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An Interview with Santa

12/20/01 12:00AM By Cheryl Hanna

Believe it or not, I talked with the jolly old elf himself last week. Yep, Santa Clause came to town, and granted Vermont Public Radio a rare interview.

Santa is an imposing man - so striking in his red suit. He is much taller in person than he appears on TV. There is something about him - he just exudes goodness and generosity. I swear he actually glows, in this magical sort of way. And talk about down to earth. He insisted I call him Santa rather than Mr. Clause.

After chatting about Mrs. Clause and the Reindeer, who are all doing exceptionally well, by the way, Santa and I got down to business.

"Well Santa," I began, "lots of our listeners are wondering what might be different about Christmas this year, since September 11th. Would you share your thoughts with us?"

Santa sat quietly for a moment and stroked his long white beard. Then he gave a thoughtful version of his signature chuckle.

"Hmm. Ho.Ho.Ho. Some things never change," he said. "Children still write me letters or come to see me asking for toys." He pulled out his list, which, rumor has it, is over a mile long when un-scrolled. This year, Play Station 2 and anything Harry Potter are in. War toys and G.I Joe are out. Rather than play games of destruction, it seems that kids these days prefer virtual reality, and a boy who uses his magic for doing good is their hero.

Easy Bake Ovens are hot too. This, to me, was a shocker. Santa had brought me an Easy Bake Oven many years ago. I had no idea that the elves were still making them. I guess some things never do change.

What else do kids want?

Puppies.

And peace.

Children are asking for world peace more than any other time that Santa can remember in recent years. He assured me that he is doing all that he can. "But Santa need everyone's help on that one," he emphasized.

Another difference: The North Pole Accounting Department hasn't run the numbers yet, but Santa suspects that children are asking for fewer gifts this year than last, and blames it on the economy. Santa's lucky. He has permanent job security, but many parents have been laid-off recently. As a result, kids are making conservative wish lists, and focusing on giving instead of getting. He calls it the silver lining of the economic downturn.

Despite, or maybe because of, these hard times, Santa is seeing a lot more family togetherness compared to previous years. It's usually just moms who bring the kids to visit with him, but this year, dads are coming too. And grandparents, and even teenagers, who have had a tendency to shun Santa when they reach a certain age. Santa is thrilled and hopes that we will all spend more time with those we love beyond the holiday season.

The biggest difference? Its not kids, but their parents. Grown-ups are being especially nice rather than naughty this year. No complaining or cutting in line or yelling at their kids for smearing candy cane all over their faces. This makes me so ho ho happy, he added.

Our time was almost up. "One last question, Santa. What do you want for Christmas this year?"

His eyes twinkled and, for a moment, I thought it might be from tears. Then he said, "You know, there is something that I would like very much. Every day between now and Christmas I want all children, big and small, to hug and kiss their moms and dads and tell them that they love them. That's what I want most this Christmas."

You heard it from Santa himself.

This is Cheryl Hanna. Thanks Santa, and Happy Holidays.

--Cheryl Hanna is a professor at Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont.


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