until Christmas. We are all working as fast as we can to finish are the toys and candy and other gifts. I have put in long days all week.

By last night, I was beat.

And then there was that bowl of soup and that still steaming bread.

Mrs. Claus is one of the miracles of the North Pole. I don’t know if Christmas would be the same without her.

I’m not just talking about cooking and taking care of the house and me – though she does a fine job of that. (Oh, by the way, I also cook, and do housework: It’s called “housework,” not woman’s work! Good boys share in the household chore.)

But Mrs. Claus does so much more.

Over the years she has help design and improve toys.

She has helped me deliver toys.

She works in some of the shops. At various times she has made and painted toys, knit clothing, operated candy cane machines, and so on.

When we had an elf flu outbreak a few years ago, she was one of the nurses in the hospital.

I could go on and on.

When we married, she became my partner in all ways.

She is one of the greatest gifts given me by the Lord.

By the way, when you write me letters – which I love to receive – she gets a smile when you say hello to her, too.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A poem from a friend

I have been so busy these last few weeks I've had no time to write. This past week alone we've been working every night until 10 or 11. We even worked today - normally a day for games.

The elves petitioned last week to work on Sunday. I said no. The Sabbath is a day for prayer, and rest, and family. Some worked anyway.

They asked again about working tomorrow. Again I said no. But I fear some will work.

My good friend Lee is working this year as a mall Santa. He's long dreamed of doing it. I am happy for him.

He sent me a poem about it:

A Mall Santa's Prayer

As I hold each precious child
let me treat each one
with the love and care I'd show
Your most holy Son.

How like him.

We should try to turn everything we do into an occasion for prayer. (Though, to be honest, I sometimes fail to do so. And they call me a saint. Ha!)

Friday, December 09, 2005

A cover that will work

Falling space debris. That’s how the Canadian government explained yesterday’s “close encounter” with three jets.

I am grateful for the help I get from contacts in various governments.

Canada. The United States. Norway. Sweden. Finland. Great Britain. Ireland. Russia.

They have all helped me in recent years to cover for mishaps.

A certain Canadian minister is going to get something extra nice in his stocking this year.

As for Rudolph’s nose, the research elves are busy trying to come up with a solution. The Canadian government can come up with a good cover for a spotted sleigh, but we haven't found one for that remarkable nose yet.

Poor Rudolph: His gift is also his curse!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A close call with the reindeer

Today we nearly had a disaster during the practice flight.

The reindeer as usual were full of energy and excitement

The stamped and pawed until we were able to race out of the stable.

We soared into the air far faster than we will be able to in 16 days.

The wind whipped around me. It was COLD (the reason I never deliver pets at Christmas. The poor creatures would freeze!)

Just at that moment, the wrapping around Rudolph’s nose worked loose.

As you know, his nose normally glows brightly. During these practice flights, he is always so excited it glows even brighter. Passing planes can easily spot us. So can spy satellites.

The wrapping flew away.

And just at that moment a military jet passed us by.

It turned. He had spotted us.

“Boys, we need to move!” I yelled.

Now, one of the things about my sleigh and my wonderful team is that we can fly faster than the fastest plane. That’s one of the reasons I am able to deliver gifts so quickly on Christmas Eve.

So we dove down toward the icy surface wreathed in the darkness the Arctic’ 24-hour night.

But as we dove, a second military jet streaked down toward us. And a third.

It was a patrol!

And there was Rudolph’s nose still glowing!

We swooped down to just a few feet above the ice. Then we sped away. I turned o look.

The tree jets were trailing far behind.

When we got back, I checked with the elves monitoring radio signals.

“Guess what,” he said with a mischievous smile. “There was a UFO spotted near the North Pole.”

I shook my head.

“Send a signal to the Canadians,” I said.

I had worked out arrangements with select people in the nations of the world and their military.

By tomorrow, there will be a report about a meteor falling, or an experimental missile, or some such story.

Thank the Lord it wasn’t a private flight or an airliners. Hose reports are harder to take care of.

As for Rudolph’s nose – I think the research elves need to come up with some new cover.

Too bad we can't just unscrew it light a light bulb - as they say in that comic version of Rudolph's song.

"... You would even say it glows (Like a light bulb!)..."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Getting closer to the big night

Snow today. Temperatures below freezing. No sunlight.

Still, good training weather for the reindeer.

I've taken them out on flights daily for the last week.

They are anxious.

So am I.

Christmas is just 18 days away. I fly in 17 days.

The elves are working frantically to finish all the last minute toys.

The Christmas lists are pouring in.

Mrs. Claus keeps telling me to get more sleep, that I need my rest to get ready for the big flight.

Of course, I'll never admit she's right - even if I did nod off during the daily meeting with the workshop supervisors!

17 days to get ready!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

My feast day

Today is my feast day.

Even after all these centuries, I’m still not used to saying that.

In the Catholic Church, we celebrate the day a believer enters eternal life, not the day he or she enters the world.

So today is the anniversary of my death.

But it is a day to celebrate. Without this day, I would not have experienced the eternal, and I would not now be Santa Claus.

I still remember when it happened.

I was old. Not old in the way I am now (more than 1700 years old!), but old in body.

I had a bad tooth that ached me for weeks. I had arthritis in both my knees and in my hands. I had a hard time walking first thing in the morning, and some days I could barely hold the cup at Mass.

Oh, none of this stopped me. I continued my duties right up until I became too ill to leave my bed.

That final illness lasted for weeks. I drifted in and out of consciousness.

When I was awake, I was often too tired to do more than a few simple things.

And I was never alone. People drifted in and out of my room. Sometimes I was very aware of them. Sometimes I was surprised.

Sometimes I was both moved byt their prayers and tears.

But, to be honest, sometimes I was annoyed. I just wanted silence. I wanted to rest.

Finally, On December 6, I felt at peace.

No more crying.

No more pain.

No more tiredness.

And I was suddenly full of energy. I rose from my bed.

I did not look back. Instead, I walked out the door into a garden.

There were children playing and laughing. I spotted a group of them gathered about a man sitting under a tree.

He was telling them a story. I approached, my heart racing.

He turned to me.

“I’m glad you could join us, Nicholas.”

“I am glad to be here.”

“I have been telling these children stories about you.”

“I hope they are the true ones.”

“Of course. But do you not know these little ones?”

I looked at the children. Some of them did look familiar.

“These are the young souls of some of the people you helped in your life,” Jesus said. They were hungry, and naked, and homeless, the abused and neglected of the world. And you touched them in so many ways.”

I began to cry.

“I am glad to see them here.”

“Oh, there are many more like these,” he said. “And there are so many more waiting to join them.”

“Of course, some of them might need some help. Help with keeping their hope, their joy, their sense of wonder alive. Such feelings are a taste of the eternal feast that awaits them.”

I said nothing.

“But sadly, in some that path to the eternal is closed by fear, and hurt, sorrow. You helped to reopen that path for many in your life.”

“I wish I could have done more.”

“You can.”

“How, Lord?”

“Some of the blessed spend time in the world. Angels, saints, holy ones.”

“Could I serve you in that way?”

He smiled.

“Of course. And because of your special connection to the young, you would be able to help them in so many ways.”

So it was. I was allowed to come back. And for some 1,700 years I have been serving the Lord in a special ministry to children. I help to keep the sense of heaven alive in them as long as possible.

I can go home any time I want. But this is where I belong for now. And every now and then, in prayer, in quiet moments, I go back to that garden full of laughing children and he who was the holy child that first Christmas.

What a gift!