Foreword

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Foreword

The elves at Chicken Soup for the Soul have done it again! Mrs. Claus and I have been passing this manuscript back and forth and commenting to each other on our favorite stories. We’re enjoying a well-deserved rest up here at the North Pole.

By the time you read this in the fall, the Mrs. and I and the whole gang up at the North Pole will be in full production mode: The factory will be running 24/7, the lists will have been triple-checked, and the reindeer will be practicing their flying maneuvers while their trainer checks Google Earth for new obstructions and those darn satellite dishes.

We know that you will all be rushing about, too. Mrs. Claus and I are not alone in loving the holiday season. We watch as you reunite scattered family members, see the wonder on the face of a child, feel the joy of giving, and remember the true meaning of Christmas and Hanukkah. The rituals of the holiday season give a rhythm to the years and create a foundation for your family lives. We watch you gather with your communities at church and temple, at school, and even at the mall, to share the special spirit of the season, brightening those long winter days.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas! will take you on a wonderful journey through the holiday season. Here’s a little tour of what you’ll find inside:

In Chapter 1, “Tales of the Tree,” you’ll discover all the different ways that people handle their Christmas trees — and all the ways that things can go wrong. I laughed out loud at Joyce Laird’s story about the first and only time her family cut their own tree and put it up in their living room. When a squirrel emerged from the tree that night, and their dog and cat chased the terrified creature through the house, the ensuing mayhem ensured that Joyce’s family would never cut their own tree again!

Chapter 2 is about “The Joy of Family.” Mrs. Claus particularly liked Teresa Martin’s story about the time she had the flu and her husband and two sons pitched in and saved Christmas Eve. The Mrs. points out that many of you get so stressed about making everything perfect for the holidays, and it really doesn’t have to be perfect. Who sits around the table is much more important than what is on the table!

If you want to talk about stress, remember that I’m the one who needs to come up with new gift ideas every year. With all these new electronic devices that the kids want, it’s hard to keep up! That’s a lot of pressure for a guy who has a bit of a weight problem and is supposed to be watching his blood pressure. So I loved Chapter 3, “The Perfect Gift,” because it makes it clear that there are many ways to give someone a meaningful, loving gift. I was amused by Katie Martin’s story about the beautiful, unique Christmas scarf she received from her sister. After she wore it for years, collecting plenty of compliments, she told her sister how much she appreciated it, only to be told by her horrified sister that the “scarf” was actually a table runner.

I know that some of you, especially the kids, worry about whether I’ll know where you are if you travel during the holidays. No worries. I’m on top of it. And as you’ll read in Chapter 4, “A Different Kind of Christmas,” sometimes celebrating Christmas away from home can be a real pleasure, as Karen Robbins describes in her story about how she and her husband went on a Tahitian cruise over Christmas when they couldn’t visit their five grown kids scattered all over the country

I will always find you. In fact, in Chapter 5, “Christmas Spirit Is Alive and Well,” you’ll read about S.K. Naus’s recollection of the year that her family moved from a house to an apartment with no chimney. She was so worried that I wouldn’t come, but of course I did. While I find chimneys very convenient, I am always happy to land on the lawn instead of the roof and come in a door if necessary.

The holidays wouldn’t be as much fun if we didn’t horse around, right? When you gather families together, there will be teasing and silly traditions and “Holiday Shenanigans” as presented to you in Chapter 6. Vince Monical’s story about a gigantic creepy snowman made me laugh. After he and his son built the sinister snowman by accident, his son and his cousins all conspired to move the snowman on Christmas Eve, so that it was looking in the window Christmas morning when everyone got up. I think I remember that guy—I thought the abominable snowman had shown up, and I almost jumped right back up the chimney.

While my job is to bring the gifts, we all know that the real joy of the season lies in giving, not receiving. The stories in Chapter 7 about “The Joy of Giving” are among my favorites. I loved the one by Paula Maugiri Tindall about how she went to Walmart with a friend and was surprised when he bought a bunch of gift cards and started handing them out to mothers who couldn’t afford to buy gifts for their children.

That was an amazing annual holiday activity, and, indeed, there are many similar stories in Chapter 8, “Traditions Worth Sharing.” You’ll probably pick up some new ideas for your family. It appears that I am slated to start at least one new tradition in the Claus household, as Mrs. Claus has already folded over the first page of Joan Clayton’s story. Joan wrote about how she and her husband started a tradition as newlyweds when they couldn’t afford to buy ornaments. They wrote each other love notes and hung them on the tree, and they continued doing that for the many decades of their marriage. The tradition continues now through four generations of their family. I guess I’d better get busy writing some notes of my own now, for the Mrs.

As I write this foreword, I know that many of you are sweltering in heat and humidity. It has been a hot summer up here at the North Pole, too. But, despite the heat, the Christmas spirit lives in all of us year-round. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were Christmas all the time? How about leaving a couple of those decorations up all year? Mrs. Claus pointed out Roz Warren’s story in Chapter 8 about when people take their Christmas lights down. Never sounds good to me. And Mrs. Claus agrees, because she finds it so sad when the lights come down after the holidays are over.

Speaking of Mrs. Claus, I won’t even tell you what happened the first time she made Christmas dinner for me after my long night working, but she was tickled pink by Gail Molsbee Morris’s story in Chapter 9, “Around the Table.” Gail was so pleased by how well her first Christmas dinner was going that she started to relax and enjoy herself, until there was a loud noise in the kitchen. Gail rushed in and saw nothing amiss until she opened the oven and discovered that the turkey had exploded into hundreds of pieces.

Chapter 10 is all about “Honoring Memories,” because Christmas and Hanukkah are the time of year when we particularly miss those loved ones who are no longer with us. I highly recommend Daryl Wendy Strauss’s story about the instructions her mom left when she died. She asked her kids to continue filling a Christmas stocking for her each year and then give it to a woman in need. Her kids ended up turning this into a charity called Mom’s Stocking that has distributed hundreds of filled Christmas stockings across the U.S.

That concludes my tour of the book! This book sure has gotten me into the Christmas spirit. No matter how busy you are this holiday season, I hope you will find the time to curl up in front of the fire and have a good read. And remember that Chicken Soup for the Soul’s Christmas books are always appropriate for young readers or listeners — their editors work closely with Mrs. Claus and me to keep the magic alive — so you can share these stories with the young ones.

Now I have one very important thing to tell you, and if you want to go on my “Nice” list you’ll pay close attention. Do not listen to Mrs. Claus about the cookies. My cholesterol is fine. And I get plenty of exercise on Christmas Eve.

I like the cookies.

I depend on you for the cookies.

She won’t let me have any cookies the rest of the year.

So cookies for me — and carrots for the reindeer — okay?

Speaking of carrots, I just love the cartoon on the next page. The Chicken Soup for the Soul folks have sprinkled eleven hilarious cartoons throughout the book, starting with this one. It’s just another reason why the Mrs. and I have enjoyed reading this manuscript.

And with that I remain your jolly friend and I look forward to visiting you soon.

~Santa Claus

August 17, 2015

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