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Santa’s Existential Crisis
Samantha Neave finds that Christmas is a time for woe ho ho!
He was already feeling a little fragile. His wife had called him ‘portly’ for the third time that day, which stung since he’d been dieting for a full four months, on doctor’s orders. And then he got the call.
“Good afternoon, Mr Claus.”
It was his agent, Eric, sounding sombre.
“Afternoon, Eric! Almost that time of year again!” Santa chuckled.
“Yes, about that… There’s no easy way of… The thing is…” Eric muttered, then cleared his throat. “Look, everyone’s still uncertain about the pandemic, and we can’t have you flying over rooftops and chucking presents down chimneys in the present climate. What would the governments of the world say? What would the people say?”
“Eric,” Santa sounded puzzled. “What are you saying? We’ve had all the procedures in place to keep the elves healthy and checked and the presents uncontaminated – masks, gloves, sanitising, distancing, cleaning, more cleaning, singing ‘Jingle Bells’ as they wash their hands with soap, and so on. There’s no need to cancel Christmas!”
There was an awkward pause.
“They’re not cancelling Christmas – this Christmas, anyway… More just your bit. Think of it like an extended holiday. They say they won’t be needing any gifts for next Christmas either, probably. I’ll send over all the official stuff about that. Take a break, Santa! Or have you considered early retirement? Anyway, enjoy your time off!” Eric rang off.
Shocked and more than a little bewildered, Santa’s thoughts began racing. Didn’t the powers that be trust his health and safety record? What would he tell the elves after all their hard work this year? And ‘retirement’?! But he’s always been 62!
He took himself to bed, but barely slept. When he woke, he barely touched his mince pie. Mrs Claus seemed to know better than to call him ‘portly’ that morning, too.
Over the next few hours, his despondent mood turned into despair. His thoughts still racing, he went out in the snow and walked for miles, thinking all the while: ‘Why don’t they want me doing my job? I love delivering presents to all the good children once a year! But… maybe once a year isn’t enough? What should I be doing the rest of the year? The elves make the gifts, and I stand there… overseeing them merrily. I always told myself I was a good boss… that we were like family. But I’ve actually been doing nothing with most of my life! And now I can’t even deliver the presents on Christmas Eve! The one night I’m actually useful has been robbed from me!
‘I bet people won’t even notice. They’re too busy with their own lives and preparing Christmas dinner to notice the odd unfilled stocking in the morning… unless… unless the stocking is filled! What if they fill it themselves?! Then there’ll be no need for me at all!
‘This is terrible. What’s my place in the world if I can’t do Christmas Eve anymore? What’s my purpose? What am I meant to do – ride my sleigh for show across the night sky? I bet nobody would notice that, either – or they’d say Rudolph’s nose was a star. This is terrible! I’m done for! I may as well go bungee jumping! Without the rope.’ Flushed and more than a little out of breath, Santa sat square down in the snow, tears rolling down his cheeks as his suit soaked the moisture from the ground. He picked up a handful of snow, clenching its coldness in his fist until it became compact, and eventually melted away. And that’s when he heard her.
“Are you alright, dear?”
“Just… just leave me a little longer, I’ll be in soon,” Santa managed to heave the words out between sobbing breaths. Mrs Claus should be happy he’d been walking, he thought bitterly. At least that would help shift a few calories, and then she could stop calling him portly.
“Oh dear,” the voice said, softly. “I don’t think I can leave you, Santa. You’re not in a fit state to be alone.”
It didn’t sound so much like his wife, come to think of it. Santa wiped away the tears and strained to see the creature before him more clearly. A snowman? Santa wondered: ‘What’s a snowman doing talking to me? Did someone slip vodka in my sherry?’
“That’s better. I’d hate to see Santa upset so near to Christmas!” The creature gestured with a twig-arm into the freezing air, then rubbed its carrot nose with the other twig.
Santa blinked once more. Yes… the button eyes were looking at him with intense tenderness. The snowman was smiling at him. Or the snow woman was smiling at him, rather. Or was it a snowperson nowadays? Santa was a little out of touch.
Santa Close Up © Creative Commons 4.0 agnosticpreacherskid 2013
“Don’t worry about what to call me,” the snowlady said. “Let’s worry more about what you were thinking before that!”
Great. A talking, psychic snowlady. As if such a thing existed, Santa scoffed to himself.
“You’re not dreaming, Santa. You’re wide awake. And you’re not imagining me either – I exist. In a multiverse of never-ending possibilities, anything can happen. I have teleported from my dimension to yours, to help you.”
“How did you know I needed help?”
“They can cut across dimensions?”
“How do I know you’re real?” Santa asked, incredulous. But ignoring his doubts, the snowlady lifted him up until he was on his feet, and they walked and talked.
“This is the year that you become a legend,” the snowlady said after a few moments: “The year that people realise they can do your job themselves. You’re not needed any more in this dimension.”
Santa’s shoulders slumped as his worst fears appeared before his mind. “I’m really not needed anymore,” he sighed forlornly.
“You’re forgetting one thing, Santa – you’re now a legend. An inspiration to all! It’s because of you that people want to fill their children’s stockings to bring them joy.”
“But in centuries to come, nobody will know that I actually existed.”
“But you do exist now! And you’ll continue to exist here in the North Pole – until you need to adapt and find a new home due to global warming…”
“Can we get back to the bit where you make me feel better about being forgotten forevermore by the world I’ve helped for so long?”
“Look,” the snowlady replied with infinite patience, “let me introduce you to someone who might be able to help you with your doubts and inner turmoil.” They continued over a hilly patch of snow and suddenly they came face to face with a small rabbit.
“Oh dear!” Santa rushed towards the rabbit at once, overcome with concern: “You shouldn’t be out here little one! You’ll freeze to death!”
The rabbit sniffed a bit and hopped straight over Santa’s extended arms – right onto the snowlady’s shoulder.
“Allow me to introduce you to the Christmas Bunny!” the snowlady proclaimed triumphantly.
For the second time in the last twenty-four hours Santa was puzzled. “You mean the Easter Bunny, surely?” Santa corrected the snowlady, careful not to misplace the well-known archetype’s identity.
“No, no,” the rabbit responded. “I’m the Christmas Bunny.”
“What about the Easter Bunny?”
“Distant cousin,” the Bunny bragged: “Anyway, listen up: A long time ago… millennia before you came along – I had your job. Until one day I was made redundant. No need for me. Done, over, gone! Finito … It was depressing. I started questioning everything! Who am I? Why am I? Where am I?”
Santa and the snowlady glanced at each other. “How did you overcome your loss and questioning?” the snowlady asked.
“Well, one day, I was thinking about the meaning of life: What happens when you lose your livelihood, your purpose, your life, your reputation? When your legend is not even a legend anymore and you feel so, so insignificant? I was very disheartened, sure. One moment my generosity was extolled every Christmas, the next instant no one recognised me! But I wasn’t counting on just one thing…” The Christmas Bunny paused dramatically. Santa wished he hadn’t sat in the snow. His bottom half was getting especially chilly. He also wished this rabbit would get on with it. The snowlady frowned. The rabbit continued: “…and what I wasn’t counting on was… It’s all pointless! So why worry?” The Christmas Bunny was so delighted with himself that he took a bite of the snowlady’s nose.
“It’s pointless ?” Santa emitted the words in quiet disbelief. “Is that it?”
“Exactly!” the Christmas Bunny exclaimed, and sat bolt upright again, nose twitching in excitement as the snowlady felt hers gingerly and sighed. “I thought – it’s pointless. Then like you I thought – is that it? And then I thought – Yes! Of course that’s it… and I’m alive!”
“Great. Thanks a lot.”
“Don’t you see? Before we came into existence, we were literally nothing. We didn’t exist. And once we cease to exist, we will again be literally nothing… we will not exist. But while we exist? Well, there lies the chance to grab life on the curve before it flatlines! The present is all we have. It’s all we’ll ever have. We worry about the past and the future – our meaning and our longevity – but we forget that we can and must make our meaning right now. When I could no longer give presents out to the children every Christmas, and so was deprived of the chance to please others on a global scale and seal my reputation for all time, I realised that ‘all time’ will quickly become ‘no time’. Everything comes to an end. But just as I will not exist after I die, in the same way I didn’t exist before I was born. I’m simply lucky to be alive. This realisation in turn meant I focused on what I can do, right now, to live a life of joy and fulfilment. What makes me happy? Whatever it is, if I do it, I’ll have a purpose, I’ll feel joy, I’ll live my best life!”
Santa thought for a moment, then turned to the snowlady. “Isn’t that an argument for hedonism?” he asked.
The Bunny replied smugly, “I suppose so,” then became absorbed in preening himself.
As he skated past across a clear stretch of ice, Rudolph nodded at the Christmas Bunny perched on the snowlady’s shoulder: “Nice parrot!” Santa scowled as his now ex-employee waved at him, gliding on two feet then disappearing into the distance. Rudolph is well-known for his sarcasm throughout the North Pole region.
“Ignore him,” the snowlady said gently, then offered her own interpretation of the meaning of life: “I like to think of life more like this: if there’s a you, now, here… and we live in the multiverse of infinite possibilities, then there will also be a you somewhere and somewhen else! It’s my theory that when you cease to exist in one dimension, you at some point come to exist again in another. It’s inevitable.”
“Okay… But will I be the same person… have the same consciousness? Will I know my history?” Santa stroked his beard.
“I don’t know!” the snowlady said. She watched the Christmas Bunny leap off her shoulder and head towards a troupe of ice-skating polar bears gathered around an igloo. “Take your pick, I guess. Just make the most of now,” she smiled. With that she collapsed, to briefly become a pool of water trickling through the snow.
Santa pondered this strange experience for a while, until, bored of the igloo, the polar bears started looking at him. He started towards his house once more. Once home he kissed Mrs Claus on the cheek before making his way to the factory floor.
He’d got the elves’ attention. They immediately halted wrapping the gifts they had made that year. “From now on, there is only one present to be distributed,” Santa continued, “and that is the present time ! We may not be needed by the children this Christmas Eve, or the next, or maybe ever again – but I have a new idea and a new route for us to take! So let’s get going on our new venture: Every day of the year, we’ll deliver a sprinkle of joy, on MerryMoments.com!”
Rudolph sighed and rolled his eyes. ‘Keep living the dream, Santa,’ he thought cynically. People would never buy it. He could just see Santa’s new slogan now: ‘Live in the present, love in the present.’ He got out his mobile as Santa passed him, beaming away happily. ‘Heads up!’ Rudolph texted the Easter Bunny: ‘We need a Plan B.’
© Samantha Neave 2021
Samantha Neave recently graduated from The Open University and enjoys reading and writing poetry, philosophy and fiction.