Dear Santa, Do you have any beard-care tips? Hector F., Lewiston, ME
This year my beard is entirely ornamental. I'm not the first woman to serve in the role of Santa Claus, but it is my first time. And I'm very excited. Santa's beard does serve some very practical purposes. Traveling 500 miles an hour, it helps keep the wind and the snow off the lips. Other women and some beardless men have served as Santa over the years. And so we've created some special ways to treat disembodied beards. My favorite is soaking it in egg nog, to give it a kind of vanilla smell from the inside. Orange peels and cinnamon also lend a pleasant halo and glow. With any beard, you have to wear it past the point that it is itchy until you just stop noticing it. And I've been practicing wearing it around. Mrs. Claus, my Mrs. Claus, is very amused by it and doesn't mind me sleeping with it on. I want the beard to become an extension of me. It's ceremonial, a proud tradition. And I intend to enjoy and to relish every part of being Santa Claus this year.
Santa, What are your favorite holiday movies? And/or, do you have one particular favorite? Margot J., Pocatello, ID
We always watch It's a Wonderful Life and A Charlie Brown Christmas as we are filling the sleigh. It's pleasant to think about George Bailey and his family while we're making all the last minute arrangements, getting everything to fit just right. George has such an effect on the people he cares about, and that's nice to think about. That's the whole spirit of the Nice List. When we really care about each other, we can make our lives wonderful. And the lives of others. Although Clarence the Angel is my favorite. I have met a few angels myself and they are just as lovable as he. Charlie Brown has such a wonderful quality about him. He's very hopeful, always striving to make things better for himself and his friends. Linus always makes me a little misty, with his fine reading of The Gospel of Luke. He truly does know what Christmas is all about. Not just the birth of the savior. That the Earth could become more peaceful because the birth of a very special child. I can't imagine being one of those shepherds who was approached by first an angel and then a multitude!
Dear Santa, How do you feel about Amazon? And Amazon Prime, and the potential Amazon drones, and all of that? Brian B., Walla Walla, WA
We've seen the Amazon drones in action. Mr. Bezos visited the North Pole and was concerned that these machines might somehow effect our deliveries. It is a very interesting technology and we're not worried about how the sleigh will avoid these mechanisms. The sleigh is able to avoid all kinds of anti-aircraft weapons and also birds, planes and weather balloons. We sometimes order from Amazon.com ourselves. I recently received an old leather copy of the Ancrene Wisse. Also, I have a Kindle. It's a very nice device, and sometimes a little more portable than some obscure leather-bound volume. But we generally prefer to deliver things the old-fashioned way. Give me a little magic and a few very strong and fast reindeer. When Amazon figures out how to break into everyone's homes in the middle of the night, eat some cookies and escape undetected, we may feel a little nervous.
Dear Santa, Will you please put someone who would love me and who I would love under the Christmas tree? I will make sure to open it right away!! Eunice C., Boston
Yes, I will. We have done this in the past. It is a little disruptive to the life of the person who ends up under the Christmas tree. Imagine waking up in wrapping paper in someone else's house on Christmas morning! Someone you might love almost instantly! It's a fine story to someday tell the grandchildren. We also might just nudge someone your way, if we think that might be a better option. Maybe you will accidentally receive a package for them. Perhaps their car will be stuck in a snowbank and you will happen by and help push them out. There is so much love all around us, so many people who are good and who just want to love and be loved! But this year, you will find this love! You've been very good and you really deserve it. Please, be good to each other! For your future grandchildren's sake!
Dear Santa, Based on your experience, what would be some gift-giving tips? Is it weird that people don't really want the old-fashioned cartoon-style toys anymore? (Like in old pictures of you, where you have, like, rocking chairs and building blocks in your bag.) Although maybe that's crazy because people still want those, they just come in more-elaborate packaging, etc. But I guess ... what is it like delivering so many iPads, etc. Also, do you have children? Sorry that was kind of all over the place. Jeff M., Albuquerque
Every generation finds their own gifts to give. And although rocking chairs and building blocks may come back into vogue soon, we're just happy to give people the things they like. I am excited about all of the technology people have requested. It's all so interesting. Some of it our elves have learned to build. And, trust me, they don't just want to create rocking chairs and building blocks all the time. Although they are very good at those, too.
Mrs. Claus and I have decided to adopt our first child together this year, just after Christmas. His name is Jovie and his parents were victims of a terrible earthquake. We're making the final preparations to make everything official and to all live together in the North Pole before the end of the year. We couldn't be happier! Mrs. Claus and I have both had trouble conceiving for different reasons, and when we received Jovie's letter to Santa this year it touched us both tremendously. His spirit is so ebullient, even though he has lost so much at such a young age. We know that Jovie could help us, and that we could help him. We're very excited!
Santa, What's the best present you got recently? What are you getting Mrs. Claus this year? Nadege B., Washington D.C.
The best present I got recently was the return of our beloved Reindeer Master Hubert. He's such a wonderful fixture here in the North Pole, such a delightful character. Imagine how frustrating it must be to teach reindeer to fly. Or to make them understand, once they do know how to fly, that they all have to fly in the same direction as a team. Hubert is so gentle with the deer, he cares for them all when they are injured or sick. And he had become so sick himself that he needed a bone marrow transplant. It's such a terrible feeling to not have been able to help him in some magical kind of way. It wasn't our magic that could help. Thankfully an elf match was identified and Hubert's recovery has brought him back to health and to his work with the reindeer. I was so heartsick about Hubert, and so worried that we might have to go on without him. We prayed every night that he might get better. That was a wonderful gift this year. The best gift I can think of. Sometimes the people we love do get better! Prayers do get answered, too.
I struggled with what to get Mrs. Claus this Christmas. She is impossible to shop for. I try to keep my ears open. And, as you know, I am usually very good at selecting presents for people. I love Mrs. Claus so much that I tend to overdo things a bit. Last year I got her a very nice gold curio I thought she had wanted. But she barely wears it. I think she's afraid it will fall somewhere in the snow and be lost. She tends to be a simple and humble person who really likes giving things to others. And who feels guilty when people make too much of a fuss. But we're starting a family together, and I wanted to give her something that would remind her of the life we had before our first child, which has been very happy, too. So I found her a French horn. She used to play wonderfully, and had given up the horn because she thought she didn't have enough time to devote to it. That our lives now were all about giving to others. And our lives are about that. But I do love to hear her play it! I have missed hearing her practice. I love how she closes her eyes, how her long fingers sweetly tap the valves. She seems so at peace when she plays. Giving her the French horn is a little promise from me. That although we're both very busy with our jobs and will be very busy with our son, that I will help her so she has enough time to play the horn. That, in our new life as a bigger family, she will have enough time to be herself! I hope she will like this gift!
Santa, Saaannnnntttaaaaaaaaaa, What do I get my mom for Christmas? I don't really want to get her anything, because it's just stuffff and I can't think of anything actually good, and we're both adults, and I guess I like giving her gifts as they come to me at any point in the year, but she'd be so sad if I don't have something, so obviously I will have something. But what! TV-show DVDs are usually good options. Although I feel like I already got her all the ones I can vouch for. She also gets frustrated when I tell her I don't want anything, which I understand, but also I really don't want anything! Whenever I want something I just buy it for myself online. I don't know, maybe this is a dumb question! Luisa F., New York City
Knowing your mother as I do, I feel like you've gotten her some pretty wonderful things over the years. She might like shows you wouldn't have considered. "Game of Thrones" is quite good, if a bit bloody. We've been working our way through "Deadwood" finally, how had we never watched that? But part of what makes a gift a wonderful thing is your thought that goes into it. That you wanted to give her something makes it more precious than if she bought it for herself on the internet. Although buying things for ourselves can be fun, too, in a different way. Don't over-think it too much! Do the best you can! Whatever you give her will remind her of you. She'll think about how proud she is of you when she sees it. It will be a little excuse for her smile to herself about you even though you're far away.
For yourself, ask for ice skates. You really skate wonderfully. And it's not something you will buy for yourself on the internet, even though skating makes you feel so alive. When you see your skates, you will think about how your mom taught you to skate, held your hands patiently and helped you keep your balance. You will be skating in Bryant Park under the stars. Wind through your hair. Gliding across the beautiful ice. Without a care in the world. Thinking a little about your mom and how much you love her. Also, I think hot chocolate just tastes better when you have skates on. But I'm not sure why. Maybe it is the tightness of the laces. Skates are completely impractical for a city person. They need to be hung during the summer and sharpened during the winter. They are the thing you wouldn't buy yourself, but you might always remember getting. Thinking to yourself, my mom bought me those skates. And I love my mom.
Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, and wishes you all Happy Holidays.