This is a Christmas season like no other in recent memory — and not in a good way.
Many children sense this, if only intuitively. Perhaps they’ve heard snatches of a conversation that their parents thought was private. Or maybe something in the somber tone of voice of a TV newscaster caught their attention. Of course, they know that all these people aren’t wearing masks because Halloween has been extended.
The question is, to whom do they turn for an explanation? Their parents, certainly, but who else? New Jersey author A.H. Edelman wondered about that.
“I was reading a story in the business section of the Sunday New York Times about how the coronavirus was expected to adversely affect retail this holiday season,” she said.
“The president of the International Brotherhood of the Real Bearded Santas (yes, Virginia, it is a real trade group) mentioned how they were kicking around the idea of telling kids that this year Santa would need to sit behind some clear barrier that they would describe as a snow globe. Being a long-time believer in Santa and miracles in general, I thought I would try and pull something together.”
Obviously overweight and more than 170 years old, Santa is undoubtedly in the risk pool for COVID-19. Moreover, how can he know for sure if the owners of all those houses he will be dropping into had sanitized their interiors in advance of his visit?
I haven’t been to the mall recently, so I’m not sure if the regular department store Santas have come out of hiding this year. But how would they practice “social distancing” with kids on their laps? Plus, Santa couldn’t even pretend to grant what appears to be a popular Christmas wish from kids this year — a cure for COVID-19 and a return to life as usual.
“Once I got rolling, I thought it made sense to include other issues that will certainly impact kids at some point, including climate change, protests (both Black Lives Matter and climate change-related), and species extinction. As the mother of two children, I thought it was important.”
So she decided to do her part as a writer.
“Although I’ve written and traditionally published two books (in 1997 and 2007),” Edelman said in an e-mail, “I knew there wasn’t enough time to publish this book that way because of the long lead time required. I actually wrote Santa in a few weeks (at one point, I was dreaming in rhyme), and my great friend Serge Gall (who has had his work featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Esquire) kept pace and did the beautiful illustrations.
Maybe we should all try thinking about our time’s most pressing issues as if we were explaining them to young children. That would eliminate the political component because politics mean little or nothing to kids. What they want to know is are things like:
“Am I going to get sick? Will it kill me? ”
“Will I ever get to see Grandma again?”
“Who is Donald Trump, and why don’t you like him?” Is he mean?”
“If we have climate change, will we still be able to go to the beach this summer?”
“Will I get extinct?”
That’s where Santa comes in. Unlike many other public figures, Santa never lies, never criticizes anyone else, and always (well, within reason) fulfills his promises.
If a child can swallow the concept of a chunky elderly man in a red suit flying all around the world in a sleigh driven by reindeer, he or she will probably accept what Santa has to say about anything. Plus, in this age of Amazon, a massive Christmas Eve gift delivery is just business as usual.
Anyway, Edelman’s Santa is not telling his young and impressionable audience to hide under their beds until all this unpleasantness goes away. Rather, his advice is more in line with Dr. Fauci.
“It’ll tell you a secret, it’s not just about stuff,” he says from inside his snow globe. “It’s being thankful for the little things and smiling when it’s tough.”
“We were afraid there might be some pushback because of the inclusion of topical (i.e., scarier) subjects like climate change and protests/fighting,” said Edelman, ” but people’s responses from all over (I’ve been doing lots of radio and tv interviews) has been really positive. ”
Wrote one reviewer:
“Proving that kindness and compassion are still the most important things in this world, this children’s book offers a very accessible and adorable take at how Santa might teach children all over the world how to stay safe in this ‘new normal’ that we find ourselves in.”
Added Edelman: “What makes Santa in a Snow Globe unique is that it’s the first book to put into words and pictures what a visit to Santa will look like in 2020 and what we should be thinking and doing moving forward to ensure that 2021 is a better year. Although it was written with younger kids in mind, it’s the parents who will most likely be reading it to them. And frankly, I don’t think it will hurt to have grown-ups understand that we (meaning humans) have problems on our hands that are going to impact our children.”
After all, many children have already suffered the temporary loss of their friends, not to mention losing out on Halloween candy. Snow globe or not, the comforting presence of Santa symbolizes life as it used to be. It enables parents to say: “Don’t worry, things will get better. See, Santa is still here.”
If nothing else, perhaps the traditional cookies and milk on the mantel could be joined by a bottle of hand sanitizer.
A.H. Edelman describes herself as an unabashed lover of Christmas.
“I’ve seen the movie Elf at least two dozen times (it’s a holiday tradition to watch with my husband and two girls), and I still cry at the end,” she said.
And she’s Jewish.
Darrell Laurant is a veteran journalist who previously worked at the News & Advance (Lynchburg). He published over 7,000 pieces in three decades. Darrell has covered papal visits, the Olympics, American sports, and political issues in Virginia. He has also written a variety of books, including "Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks that Helped Change America."