Santa Claus is a beloved and influential figure in the lives of many children -- and their parents, who first explain who Santa is and then, in a few years' time, have to answer the question, "Is there really a Santa?" In the meantime, those same parents have played the role of Santa behind the scenes. It's quite a responsibility.
Here we've assembled five wonderful stories about Santa Claus, spanning more than a century. Together they capture the essence of the beloved Saint Nick, and, along the way, they suggest many insightful ways of viewing -- and explaining -- this important figure.
Here are snapshots of the Santa Claus stories we've included in this article:
"The True Story of Santa Claus"This is the fascinating story of how a kind and virtuous boy, Nicholas, came to be immortalized as Saint Nicholas, our Santa Claus. His story gives depth to the role Santa plays in history and culture, and in the hearts and imaginations of those who believe in him (or simply in his spirit).
"Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus"Perhaps one of the most difficult questions a parent can answer is whether there is indeed a Saint Nick. And parents have been answering it forever, as this column from The New York Sun, written more than 100 years ago, proves. Francis P. Church's approach is quaint by modern standards, but his points still resonate.
"Will Santa Claus Come for Christmas Dinner?"This moving story shows how deeply children wish for a Santa and how the spirit of Santa can exist in anyone who chooses to carry it. It's the story of a man who finds he can't play Santa after suffering a tragedy -- until he's drawn back into his jolly role by the request of a boy.
"Reindeer Hooves"Children don't just believe in Santa. They believe in everything Santa, including his reindeer and the noise they make on the rooftop as they go about their important Christmas Eve tasks. This is the story of a child who's sure he's heard reindeer on the roof -- whether anyone else believes him or not.
"The Truth About Santa"This is a more modern take on "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus." We know that there comes a time when children have to learn that there is no Santa Claus. The parent in this story hits on a clever and very meaningful way of explaining things to her son. It has to do with keeping the spirit of Christmas alive in yourself.
"Santa Claus is Coming to Town"Remember, Santa Claus is always watching to find out who’s been naughty or nice. Read this Santa Claus story to find out how two little mischievous boys redeem themselves -- just in time for Christmas.
"The Tiny Elf"In the final story in our collection of Santa Claus Stories, find out how a tiny elf with something to prove finally reaches the top -- but not without a few bumps and bruises along the way. "The Tiny Elf" is proof that that you can do anything if you try hard enough.
Santa Claus was not always a jolly old fellow. He did not always have long white whiskers, and he did not always wear a big red suit.
Long before he lived in the North Pole, and long before his yearly Christmas visits brought joy to all the children of the world, Santa Claus was a child himself. He was once just an ordinary baby boy named Nicholas. The baby boy was just like any other, but his parents hoped for great things from their only son. They named him Nicholas, which means "hero of the people."
Even at a young age, Nicholas was a kind and generous boy. He often helped the people in his village. He shared his meals with those who had nothing to eat, he was always the first to lend a helping hand, and he brought joy to young and old alike. There was no better friend to have than young Nicholas.
At a very young age, Nicholas joined the church. It was his duty to help people. Nicholas gave special attention to the children of his village, and they were very fond of Nicholas for his playful and joyful manner.
Nicholas became well-known throughout the land as a kind and wise young man. He was soon named a bishop of the church. Because Nicholas was still so young, people called him the "Boy Bishop."
Nicholas wore a long red robe with a red hat, and he traveled on horseback. At every village, happy children would spot his bright robe from a distance and gather in the road to greet him.
In one village, Bishop Nicholas heard the sorrowful tale of a poor old man and his three young daughters. It seemed the man could no longer feed his daughters, and he feared he would have to send them away from him. Nicholas knew he could help this family.
That night, while the whole village slept, Nicholas crept up to the hut where the three sisters lived. He climbed up to the rooftop to find the chimney. There Nicholas dropped three bags of gold, one by one, down through the chimney stack.
Earlier that day, the three sisters had hung their newly washed stockings by the fireplace to dry. Each small bag of gold that Nicholas dropped fell into one of the stockings below.
The next morning, the girls were overjoyed to find gold coins in their stockings. "Father!" they called, running to wake him. "We have received a magical gift!"
As the story of these three sisters spread from village to village, other people began to hang their stockings by the fire, hoping to find a secret gift when they awoke the next morning. Though this was Bishop Nicholas' most famous gift, it was not his first good deed. And it would certainly not be his last.
Bishop Nicholas enjoyed surprising people. He began to deliver his secret gifts of hope and joy only at night, while his friends were asleep.
For all of his good deeds, Bishop Nicholas was named a saint. He is honored as the saint who looks after all children. Like other saints, St. Nicholas was given a name day. One day each year everyone celebrates the saint's good deeds. St. Nicholas' name day is December 6.
People all over the world began to celebrate St. Nicholas Day. They hung their stockings by the fire the night before and awoke the next morning to find them filled with candy, fruit, nuts, or toys. St. Nicholas had left a magical gift at each home!
Many years ago, people began to celebrate St. Nicholas' good deeds on Christmas Day, another holiday in December. St. Nicholas has many names around the world. In some places he is called
"Sint Nikolass" or "Sinterklass." Many people know him today as Santa Claus.
A true hero of the people, St. Nicholas still delivers his magical gifts each year at Christmastime. The gifts Santa Claus delivers, gifts of hope and joy, bring the joy of giving to all the children of the world. -- By Brian Conway
What happens when a child asks if there is indeed a Santa Claus? The story on the next page, "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus," provides an answer.
'Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus'
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.
All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life at its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?
Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, not even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God, he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood. -- By Francis P. Church, The New York Sun, September 21, 1897
The spirit of Santa can exist in anyone who chooses to believe in it, as you'll find out in the story on the next page, "Will Santa Claus Come for Christmas Dinner?"
'Will Santa Claus Come for Christmas Dinner?'
I first saw him at our friends' wedding rehearsal. The resemblance was uncanny. There was no red suit with white fur trim, no fat belly, and no sleigh and reindeer. But the beard was the purest white I had ever seen. It was the most authentic Santa beard anyone could conceive. My adult mind kept playing a childish refrain. "It's Santa! It's really Santa!"
How appropriate that the wedding would be on December 23. Santa was to provide the music. He was rather solemn as the others celebrated in a festive mood. The minister showed him where to stand during the ceremony. I assumed he would sing. But the thin, bearded Santa in blue jeans reached down, opened a violin case, and lovingly took out his instrument.
Santa was not just a man playing a violin. It was obvious even to the untrained ear that the strings were in the hands of a master. People who had been chatting in various parts of the church slipped into the pews one by one, moved by the talent of this quiet gentleman.
He sat across the table from me at the rehearsal dinner. He did look like Santa, but carrying on a conversation with him was quite difficult. I learned that he was a plumber, not a professional musician, and that there was no "Mrs. Claus." He would be spending Christmas alone.
The idea preyed on my mind all night. Santa spending Christmas alone? The next day I asked the bride-to-be, "What's with Santa? No twinkle in his eye, no family, and no one to spend Christmas with?" She looked at me. "You don't know, do you?"
I instantly knew that I was not prepared for her answer. She said that Santa had loved his wife and son very much -- he was a devoted husband and father. Several years ago, he came home from work in early December to find them both gone -- their lives snuffed out by an intruder. He hasn't been the same since. There is no twinkle in his eyes. And he can't bear to hold little children and listen to their precious requests as he had done for so many years. No more Santa in the red suit -- just the plumber in blue jeans.
At the reception, he stood all alone. I did manage to engage him in some small talk. "Yes, it was a beautiful wedding." I looked him in the eye. "Will you come to our house for Christmas dinner?" His face flushed. I could see his hands shaking. "We have five sons. May I tell them Santa is coming for Christmas dinner?" I slipped him a note with our address. He stared into space. I turned away unacknowledged.
* * *
As I tucked the younger boys in bed on Christmas Eve, I spoke softly. "Maybe we will have a special guest for dinner tomorrow. Who knows? Maybe Santa himself will be here!" I prayed as I laid my head on the pillow. "Please don't let Santa be alone on Christmas."
* * *
The turkey was browned perfectly. The desserts were arranged on a special table, and everyone was starving. One o'clock and time for dinner. That morning, each of the boys, one by one, had come to ask me. "Mom, did you really invite him?" "Do you think he's going to come?"
My answer: "I hope so, Son."
We couldn't wait any longer. "Time for Christmas dinner!" Everyone gathered around the table. I saw the disappointment in the boys' faces. But just as the "amen" at the end of the blessing was pronounced, we all heard a car door slam. The boys raced to the back door. I could tell by the amazement on their faces who was coming up the back steps. "Mom, it's him! It's him! It's really Santa Claus -- in his everyday clothes, the ones he must wear all year in his workshop!"
The boys never saw the tears I brushed away as they rushed to welcome Santa into our home. After we opened our presents (there were even two for Santa), Santa spoke. "May I give your family a gift now?" He went outside and came back with his old black violin case. As he played, I was sure I could hear angels joining in as we sang "Silent Night."
After he put the instrument away, our two-year-old toddled over to Santa and gently stroked his beard. "Santa, tan I sits on ur lap?" I saw all the color drain from Santa's cheeks. For a moment, he was as white as his beard. Then slowly, slowly, Santa eased back into his big chair, and finally he stretched out his arms. -- By Elaine Slater Reese
Reindeer are a key part of the Santa Claus mystique. For a charming story on reindeer -- "Reindeer Hooves" -- see the next page.
"Mommy, Mommy! Do you think they left the North Pole yet?" my four-year-old son anxiously queried in an unusually deep voice.
"Gosh, I don't know, Kev," I replied. But then, after thinking about the anticipation in his eyes and voice, I corrected myself and said decidedly, "Oh, yes, absolutely, positively, yes. Santa and the reindeer have definitely left the North Pole by now."
This little imp of a child grinned from ear to ear and began describing what the reindeer were discussing on their flight through the sky as they visited every child in the world. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, of course, was the brightest because he was smart enough to turn his nose on and off like a blinking red light. He would tell them what the weather was, which country they would visit first, what the dangers were of landing on a weak roof, and to listen only to Santa for their directions. He reminded me that "even the reindeers are not allowed to talk to strangers," as if there would be a lot of them racing around the sky.
Kevin began to sift through Christmas cookies to find the most perfect cookies to leave for Santa. After much debate, he decided that "this reindeer with the chocolate horns looks like the one Santa would want. So does this angel with yellow sprinkles and this toy soldier with a big red hat and this star like the one that saw Jesus...."
He gently put them onto the dish he made in nursery school, licking his fingers after each placement and picking off a chocolate sprinkle or two. Kev poured Santa a glass of milk, placed it next to the cookies on the dish, and toddled to bed as he wondered when they would arrive.
"Do you think Santa will knock or come down the chimney? Will he burn his tummy, or does he have on fireproof underwear? Can the reindeer come in, too?" Finally, the little guy with the twinkling brown eyes and mop of chestnut hair could not think of any more things to say, and he fell asleep until around midnight when I heard him shriek, "I hear them, I hear them! They're on the roof! Santa's reindeers are on the roof!"
He barreled down the stairs, and as he tornadoed through the kitchen he stopped on a dime, practically falling on the cookie dish. His eyes looked as though they would pop out of his head as he breathlessly sang, "Santa ate all the cookies! Santa ate all the cookies! Look, Mommy, they're gone and the milk is gone and look, the crumbs are everywhere! I bet he fed the reindeers, too!"
Kevin never did convince his brother and sister that he had heard reindeer hooves on the roof. But he believed it...for years and years and years.... -- By Elizabeth Toole
Continue to the next story -- The Truth About Santa -- to learn how to keep the spirit of Saint Nick alive, regardless of your age.
'The Truth About Santa'
The children were finally nestled all snug in their beds. The stockings were hung and the prayers had been said. I had notions of getting some sleep myself, but I couldn't start to fill the stockings if there was even the slightest chance that one of our little ones was awake. All five of them still believed in Santa, and I didn't want to spoil that.
I could remember when I learned the truth about Santa. I was seven, just about my son Mike's age, when I found the store wrappings from Betsy Wetsy in the trash after I'd found her in my stocking. I knew then that my parents were the ones responsible for our Christmas surprises.
I tiptoed up the stairs to make sure the children were asleep. Little Lisa had dozed off during church and Frank had carefully carried her up to her crib. She looked like a cherub curled up with her bunny blankie.
Big sister Becky was sound asleep, too. She had hurried up to bed hoping that Santa would fill her stocking first. At six, she was our staunchest believer. Not a single doubt about Santa's existence crept into her explanations of how he got to all the children in the world. "His reindeer fly really, really fast," she'd say. I pulled her covers up. She didn't stir.
I peeked into our room as I passed. Frank was sleeping peacefully without a trace of guilt that he'd left me to wait up to fill stockings. He had, after all, laid the fire so it would be ready to light in the morning.
Andy and Matt shared a room. Motionless lumps, they laid beneath the covers of their bunk beds. I touched Matt lightly. He had been sort of scared of Santa recently and absolutely refused to sit on his lap. So much for a family picture.
Andy was surrounded by trucks, his favorite bedtime buddies. I kissed his cheek. His nose was still a little rosy from his role as Rudolph in the preschool sing-along. I had to be sure that Andy didn't see me doing Santa's duties. He'd be dreadfully disappointed.
I snuck silently into Mike's room. He was my skeptic. Several of his second grade friends had tried to convince him that there was no real Santa. He was wavering. I hoped he'd hang on to his belief for at least one more Christmas. Maybe by next year I'd have a better plan for handling his moment of truth. I tapped him gently. "Mikey, are you still awake?" Mike didn't answer.
I looked at his clock: 11:30. It seemed safe to start. With one ear tuned to the upstairs, I started five piles on the dining room table. I began organizing: Apples for everybody, toothbrushes to counteract the chocolate marshmallow snowmen, and boxes of fancy bandages. Becky would love her Barbie ones. For the boys, I added little metal airplanes -- just like the kind Frank flew. I went into the kitchen and took the bag of specially requested toys from the top shelf of the cupboard. I carefully removed the price tags and tossed the wrappings into the trash compactor. I wouldn't leave behind any evidence.
Suddenly, I heard the squeak of small feet on the stairs. I turned around quickly. There stood Mike, eyes as big as Christmas bulbs. His lower lip trembled. "So what the kids said is true," he said sadly. "It's just you and Dad that fill stockings. Santa isn't real...."
At a loss for words, I hugged my small son. Then I attempted an explanation. "Santa is real, Mike. He's as real as love and laughter, secrets and surprises, magic and memories."
That sounded good, so I continued. "Sometimes children are disappointed when they discover that Santa lives in people's hearts, not at the North Pole. They want to believe that the toys they find on Christmas morning are made in Santa's workshop rather than picked out by parents. Becky and the kids aren't ready to learn that, so I hope you won't tell them."
"I won't," promised Mike.
I continued. "Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit of Christmas alive." Mike's face brightened a bit. "Are just parents Santa Claus?" I hesitated a moment. "Santa can be anybody, I guess." "Could I be part of Santa?" he asked solemnly. "I don't see why not," I answered. "This year, why don't you stuff the apples into the toes of the stockings."
Proudly, he pushed them in. "Next year maybe Becky will be ready to be a helper," he said. "I won't tell her, but I can't wait till she finds out the truth about Santa, too."
"Run on up to bed now," I encouraged after he finished the apples. "It's my turn to be Santa."
Giggling as he headed up the stairs, Mike waved and whispered, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night." -- By Ellen Javernick
What does it take to make it onto Santa's Good Little Boys and Girls List? Continue to the next story -- 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' -- to find out.
'Santa Claus is Coming to Town'
Santa Claus was sitting at his desk, looking over his lists of children. Most of them had been very good all year, but there were a few he was worried about -- especially Sam and Mike. “Well,” said Santa Claus to his best helper, the elf Cornelius, “what’s the latest news about Sam and Mike?”
“Well,” said Cornelius, “they try hard to be good. But they seem to have a hard time. They get into trouble pretty easily.” “There are only four more days until I have to make my big trip,” said Santa Claus. “We must decide about them soon.”
I’ll keep my eye on them,” said Cornelius. “I’ll let you know how things are going.” Sam and Mike, the brothers Santa Claus and Cornelius had been discussing, ran into their kitchen. “It’s four more days until Christmas,” said Mike.
“No, it’s not!” said Sam. “It’s only three days!”
“It’s four!” shouted Mike.
“No, three!” cried Sam.
“Boys!” said their mother. “Must you argue over every single thing?”
“Well, I’m right...” started Mike.
“For once,” laughed Mother, “you’re both right. There are four days left until Christmas, if you count today as one of them. If you don’t count today, then there are three.” Sam and Mike went into the living room, where their older sister Katie was playing. “I still say there are four days until Christmas,” said Mike. “Right, Katie?” “No, there are three, aren’t there?” asked Sam.
“You two are always arguing,” replied Katie. “Don’t you know what happens to children who argue all the time?” “What?” asked Sam and Mike.
“Well, in three -- or four -- days, Santa Claus will be coming. And he knows all about you two.” “What do you mean?” said Sam. “Santa knows whether you’ve been good or bad. So you’d better watch out, you two!” “Gee!” said Mike.
“Maybe we should be careful. Okay, no more arguments. Let’s go sledding.” Sam and Mike got their coats and boots. “Last one outside is a -- Oops!, I forgot,” said Sam.
Walking down the street, they passed Mr. Paulson’s yard. “That’s the best hill for sledding,” said Mike. “Let’s sneak in and sled down!” “Mr. Paulson said he doesn’t want anyone to sled in his yard,” replied Sam. “But maybe just this one time wouldn’t hurt.”
Just as they were pushing off, who should look out the window but Mr. Paulson. “What did I tell you boys!” he shouted from his door, waving his fist.
Meanwhile, Santa Claus decided to see how things were going in his workshop. The elves were working furiously. “Cornelius,” called out Santa, “what’s the latest news on those two mischief makers, Sam and Mike?" Cornelius shook his head and told Santa about the boys’ argument. He also said they had gone sledding in Mr. Paulson’s yard.
“Those boys,” said Santa Claus sadly. “They do have a hard time being good.” He looked around the workshop and asked, “What do they want for Christmas?” Cornelius and another elf held up two toys. “Mike wants a toy train like this one, and Sam would like some ice skates,” said Cornelius. “Well, I sure hope I’ll be able to deliver them,” said Santa.
It was just about this time that Sam and Mike were continuing on their way toward the park. “Maybe we’ll find something fun to do there without getting into trouble,” said Mike. At the park, they found a group of boys building snow forts.
The boys had chosen teams and were going to see who could build the biggest and best snow fort. Then they’d have a snowball fight. “Let us help,” called Mike and Sam.
“Sure, join in,” said Charlie, one of the bigger boys. Just then, Sam noticed a little boy sitting by a tree, away from the other boys. He looked as if he had been crying. “What’s wrong with Joey?” Mike asked Charlie. “Oh, Joey wanted to be on one of our teams,” said Charlie, “but he’s too little.” Sam and Mike thought about that and decided they didn’t agree.
“Hey, Joey!” called Sam. “Mike and I need someone just your size to reach the tough spots.” The three of them got to work. Soon their fort was as tall as the other ones.
And then, with Mike and Sam lifting Joey up high to pile the snow on top, their fort stood even taller! “Joey,” called Charlie, “would you help our team a second? We need to get up high, too.” With a big smile, Joey ran over to help Charlie’s team.
A few days later, at the North Pole, Santa Claus was getting ready for his trip. The time had finally arrived -- it was Christmas Eve! Santa had already hitched up his reindeer. “Cornelius,” called Santa, “what is the latest news on Sam and Mike? I’m ready to pack their skates and train.”
“Great news, Santa,” said Cornelius. Then he told Santa Claus how Sam and Mike had asked Joey to help them build their snow fort, when none of the other boys would let Joey play. Santa smiled his biggest smile of the day. “I knew they were good boys!” he exclaimed. “Sam and Mike did the most important thing -- they were kind to another person. That’s what really counts.”
As Santa Claus was starting on his trip, his sleigh loaded with toys, Sam and Mike were getting ready for bed. They had hung up their stockings by the chimney. Cookies and milk were set out in case Santa wanted a snack.
After they were all tucked into bed, Mike whispered, “Hey, Sam, look out!” Just then, he threw his pillow across the room. It landed on Sam’s head.
With a whoop, Sam yelled, “I’ll get you!” He started to throw his own pillow back at Mike. But then he thought, “Someone knows whether I’m being good or not.”
At that same moment, Mike remembered that someone knew when he was sleeping and when he was awake. Mike just whispered, “Good night, Sam, and Merry Christmas!” A hush fell over the room as they closed their eyes.
Late that night, while Mike and Sam slept, a smiling Santa laid a little toy train and some shiny new ice skates under the tree. If they had been awake, they would have heard a happy Santa say, “Well done, Mike and Sam! You were good, for goodness sake!”
In the final story in our collection of Santa Claus Stories, find out how a tiny elf with something to prove finally reaches the top -- but not without a few bumps and bruises along the way. You'll find the story about 'The Tiny Elf' on the next page.
'The Tiny Elf'
There were only a few days left before Christmas. All of Santa’s elves were working hard. Cornelius, the elf in charge of Santa’s Workshop, was giving orders to the workers. Some elves were busy at benches where they made dolls of all kinds. They also sewed beautiful costumes for the dolls to wear.
Another group made only the fastest toy trains. Others were proud of their skates and sleds. “We need some more gold paint for our train engines,” called one elf. “And we’re running out of carpeting for these doll houses,” said another. Santa’s Workshop was a busy, busy place.
One of Santa’s elves, though -- a tiny elf named Casey -- was not assigned to any of the workbenches in Santa’s Workshop. For years, Casey had been trying to show that he, too, could make beautiful toys. But every time he tried, things just went wrong.
“Let me paint that doll’s face,” he would plead. But when he tried, he smeared paint all over himself. And all over anyone or anything near him, too. “I can build that dollhouse,” he would say. But when he hammered, none of the nails ever seemed to go in straight. Everyone loved little Casey. But, as Cornelius said, “That tiny elf will never be a toymaker!”
Every year, after Santa delivered toys to all the children, he came back to his workshop to thank the elves. They gathered around to hear how Rudolph had lighted the way for Santa’s sleigh. Cornelius said, “Remember when Tracy got that special baby doll she wanted?” “And remember how Lamar loved that toy train we made?” said Winkie, another elf.
“Lisa really learned how to ice skate with those figure skates we made for her,” added the elf Joey.“Because of you, lots of children are happy every year,” a smiling Santa told them. The elves clapped their hands in delight. It was the proudest moment of Christmas for Cornelius and his workers.
On this day before Christmas Eve, as the elves worked faster and faster, the door to the workshop suddenly swung open. And who should come through the door but Santa himself! “How are things going?” he asked Cornelius. “We’re doing our best, Santa,” said Cornelius. “We’ll work late tonight, if we have to. I promise that we won’t leave a single toy unfinished.”
Santa looked at the thick sheaf of papers in his hand. “Here are the latest letters children have sent to me,” he told Cornelius. “Just be sure we don’t forget anyone.” Santa read through the letters, showing each one to Cornelius. They both checked to be sure every toy would be ready for the next night, Christmas Eve.
After Santa left, Cornelius went around from workbench to workbench, giving last-minute orders for toys. Casey followed him through the workshop. “We’re going to need another one of those trains with the big engines,” he told the elf in charge of making all the toy trains.
“Oh, please let me make that train!” pleaded Casey, tugging on Cornelius’s sleeve. But Cornelius just smiled and patted Casey on the head. “I’d like to let you try, Casey. But we don’t have time. Maybe next year.”
Casey sighed. Why wouldn’t they ever let him do anything important? He went over and sat down in one of the toy wagons. “It isn’t fair,” he said to himself. All the elves worked late into the night. Cornelius walked through the workshop. “Is that sled ready for Eddie?” he called.
“Almost finished,” shouted an elf who was busy putting the final coat of red paint on a sled. “What about the dollhouse for Cherise?” “I’m nailing the roof on it right now,” came the answer from another elf.
Cornelius walked by a group of workers making stuffed animals. “Remember that Tina wants her teddy bear to be nice and soft,” he warned. Casey helped the other elves by running to get some more blue and yellow paint and by picking up dropped nails. But how he wished he could make a toy all by himself!
Finally, when the clock struck midnight, the weary elves finished the last toy. “Tomorrow,” said Cornelius, “we only have to help Santa load up his sleigh.” Tomorrow would be Christmas Eve. As the elves filed out of Santa’s Workshop, Casey turned back to take a final look at all the wonderful toys the elves had made.
But what was that piece of paper lying beneath Cornelius’s desk? Casey ran back into the workshop and picked it up from the floor. “Oh, no!” he cried when he read it. The elves had forgotten one last toy!
The piece of paper was a letter from little Mattie, who wanted to be a dancer when she grew up. She was asking Santa to bring her a special ballerina doll for Christmas. What was Casey to do? By now, the other elves were in bed, and it was too late to call them back to work. But poor Mattie -- she would be terribly disappointed on Christmas Day!
Casey sat down on one of the toy wagons to think. Suddenly he had an idea. He would make the ballerina doll himself! With that, Casey went to gather all the materials he would need. While the other elves slept, Casey worked through the night. He sawed and sanded. He painted and sewed.
Just as the morning sun peeked in the windows of the workshop, Casey held up his finished doll. He had made a beautiful ballerina with dark hair, sparkling eyes, a pink dancing costume, and pink ballet slippers! Now it was ready to pack on Santa’s sleigh.
As always, when Santa finished his long Christmas Eve sleigh ride, he returned to his workshop. He had delivered the toys to children all over the world. Now he wanted to thank the hard-working elves. This time, though, Santa said, “I want to thank one little elf in particular. Because of him, not a single child will be disappointed on Christmas morning. This elf stayed up all night to be sure no toy was forgotten.
“For his help,” Santa said, “I have a special award for a special elf -- Casey!” At that, Santa pinned a medal on Casey’s jacket. The award said, “CHRISTMAS ELF OF THE YEAR”!
Casey was the happiest little elf in Santa Land that year. He puffed his chest out proudly as he wore the medal pinned to his jacket. “Next year,” said Cornelius, “Casey will be in charge of making all our dancing dolls.”
Best of all, Mattie and her ballerina doll had the most special Christmas ever!
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