The original letter
December 25, 2015
Dear Father Christmas,
I feel impelled to write to you this year, such is the state of the world. The crisis in Syria, with its bountiful bloodshed and endless flow of refugees, the psychotic insanity of ISIS, the climate which keeps changing for the worse while we only pretend to change our carbon-fuel-devouring ways—to name just a handful of crises that make me shake my head and drop it in my hands—what is one to do but appeal to a greater force? And you are a greater force, are you not? You still manage to make people smile, if only briefly. Is it the bringing together of families, some of whom are genuinely glad to see each other again? Is it the music, those lovely hymns that pull at our hearts? Is it the scenes around Christmas trees that remind us of our younger, happier selves? Is it the gift-giving which, however commodified, still involves giving with the aim to please? Is it the focus on a meal that is meant not to be rushed but enjoyed in and of itself? Whatever it is, you still have an effect, don’t you? Children still turn to you with glee, and grown-ups follow them, even if they pretend they don’t want to.
I appeal to you. Father Christmas, please take this bruised and battered world, wrap it in gift-wrap paper, and return it to us so that we might open it up with the same sense of wonder and delight that children show when they open the gifts you bring them. Make this world once again the beautiful, marvelous present that it is.
I hesitate. As far as I know, no lasting cessation of hostilities, no reconciliation has ever come about as a result of your intervention. No group—neither the United Nations nor any country nor any religious or political group—has ever asked you to be a mediator or a negotiator. You are jolly and friendly and very generous, but somehow you are left to yourself in your Arctic kingdom. How foolish of me then to ask world peace of you. I’m asking too much. You are as impotent as the other great talkers of peace and love, the Jesuses and Muhammeds and Krishnas and Buddhas of this world who talk love while their fervent disciples wage war and terror.
But perhaps the problem is that they ask so much of us. Jesus and Muhammed and Krishna and Buddha are demanding moral patrons. It takes a clear mind and a steady heart to follow them sensibly day in and day out. You, on the other hand, of the 365 and ¼ days of the year, you work to have an effect on only a single day. Of course, that single day takes much preparation on your part, much like writing even the shortest poem demands much work. But still, 1 divided by 365.25: that’s only a 0.27 % positive output. On one day, December 25th, you are a busy man whose simple aim is to spread good cheer. And you do that job well.
So I ask this of you, only this, Father Christmas, please could you double your output? On one extra day (in summer perhaps—we do tire of winter), could you come down from your snowy realm and spread good cheer to all? Make it so that on one additional day of the year we make a Christmas-like effort to be lovingly kind to all and everyone.
World peace on two days of the year—is that too much to ask? I hope it isn’t.