Dad had us write letters to Santa Claus around Halloween time each year. He requested them long after any of us still believed in Santa. Dad’s request for our letters coincided with the arrival of the Sears Holiday catalogue “Wish Book” each autumn.
I think I was 15 when this request was last made. I don’t remember what my sister nor I wanted that year. My brother, Mark, requested that Santa should bring him a 1957 Chevy BelAir, preferably a convertible.
I know Mark didn’t think that Santa (dad) would actually buy him a car, but my brother made his wishes known anyway. I remember dad laughing after reading Mark’s letter. He remarked that Santa might have difficulty delivering a car. On Christmas morning, there was no BelAir parked on the driveway. As things turned out, one of Mark’s presents was a 1/25th scale plastic model kit depicting the car my brother wanted. Mark was pleased with the consolation prize.
The following year, I suffered severe food poisoning after eating chili at a Methodist Youth Fellowship (MYF) Halloween party. I was bedridden for a couple of days. I felt especially cranky because I only had enough energy to read. One of the books was the Sears Christmas catalogue.
After flipping through the pages of interest to male teens, I didn’t see anything that appealed to me. In the midst of the resulting ambivalence about the catalogue coupled with the already present self-pity about being sick, I had an epiphany.
It was about Santa Claus and the other make-believe, mythical characters. I conjectured that the myths were devised to amuse and entertain children. In the process, kids are asked to believe in absurd, improbable situations in exchange for a prize or a reward. The mythical fairy tales are repeated each year, so we suspend disbelief and fantasize about a mythical being. This magical belief is then rewarded with toys and other treats.
I then connected the repeated process of believing in mythical beings with marketing. You might chalk it up to the sickness, the cynicism of adolescence, or that I had recently learned about Pavlov’s dog. Regardless of the reason, as I saw it, the nebulous, magical Santa was an amazing marketing tool. The imaginary character was popular and useful all around the world.
I haven’t flipped through a Sears “Wish Book” in ages, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about the Christmas marketing season. Well ahead of Halloween, Christmas ads were showing up on the Internet and there has been the current onslaught of holiday spots on radio and teevee. It was a clever jewelry store ad about writing a letter to Santa that inspired today’s blog post.
It looks like it’s time to write this year’s letter to Santa.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes cartoonist Charles Schulz. “You know, in a way, ‘Dear Santa Claus’ is rather stuffy… Perhaps something a little more intimate would be better… Something just a shade more friendly…How about ‘Dear Fatty’?”