Hmmmm, well the story begins, like all good stories do, a long, long time ago in a place that few people ever visit. If you were to go there, you would have to plan very well. You might have to pack a gazillion lunches just to eat along the way. Why from your front door, you would have to travel down the street and across the town and head north. From where you sit right now, well this place is at the tippy top of the world. It is a place where snow flies every day and the word heard most often is “BRRRRR”.
That’s right, this story begins all the way up to the North Pole.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard different stories about elves and reindeer and a Grinch and Charlie Brown. You’ve even seen pictures of Santa Claus and his sleigh. Come to think of it, you may have even sat on Santa’s lap and had your picture taken. He tries to get around to every shopping center and mall and store to see your smiling faces. I bet some of you even have an Elf sitting right in your house, making sure that you are being good.
Most of you never ask…..Where did Santa come from?" Oh, you might wonder or maybe you have whispered to mom or dad or a friend “Why does Santa do this?”. "Where is he after Christmas?" "Why does he always come on the same day, every year?"
Santa is a mystery, isn’t he? I don’t think I know anybody else that wears a red suit. And I have never actually seen reindeer fly through the sky. I’ll bet you have not seen that either. And every picture I see of Santa, well he just has one big bag of toys and presents. How can one bag hold presents for everybody in the whole wide world? It must be some sort of magic.
The answer is found in the story.
Many, many, many, many years ago, almost all the calendars you can find, Santa Claus lived in a tiny little cottage right smack dab in the middle of the North Pole. He was born there. He came from a secret town just outside the North Pole. He had grown up in that secret town. It was sort of a sad place. The mayor of the town was a grumpy man. He made a rule – there will be no celebrations, ever.
There will be no New Year’s Eve and no New Year’s Day. No Valentine’s Day, No Mother’s Day. No Father’s Day, No Fourth of July, No Thanksgiving…No celebrating the change of seasons, no Spring, no Summer, no Fall and no Winter…..and the final rule …. NO Birthdays. Not one, not some, not any….NONE.
Santa grew up in that very sad part of town. He was a toy maker in a town where no one bought any toys. He had a little workshop on the edge of town. He would cut wood and bend steel and shape plastic. He made bicycles and sleds and dolls and balls. He made all sorts of toys. And every night he would sit on a bench in front of his workshop and wonder, what will I ever do with these toys?
It was hard work, but Santa knew that one day the grumpy mayor would not be in charge and everyone could celebrate holidays again. He just knew that to be true.
It was a chilly afternoon, the snow was blowing outside and Santa took a break to watch the snowflakes fall. He thought snow made the whole world look magical. As he was looking out the window, he noticed a group of small figures huddled under a great big pine tree. They were shivering and warming their hands by a little fire they had made with twigs and branches.
Santa opened his door and called out, “Come inside and warm yourself by my fire. I will put some hot chocolate on the stove. Come in, come in.’
Santa turned and put a pot of hot chocolate on his stove. He heard the commotion of little feet coming through his door. When he looked to see who his visitors were, his eyes opened wide with wonder. Standing by his fireplace was a group of little people. Elves if you will. They were shivering and their teeth were chattering. They stood in puddles made by the ice melting from their clothes.
“Goodness, why were you all out in that storm?”, Santa asked.
One of the elves looked up at him and said, “Don’t you know. We are not like all the others in town. We are smaller and people in town are so much taller. They laugh at us and make fun of us. They won’t let us work or play. It is very hard being a tiny elf in a big person world. So we just gather twigs for people so they can start fires. Some of us climb down in wells and save kittens that have fallen in. Then some of us hunt in tiny spaces for socks that get lost in the wash. We do what we can, but people still make fun of us. It is very hard being a tiny elf in a big person world. Only the children are nice to us, but as you know, children grow up and become big people too.”
Santa rubbed the beard on his chin. “Well, I sure could use some help around here in my workshop. Would you like to learn how to make toys and other presents? We could build a little house next to the workshop and you would have a place to stay and your own fire to keep you warm?”
The elves all got excited and began to clap their hands. The head elf put up his tine hand and shushed them. “Shhhhhh. Let’s calm down. We have a place to stay, it is a glorious day, but we don’t want the mayor to catch us celebrating. You know, all celebrations are illegal!”
That night, the elves all slept on the floor in front of the fire. Santa laid in his bed, a smile on his face. Tomorrow would be a grand day.
As soon as the sun rose the next morning, Santa and the elves went to work building the house. They hammered and sawed and hammered some more. Soon, a fine looking house came into shape. There was a kitchen for cooking and a dining room with a table large enough that everyone had a seat and a gigantic workshop where they could make toys.
Within a short period of time, the elves were making toys from morning to night.
One afternoon, Santa came to their workshop and told the elf by the door, “I have a special announcement to make, can you get the elves attention please?”. The elf reached down and picked up a bright brass trumpet he had made and blew into it.
“Ba-baaaaaaaaaah. Ba-baaaaaah”. All the elves stopped what they were doing an looked to the door. Santa waited until it was very quiet. He turned an opened the door and in walked the most beautiful woman any of the elves had ever seen. Her smile was radiant. Her eyes sparkled. She was wearing a white sweater and a wonderful satin red skirt trimmed in fur as white as the snow. She was just beautiful.
“Elves, I want to introduce to you my wife, this is Maria Claus. We were just married by that grumpy mayor. She will be living with me in the cottage. Now we know celebrations are against the law, but we came here right away to share the good news with you. Finally, we have someone to tuck us in at night and someone to make sure we make our bed and brush our teeth. And, Mrs. Claus is a much better cook than I.”
The elves all smiled and nodded their heads. They couldn’t clap and cheer, but their hearts were happy.
Things went on and toys were made and toys were stored. Over time, the elves had to build a large barn to store all the toys. They kept making them, but no one had a reason to give them away. The first barn was filled up and another was built and then another and another and another.
One evening, while Santa and elves were eating a fine dinner Mrs. Claus had made, there was a knock at the door.
“Who could be calling on us this late in the evening”, Santa asked out loud. The elves looked at one another and shrugged their shoulders. Not one of them could imagine who might be at the door. No one ever came to the workshop. No one ever needed toys. Remember, no birthdays were allowed. NO Birthdays. Not one, not some, not any….NONE. There was no time for toys to be given.
Mrs. Claus opened the door and invited the guest inside. The elves eyes grew wide. Two men entered the room. They were wearing fine flowing robes and each one had a golden crown on his head. They had long beards. One of the men sort of looked like an eskimo and the other had skin as dark as the darkest night. As they walked by the elves to the fire, the air filled with the sweet smell of incense and myrrh.
Santa waited while the two men warmed themselves by the fire.
“Good evening to you. Please, once you have warmed yourselves, join us for dinner. My wife, Mrs. Claus has prepared a delicious stew and we have more than enough to share with you.”
The two strangers set down the boxes they were carrying and hung their robes by the fire. The came over to the table and sat down. Two of the elves rushed over to the cabinet and got down a couple more bowls and set them before the guests.
Mrs. Claus brought the pot of stew from the stove and served each of the men a full bowl. “It is such a cold night, what brings you to our home?”
One of the men spoke. “He and I are kings”, he said, pointing to his companion. “We have been travelling for weeks and months now. We were told of the upcoming birth of a very special baby. It was written that his birth would bring peace on earth and good will to all men. We spoke with our council of advisors. They told us that a bright star would appear in the sky. We should follow that star and it would lead us to the birthplace of this child. We have Frankincense and Myrrh to bring as gifts to the new born. We have been following the bright star over your cottage. It led us to your door. Is there a newborn child here?”
Santa looked at Mrs. Claus and she looked back at him. They both slowly shook their heads.
“Why no, we don’t know of any special baby being born and as you can see, it is only us and the elves here. Your advisors must be mistaken. The bright star overhead is the North Star. This is the North Pole. People here have used that star to find their way home forever. It always shines overhead.”
The two kings began whispering to one another. They pulled out a map and in hushed tones began discussing where they may have missed a turn. They kept shaking their heads.
“No, our advisors checked and double checked the story. A star would shine and we should follow that star. We would find a newborn baby, and the world would celebrate.”
“Well”, Santa said, “that cannot be here. Celebrations are not allowed. The mayor made the rule. No celebrations. No holidays. No Celebrations. NO Birthdays. Not one, not some, not any….NONE”.
The smallest of the elves jumped from his seat at the table and ran over to Santa. He motioned for Santa to lean over so he could whisper in his ear.
“Wspwspwsp, wspwspwspwsp, wspwspwsp.”
The elf pointed to the window on the east side of the cottage. He shook his head up and down. He ran to the window and waved his finger and pointed up to the sky.
Santa walked over and looked out the window. The rest of the elves followed along. Mrs. Claus came as well and gasped as she saw what the elf was pointing at.
"You two need to see this.", she said. The two kings got up from the table and joined the others looking out the window to the east.
Far, far away, but brighter than any other, a star was in the eastern sky. It was just above the horizon. There was no doubt. This was the star the council of advisors had spoken of when giving the two kings directions.
“It is on the horizon. That indicates to me that it is over a town that is very far away. Why don’t you rest here tonight? You can plan the rest of your trip tomorrow and be on your way. We have room for you here.” Mrs. Claus said.
The elves made up two more beds and the two kings washed up, brushed their teeth and got into bed. Soon all the elves were in bed and Mrs. Claus came in and tucked each one of them and the two kings in for a good night’s sleep.
Santa was sitting in his favorite chair eating a snack of chocolate chip cookies and milk when Mrs. Claus came back to the cottage. She noticed that Santa had a faraway look in his eyes. It was a look she was familiar with. Every time Santa began thinking of ways to make people happy, he got that look.
She sat in her chair, next to his and held her hands out to the fire to warm them. She rubbed them together and made a commotion blowing on them.
Santa looked over. “Are you warm enough? Shall I put another log on the fire?”
“No, it’s just the chill from walking back to the cottage from the elves home. I noticed you staring off and was wondering what is on your mind?”
“Well, we are not allowed to celebrate here. No holidays. NO Birthdays. Not one, not some, not any….NONE.. And listening to those two kings, I was just wondering. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a gift to the little baby? Imagine, we could actually give a gift on a birthday. It would be a dream come true. What do you think?”
“ Santa, you and the elves have been making presents for years and years and years. Something has to change or we will just keep building barns to store perfectly good presents that no one ever receives. But, if you go, you can’t just take a ball or a sled or a doll or wooden horse. You have to take a gift that is more valuable that all the others combined. It must be the gift of gifts.”
Santa stood and took Mrs. Claus by the hand, “Just like always, you have the best answer. Let me think about this and see if the two kings will allow me to go along. After all, I do know every star in the sky, so I will keep them on course. Let’s go to bed. In the morning we shall share our thoughts with the guests.’
Before the sun even peeked over the horizon in the morning, Santa was going through the storage barns looking for the perfect gift. Elves were scattered from one corner to another, from one end of one barn the very end of another. They were digging and emptying bags and boxes, lifting one toy, shaking their head, setting it down and lifting another only to set it down and dig yet again. The search for the perfect gift was on.
Back in the dining area, Mrs. Claus was serving breakfast and coffee to the guests.
“You know Santa knows every star in the sky. He could probably guide your way each night. In short order, you will reach your destination. If you let him join you, we both would be delighted. Right now, he is going through all the gifts he has made to find the best one for this baby.”
The two kings quietly conferred with one another.
“It would be wonderful if Santa could join us. We must hurry; the baby could be born anytime.”
Santa burst through the door.
“I’ve found it!!!” he exclaimed.
They all looked to him as he held out his hand.
It was a bright, shiny golden coin shaped thing.
“It is so pretty dear”, Mrs. Claus shared, “But, what is it?”.
The two kings looked at one another and nodded their heads. They knew right away what Santa had in his hand. They rushed over to see it.
Santa held it up and twirled it around.
“This is the perfect gift. It came to me in my sleep last night. Everyone is always so busy. With so much to do each day, we just don’t have time to get it all done. It seems like even important things get pushed aside. This is the one thing that will keep everyone on course.”
Mrs. Claus smiled, “That’s nice dear, but what is it?”
Santa held the coin shaped object up between his thumb and forefinger. “This is a gold round tuit.”
As long as the child keeps this in his pocket, he will always accomplish the task at hand. Each time he has a lot to do and thinks of putting something off until he gets around to-it, he will feel this coin in his pocket and finish the job.”
“Now we have Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh!”
That evening the two kings wrapped in their fine robes were joined by Santa as they began following the star. Santa, of course, was wrapped in a beautiful red robe that was trimmed in bright white fur.
After many days, they came over a hill and saw a herd of sheep grazing. There was no shepherd in sight. Below them was a little town. The star was bright above.
Santa said, “This is the place.”
They went down the hill and around an inn to a stable in the back. There was a group of shepherds surrounding an area in the rear of the stable. A man was standing next to a woman whom was holding a new born. The air was filled with the music of what sounded like an angelic choir.
The two kings stepped forward and presented their gifts. The woman looked up and smiled. She motioned for the gentle, white bearded man dressed in red to come forward.
Santa slowly approached and laid his gold round tuit before the child. The baby smiled and Santa was absolutely sure the baby had winked at him. He felt a strange tingling feeling all over.
The man, standing next to the woman and child whispered.
“You have brought joy to the baby. I promise you that from this day forward, you will bring joy to all the children, all over the world. Every year, you will help celebrate this day. You will travel with the speed of light, house to house, home to home, near and far. You will bring gifts that will bring the joy you brought today to every child. No mayor, no government, no group shall ever have the power to stop you. Your spirit shall touch souls in every corner of the world. Season’s Greetings Santa..”
Santa nodded his head and went back outside. There was a sleigh and eight reindeer right outside the stable door. Like magic, an elf appeared and said “Santa, we have places to go and all in this one night, climb aboard the sleigh, let’s go.”
Santa took the reins in one hand and a whip in the other. He cracked the whip in the air above the reindeer’s head.
He then shared that oft quoted phrase for the first time.
“Now Dasher, now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen, on Comet, on Cupid, on Donner and Blitzen. To the top of the stable, to the top of the wall, now dash away, dash away, dash away all!”
The shepherds looked up, the mother and child all stared. Everyone marveled at the experience they shared and as Santa became but a speck in that star filled sky, they heard him exclaim…
“Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”
So now, you know how it all started, and when you see little people, don’t laugh. They may be some of Santa’s finest elves, just living near you to keep an eye on who’s naughty and nice. Oh, and never forget, that first gift was a round tuit, to remind everyone, you have a round tuit in your heart. Don’t put chores off until you get a round to it. You have one already.
And Santa, well, he was very real on that first Christmas and he is very real today. And he loves your just like you are.