I love this article on Father Christmas, whom Americans refer to as Santa, and the fact that children around the globe still write letters to him addressed to the North Pole (which land in a post office in Rovaniemi, Finland). Around this time of year, this post office receives as many as 30,000 letters a day, and as the articles states, it is the responsibility of the elves “to sort and reply to some of the 550,000 letters that arrive each year.”
As I read of this operation, it brought back a rush of childhood memories: the expectation and exhilaration of asking and receiving gifts on Christmas, but also that sense of suspense and mystery. Although as a child I had created my laundry list of gifts I hoped to get (itemized by importance, of course), I was never quite sure what would end up under the tree. Also, there was the mystery of presence. Who exactly did arrive at night while I was sleeping and neatly arranged festively wrapped packages under the tree? It’s hard for a kid to imagine, but does the world as we know it exist in the same way when our eyes are closed and we’re out of consciousness at night?
As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand that this childhood question and intrigue into the mystery and suspense of wonder, inquiry, and presence continues on into adulthood. We’re just not honest about it. We’ve been taught that those questions are naïve and the mark of a substandard education. We would never want to betray that there’s pleasure and fulfillment in the idea that there’s a Father Christmas out there that would actually stoop to listen to the greedy requests of children, and yes, even actually answer them back. (Even if that child does just send him an itemized list of wants and needs.) Could Father Christmas be so gracious to answer that child anyway?