Claus, who are you to judge who's naughty or nice? Sabrina Q., San Diego, CA
I don't enjoy judging any child. We agonize over the lists. So much time and argument goes into their creation. We definitely give kids the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes I wish we'd do away with them entirely and focus on other issues. But it is a tradition, and we've gotten more just over the years identifying True Niceness as opposed to Disguised Naughtiness. Most of our List work is statistical, creating ranges. Identifying behavioral trends. We can keep track of all acts of naughtiness and niceness. In the cases of tiebreakers, we send a test and see how the kids do. We try to gather as much intel as we can and make the most informed decision we can. I'll never be satisfied as long as one Nice child is misidentified as Naughty. And sometimes the thing a Naughty kid needs the most is a really smart gift. There is a Nice Kid in us all.
Dear Santa, Why do you put things in stockings instead of bags? Luke M., Kansas City, MO
We tried bags. But there's something about a stocking that hides the shape of presents better, makes it all a little more magical. Bags are functional. I have nothing against bags. When you reach into a stocking it is a little awkward. Your hand is snaking into it, scooping things out. There's something more intimate about it. If we just had bags that said Steve and Mary on it, I don't know. People create most of the traditions we try to follow. And everyone's family has their own traditions. If everyone decided to switch to bags, we could try it.
Dear Santa, Do you ever dream it's Christmas when it isn't? Or, do you have Christmas anxiety dreams? Like you're pulling the sleigh and you turn around to make sure the toys are still there, but it's empty? Maddy H., Zanesville, OH
Yes, I often dream about Christmas. We spend the whole year planning for a few days. I dream a lot about flying with the reindeer. On Christmas Eve, we're in such a rush, on such a tight schedule. But flying is so exciting. I hope it never becomes old hat for me. I have some anxiety dreams, too. We want to get it all just right. But you can't. Sometimes you make mistakes. We have long-term relationships with most children. And can make it right down the road. I have this one dream that haunts me. I've upset a little German girl with a present, just completely blown it. And she's not crying, she just looks at me with such disappointment. I can't forget that face. That's what I think about when we get complacent and sloppy. That's what wakes me up. We just want every child who's good to feel special on Christmas.
Santa, You mentioned having a boss — who is your boss? Isabel Y., Moundville, AL
First there's the Christmas Council, which is made up of former Santas, benefactors, a few children, and some special friends. There is the Speaker of the Spirit, whose job it is to interpret our mission and keep the history. The lists all have devoted staffs. Just because you're driving the sleigh doesn't mean you're the boss. It's a worldwide operation, and we all play our roles. I wouldn't have it any other way. It wasn't always so democratic. But for me the more voices included, the better.
Santa: I wish for my really expensive ZOOM tooth-whitening procedure to have lasted for more than two months. It was so expensive I'm not even going to say how much it was, although you could probably look it up if you wanted. But DON'T! Carol I., Milwaukee, WI
I like your smile the way it is, Carol. I'm sorry you're disappointed with the procedure. But the rest of us probably aren't any wiser. You don't have to worry about the little things about your appearance. The people who like you like you. Not-so-white teeth and all.
Santa, There is something that I need the willpower to stop doing in 2012. Can you help give me that in some way? Mark P., Jupiter, FL
Yes. Sometimes it helps to surrender to a higher power. I am not personally a higher power, but the Spirit of Christmas is. Be nice! Help people! Give things anonymously! It will make you feel pretty good. It is hard to make changes in our lives. I quit smoking almost a decade ago. It's difficult! I still think about it. And I sometimes miss the crutch. But I sometimes take a nice big breath of Polar air. Or smell the pines in the morning. And am proud of myself for keeping up with it. Lots of people rely on me and I want to stay healthy so I can be there for them. And you are strong, too.
Santa, This is probably beyond your reach, but can you bring my mom a boyfriend? She's 65, she's a nut, she's been single for a long time. She's totally cute, but like I said she's nuts. In a good way, sometimes. (Sometimes.) Gloria D., Tacoma, WA
Of course I know your mother. I think children generally think their parents are a little off and vice versa. It's only natural. Dating brings up a host of other issues. Having a special someone in our lives is never THE big answer. But I actually know a few bachelors in her area. I don't make matches, that's Cupid's thing. But I'm happy to see what I can do. What you can do for me is love your mom. She's the only mother you're ever going to have. Time is so short. Enjoy her! And try to remember the good times.
Dear St. Nick! What's your favorite Christmas movie? Did you read Bobby Finger's piece on Love Actually? Dwayne A., Pueblo, CO
I haven't seen Love Actually, and I didn't read the post after the jump because I didn't want to spoil it for myself. He seemed pretty conflicted about it, so I'm curious about it now but also a little apprehensive. It's a Wonderful Life is usually on when we're loading the sleigh. There's an elf who does this unbelievable Jimmy Stewart. It is just spot-on. I like Miracle on 34th St., too. Macy's is still one of my absolute favorite stores. The wood escalators! For many years we watched a Canadian movie called Jesus of Montreal during the holidays. Not exactly a holiday movie per se. But for some reason it always got us in the spirit. Scrooged is underrated.
Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, and wishes you all Happy Holidays.
Photo by Morgan Lane Photography, via Shutterstock