CHRISTMAS IS TRADITION – OUR SPECIAL HOLIDAY INTERVIEW
Here is our holiday interview from the past – a tradition we like to share…
WALT: Imagine our surprise when Marie received confirmation to schedule an interview with Father Christmas himself. Frankly, I didn’t think she had that kind of pull, but apparently her reputation preceded her ( plus it didn’t hurt that her name is Good). So as our gift to all of our diligent poets, we present you with Marie’s interview. Thankfully, ’tis the time, and ’tis the season…
MARIE ELENA: ‘TIS HIMSELF!
SANTA: Ho, ho, ho … ‘tis indeed!
MARIE ELENA: I can’t believe it’s you! Honestly, I totally expected one of your helpers to stand in for you today. I just can’t thank you enough for taking time for this interview. I’m downright dizzy with delight! And where are my manners? I haven’t even introduced you. Oh, who am I kidding. You clearly do not need an introduction – just a warm, come-sit-with-me welcome!
SANTA: Marie, Marie – I say it twice, because on my list you’re very nice! Thank YOU for taking the time to give this jolly old soul the chance to chat. You make me feel like Old King Cole! Ho-ho-ho! And you are most welcome! I handle all interviews myself. I always take time to get to know those who hold Christmas dear. I guess that gives me an edge over your poetic partner. I got to see that smile in person. Walt, if you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend it!
But yes, we’re in full swing up here in Caribou Corners. I’ll bet you didn’t know that this little piece of Heaven had a name! The “North Pole” is really just a demarcation for the center of all this activity. Look around you! There’s an electricity to this place. Makes my heart glow even brighter!
MARIE ELENA: Oh by gosh, by golly – you learn something new every day! Obviously, this most-wonderful-time-of-the-year is the busiest season of all for you. How are the preparations going?
SANTA: After a well-deserved summer hiatus, my crew had kicked things into gear in mid-September. The shelves are filling rapidly and I couldn’t be more proud. We surpassed our quota by Thanksgiving Day (my SECOND favorite day, by the way). That’s the day that I start to seriously fill out my suit! But, we have added more seasonal workers this year. And since the season actually runs 365 days, that’s sort of a misnomer! But, we’ll be working right down to the last second. An eleventh-hour reprieve from Santa carries a lot of weight! But then again, SO DO I! HO-HO-HO! We’ll be ready. Will you be ready?
I don’t know why I’m the guy that
always works right to the point
of no return. It’s not that I yearn
for the excitement or challenge,
(although they do entice) it’s nice
to think that my efforts are rewarded,
by the smiles am I awarded.
But, I aim to please, for these are the times
that try my soul. I need to get it right,
right up to the night I take flight.
When I’m getting past the last details,
it never fails that I forget things in urgency,
(but, I always carry extras, in case of emergency).
And I hold this reverent spark tucked
into my parka that fuels me, drives me,
and keeps my ever loving heart pulsing.
Each child knows that an ember burns within them
every December, for as long as I remember,
they’ve made my job worth doing on that night.
Like I’ve said, I need to get it right,
right up to the night I take flight.
I don’t know why I’m the guy that
always works right up to the point
of no return. It’s just the way I roll.
Ready? No! But, I’m in control.
I am Santa Claus.
MARIE ELENA: You just gave away a little-known secret Walt and I have been privy to for a few years: You enjoy writing poetry. In fact, he and I have been quite impressed with your work. Others can find more of it at your blog, I Am Santa Claus (http://iamsantaclaus.wordpress.com/) So, Santa, please tell our readers what drew you to poetry. And will you please share with us one of your most beloved self-authored poems in your favorite poetry form?
SANTA: That’s so nice of you to say, Marie. Remember, I’ve had centuries to perfect our craft. Yet, I feel like I’m just starting to come into my own, poetically speaking. Poetry does have its allure, as you and Walt have come to find. It speaks to me in special ways. It’s like a great tag line from a heart-felt Christmas card. It warms you. Comforts you. I love rhyme and the way words and sounds take a melodic tone that I can’t stop reciting or repeating. Poems are Christmas Carols without the distracting background music!
My favorite poetic form would be the SASTINA. I’m aware that Walt (who is working up from being naughty) has an affinity for the SESTINA. Well, a SASTINA is just like a SESTINA, except they’re almost always about me, Santa. Besides, SASTINA is an anagram. Rearranged it reads: SANTA IS (shameless plug) <:o)>
One of my favorites? Hmmm…
(Another Santa Sestina)
Up on the housetops I stop and the man in red
heads down another chimney. All the imagery you believe,
will not deceive if you keep an open heart.
And for their part, the reindeer dance and prance above
and our labor of love continues. For it is the Magic of Christmas.
And from the North Pole to the Panama Isthmus, I, Santa
accept the mantle of the season, pleasing the way only Santa
can. This is my quest; the best promise ever read:
“To be a lasting symbol of the love this magical Christmas
time brings. All I ask is that you believe.
When you hear a jingle faintly up above,
know that I have seen the goodness in your heart.
And nestled in that and every heart
is the pulse of a true Santa,
this man whose reindeer fly to near and far up above.
If you truly feel the love, and you were bred
to be giving and compassionate, I believe
that you can be an Ambassador of Christmas.
We reach a little deeper at Christmas,
for it is within the fullness of our hearts
that we can find some magic in which to believe.
One needn’t be a jolly bearded Santa
to achieve it. If you believe it and look good in red,
it is said you will be blessed from above.
Up on the house tops, there above
the chimney I float in my red coat and enough Christmas
to fill your stockings and tread
softly with love and joy in my heart,
working the magic any good Santa
would to make you believe.
Do you? Do you believe?
Do you believe in my reindeer up above?
Do you believe in all that I, Santa
presents to the world each and every Christmas?
And will you carry that Christmas magic in your heart
as long as your blood flows bright red?
I only wear red so it would be easy for you to believe,
that I place a good and loving heart above material wealth.
Without Christmas, I would be at a loss. I am Santa Claus.
MARIE ELENA: Wow. A wonderful Sastina it is! (And between you and me, I’m working hard on that whole “Walt working up from being naughty” thing. It’s a tough job, but … well, you know …). 😉
My curiosity: Why crimson? (Not that you don’t look GREAT in it.)
SANTA: And who wouldn’t look great in it? I’ll explain…
CLOAKED: A CRIMSON MYSTERY
Maybe it’s just my nature.
My charade has made me one of the ones
who looks at every curse as a gift.
And I can always tell which ones are good;
it doesn’t take a detective to solve that mystery.
Failure would turn my face a vivid crimson;
the redder, the better. The fact is, I look good in crimson.
You can’t find this shade anywhere else in nature.
This veiled mystery
is a puzzle I can’t keep to myself. But, it’s not one
that even pure-hearts who are deemed as good
would receive as an unexpected gift.
For no matter what it is I give,
those worthy would want nothing more from this crimson
clad lad smelling of holly and living the good
life. I came from the same place as Mother Nature
and the furry Easter thing. Sorry to boast, I am loved by the little ones.
My identity remains a poorly kept mystery.
I bask in the glow of Borealis; another beautiful mystery.
Seeing this phenomenon daily is a blessing; a gift
never returned or re-gifted. Truly one
to share with all from the bottom of my crimson
heart. I’m a list maker by nature
and I constantly check to make it twice as good.
I can deal with bad, and I can appreciate how hard it is to be good.
I have a well-known history; it’s more myth than mystery.
These are the facts as they’ve always been. I love nature.
An excited smile is the best gift
that was ever given to this Crimson
Crusader! I’ve saved every one.
Each New Year has the potential to be one of the best ones.
It is a real joy to do this much for the sake of good.
From the snow-capped forest green, to this tunic most crimson,
my disguise does not lend itself to mystery.
If you truly trust me, maybe I’ll leave a special gift.
As I’ve stated, it is in my nature.
Human kindness is human nature. That’s rule number one.
Two: Every gift from the heart is especially good.
Three, is really no mystery. I am Santa Claus. Believe in the man in crimson!
MARIE ELENA: Most of the stories about you include elves, who supposedly help you make and distribute the toys. Is that just make-believe? Or do they really exist?
SANTA: Do they really exist? Am I Santa Claus? The key to your “make-believe” line is the “BELIEVE” part. The answer is a resounding YES to both questions. They may be small in stature, but no one’s heart is bigger than an elf’s. Their work is selfless and their dedication is flawless. There is no supposing in anything they do. Without them, Caribou Corners would be a very dreary place. Elves have great senses of humor and are indeed very cantankerous. But when that work chime intones, they’re all business! Their eyes sparkle and there is a determination that is life-confirming! And when an elf sings…well, there’s no sweeter sound in the world! Tannenbaum, my publicist (who is himself of elf descent), has this poem he uses to explain elves:
ELVES ‘R’ WEE
If you want to keep your knee caps,
“dwarves” aren’t what you call us chaps.
Small folk is a little vague,
like small pox was a little plague.
They call us elves, we fill the shops,
(a few are even traffic cops),
but mostly, we are proud toy makers,
and rather tasty cookie bakers.
We help Santa this time of season,
we need the work; he has his reasons.
Our craftsmanship is far superior,
although our height is quite inferior.
But he’s glad to have us on his team,
it’s exuberance that makes us beam.
If not for us, his job gets tougher.
We’re dedicated; not one a “slougher.”
Working hard to make your Christmas,
from up here on this merry isthmus.
In this place of endless joy
every single girl and boy
knows our legend. They love this time
and hold us in their hearts and minds.
We elves love children, as it is told
although we’re three hundred and six years old.
He is Santa Claus. We’re his elves.
We hold high opinions of ourselves.
So, watch your knees!
MARIE ELENA: Hahaha! Cute, mischievous little rascals!
A global Christmas Eve tradition is to leave a little something for Santa to munch on. So here’s your opportunity, Santa: What types of Christmas Eve snacks do you prefer? Should we continue leaving cookies and milk? Anything else?
SANTA: I’ll simply put it into verse:
I’M KOOKY FOR COOKIES
I have a confession
about my obsession,
I’m a connoisseur you see.
For throughout my travels
I just have to marvel
at the cookies left out for me.
Anzac Biscuits, Speculaas,
with a glass of skim milk are heavenly!
Danske Smakager, Pfeffernüsse,
keep me round and quite obüsse,
filling my parka, perfectly.
Torta Fregolotti and Biscotti,
Kolaczki and Krusczyki;
I eat them all because they’re free.
Nanaimo Bars, Kipferl,
Piparkakut all taste swell
and smell delicious, Golly Gee!
But, I love two cookies both the same,
for me, these two just sing my name.
say them aloud and you’d agree,
Kringlas and Fatt(ig)mann are named after me.
So now to take my Cookie Pause,
(I can because I am Santa Claus).
(Whispering) And I love a great chicken wing!
MARIE ELENA: I must say, that was simply awesome! Here – try a Pizzelle. It’s a lightly sweet, traditional Italian cookie that looks like a snowflake. Right up your alley.
Santa, you travel the entire world in one night, year after year. Do you have a spot dearest to your heart – someplace you’d like to linger, instead of rushing through like lightning?
SANTA: (Pauses contemplatively) There is this moment in my travels where a bright star appears and leads me to a place that is so peaceful and serene. The reindeer and I hover over this spot in reverence, because it is my preference to do so. In that precise moment, all war ceases, all children are protected, homeless mothers and their families are safe, and warm and well fed. No crimes are committed, and if you blink – you would miss it. If every day could hold just an hour of that, this world would be a more special place.
But then, Dorothy Gale expressed it the best: “There’s no place like home!” I love to travel to all the corners of the world. But doing it all in one night is essential. It means I get home faster. I and the Missus love a quiet Christmas day together. (Well, she and I and about 17,000 of our diminutive dependents!)
MARIE ELENA: “Diminutive dependents” – giggle, giggle. And speaking of “the Missus,” we know so little about Mrs. Claus. What can you tell us about her?
SANTA: Ah, Mrs. C is a very special lady! She doesn’t get enough credit for keeping this weary old Santa going year after year. She is my strength and my purpose. She is the spirit of Christmas personified.
HER STORY (IN PRAISE OF COLDER WOMEN)
Patiently she waits.
She knows I planned on going out;
I do every year. And it is here
that she waits. Her eyes still
twinkle after all this time
and I’m sure her smile will await me,
when I’m done globe trotting.
It’s not suspicion that keeps her
planted by the hearth; where else on earth
would she rather be? It keeps her as warm
as a big cozy hug, toasting her frigid toes
and melting her heart for my return.
The logs burn, and I yearn for my traveling
to cease, and desist this all night party.
This North Pole girl is hearty; she loves the cold
and this Jolly Old Man, doing all that she can
to keep me in this Christmas game.
She’s my missus; she calls me Mr. “C.”
But to me, she gives my heart great pause.
And it’s all because…I am Santa Claus.
MARIE ELENA: Without divulging any “must keep” secrets, how do you keep track of who has been naughty, and who has been nice?
SANTA: The speculation is that there is a BIG book and all the names are listed and I check off the good and scratch out the bad. There’s no real secret, Marie. iHave iList on my iTouch. There’s an “app” for that! But, there is a misconception about the whole naughty/nice debate. Every New Year you get a clean slate. Your conscience puts you on the list. The decision is yours to make. A clear conscience is nice; a guilty one, not so. There is a cumulative effect. And those who are habitually bad year after year are assigned to do infomercials for an eternity. My advice? You better be good for goodness sake!
MARIE ELENA: Speaking of naughty or nice, our little Sophia (who Walt lovingly refers to in the Polish “Zosia”) has been extraordinarily good, for a nearly two-year-old. Do you have something special in mind for her?
SANTA: An extraordinarily good, nearly two-year-old? Do they still make those? Well, I’m glad to hear it. How would Sophie look with pointy ears? They’re never too young to recruit, you know! Marie, I do have something special in mind for little Zosia Róża, but she’ll have to wait until Christmas morning, just like every one else!
MARIE ELENA: *sigh* I guess I better not pout. So, moving on, how did you get this gig? Do you think you’ll ever retire?
SANTA: An old classmate and friend, Marv Levy (former Buffalo Bills coach) used to have this saying, “When you start talking about retirement, you already have.” Being Père Noël is like being a Supreme Court Justice, but better. I’m Santa for life. I’ve been doing this bit for six-hundred some years myself; at this time of year, I am the final arbiter!
CLIMB ON UP HERE
…There came a time when my father
could no longer man Grandfather’s chair.
He had turned frail, and weak,
not a big man anymore. Not even
when he sat in the chair.
He called me to his bedside.
I came to stand near his feet,
searching his old steel blue eyes.
The twinkle had faded,
and his nose held his glasses aloft.
He gazed at me and said,
“Climb up here young man!”
And his smile shined upon my face
with me by his side, rumor has it.
My father didn’t have to ask
the age old question, he just said
“You’re a good man, son.”
At that moment I was glad that
some family traditions never
change over the years.
I nodded solemnly accepting
that I had become that.
“I need you to see what you can do!”
he said. Then, he’d roll
his head toward the candy jar,
I handed him a striped cane
and held one finger crossing my lips.
He knew what this meant,
I’d let him have one,
but he had to be quiet about it.
My Grandfather and Father handed down
the mantle which I have accepted gladly.
Coming from a long line of large men,
I was now a large man, quite jolly,
every time children would visit me,
I would be seated in Father’s… er, my chair.
It was a big chair for a big man.
The younglings would stand near my feet,
gazing up at my warm blue eyes.
They twinkled when I winked,
and my nose wrinkled when I’d think.
I would always say,
“Climb up here little one!”
And their smiles would light up
like Aurora Borealis, rumor has it.
And I always asked if they
were behaving themselves. That was
something everyone in my family
always asked over the years.
“Been good?” I’d size them up.
A shy nod came, leaving no doubt
that they had. “OK, I’ll take care of you”
I would always laugh. Then, I’d tilt
my head toward Grandpa’s old candy jar,
and hold two fingers across my lips.
This meant, take two and be quiet about it.
I am Santa Claus. Like my Father before me,
and his Father before him.
And that meant I could change the rules!
MARIE ELENA: Some say you and St. Nicholas are one-and-the-same. Is there truth to this rumor?
SANTA: Let’s look at the facts and you decide: St. Nicholas was a bishop in his church and was always depicted wearing red as a designation of such. Nicholas sported a long white beard and he always had gifts for the good children of the villages he would visit: coins, marbles, small toys, maybe pieces of fruit… a little something. The Dutch children couldn’t pronounce St. Nicholas’ name very well and the resulting sound ran together as Sinterklaas. He was a patron of children.
And me? I wear red and have a white beard. I bring gifts to the good children. My name is Santa Claus. If you said we were one and the same, you would be partially right in that I had patterned my life after St. Nicholas. But, he died in 343 AD. I’m just a jolly old guy who is still very much alive in the hearts of many.
MARIE ELENA: There seems to have been a severe secularization of this season. Forgive me if this is too controversial a question, but where do you think you fit into the celebration of the birth of Jesus?
SANTA: Ah, the Jesus question. First of all, I’m a true believer! And I always love when this question is asked – it’s as if people think Jesus and I are in competition for this whole Christmas scene. But, notice something: It’s not called Clausmas. It sounds trite, but He is the season’s reason. It is Christ’s celebration, and I am one of the heartiest of revelers in this cause. I have become a representative symbol of all that the Christ espoused. Love, charity, hope and the belief that good will eventually rule the day. And I believe each of us has the capability to do good. Some just need a little more faith to get it right. Say “Happy Chanukah” to me, and I will respond, “Why, thank you! And a Merry Christmas to you.” Wish me a “Happy Kwanzaa, and I’ll reply, “Indeed! And a Merry Christmas, too!” Say “Happy Holidays”… you get the picture. I am no less a believer in Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, or Festivus (if you’re so inclined). These are all wonderful celebrations. I mean no disrespect to any of these. But, promoting Christmas is my thing; my honor. I carry Christmas with me always.
(i carry christmas with me)
i carry christmas with me
(i carry it in my heart)
i am never without christmas
(anywhere i am christmas lives;
and whatever is done by me
is because of christmas)
i fear no reprisal
(for it is my choice)
i want no ridicule (for the beauty
of christmas has become my world)
and it is whatever
a child’s smile has always meant
and whatever melodic carol is sung
christmas will be within me.
here is my deepest secret nobody knows
(the birth of love is the cause of my joy
and the bounce in my step
and the feeling of heart
for a time called christmas;
which grows deeper than the soul can grasp
or mind can conceive) and it is this wonder
that’s keeping the spirit alive within me.
i carry christmas
(i carry it in my heart)
i am santa claus
***in tribute to “i carry your heart ~ e.e.cummings”
MARIE ELENA: So beautifully stated, sir. Just like you.
Now, as I ask all those I interview — if we could know only one thing about you, what would you tell us?
SANTA: The one thing I’d tell you is that there is never only one thing. I’m not as lively and quick as I used to be, but I hold my own. All of those surrogates you see out and about in department stores and street corners during December are personally appoved by me to carry that mantle. Reindeer really do fly and I’ve never fallen off of a roof. I’m very proud of that! My favorite Christmas song is “Believe” by that Groban kid; my favorite Christmas special would be the classic original – “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I always get choked up when Linus explains the season. He has it so right! But the most important fact you need to know and understand about me is this: There is most certainly a Santa Claus!
YES VIRGINIA, TOO!
Don’t always listen to your friends,
their opinions usually depend
only on what they can see.
We can be cynical in an age that
makes it easy to be, but belief in something
requires faith and a certain degree of trust.
It’s a must. Certainly, Santa Claus lives.
In the love that breeds a giving heart
and a dedicated spirit, you will find him.
Of course, the joy that exists in your life
and makes it a beautiful expression of love,
is due to the wonder that brought Santa to bear.
Sadness would fill the world; without Santa,
and would supplant love. A world without
you Virginia, would be as desperate.
Your trust in your parent’s love would die.
Romance too. And poetry would cease to ease
hearts and end the expression of the emotions of everyone.
I find agreement with all that Mr. Church had to say,
in his way, he was speaking on my behalf. It is pleasing
that in your question you have re-ignited the world.
Continue to believe in the spirit of Christmas.
Believe, although you may not see. It lives in you.
Fill your heart with the wonder of all you can grasp.
Question all you think you know, if it feeds your curiosity,
but no one can destroy the mantle of what we can not envision;
it breeds division and contempt, exempting a heart from the truth.
I believe in your loving ways as surely as I believe in Christmas.
It will live for an eternity in the souls of each man, woman and child
and bring smiles to my heart for as long as I am Santa Claus.
Yes Virginia, we can agree. There is indeed a Santa Claus. I am he.
SANTA: Thanks for the opportunity to catch my breath and share a bit of myself with your readers, Marie. But now I need to get back to work. Can I offer you a ride home?
MARIE ELENA: Really? Seriously? I’d like that! Let’s go!
Oh, wait. Will you please take a picture of us in your sleigh for Sophie? She’ll be so excited!
SANTA: Ho, ho, ho! Smile, and…
AWAY WE GO!
Climb aboard, it’s time to go,
over the white and glistening snow
with one quick stop in Buffalo
before we head for Toledo.
Hang on tight, it takes one night
to complete this very special flight,
up here where all the stars are bright
on this Merry Christmas night.
It gets breezy, and it is easy
for your stomach to get queasy,
and your nose to get all sneezy.
Bundle up or else you’ll freeze, see?
Over oceans we will fly
in this frigid winter sky,
the view below will make you sigh,
I’ll bet you’ve never been this high.
Feel the wind blow through your hair,
Can you smell what’s in the air?
It’s a scent I love to share.
That’s the smell of Christmas there!
So Dear Marie, the time has come
for this Sprite to take you home,
then head back where the reindeer roam
and write another Christmas poem.
The moon is bright, all through the night;
the sound of your name, just feels right.
So I’ll exclaim as I fly out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all and to Marie, a Good night!
AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Glædelig Jul, Maligayang Pasko!, Shub Naya Baras, Joyeux Noel, Fröhliche Weihnachten, Sarbatori vesele, Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom, Feliz Natal, IL-Milied It-tajjeb, Selamat Hari Natal, Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia, God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År, Buone Feste Natalizie, Milad Majid, Merry Keshmish, Nollaig Chridheil dhuibh
(Danish, Philippine, Hindi, French, German, Rumanian,
Russian, Brazilian, Maltese, Indonesian,
Polish, Swedish, Italian, Arabic,
Navajo, Scots Gaelic)