Last week several news sites carried a lead story about this year’s Christmas toy must-have: something called a Hatchimal. Manufactured here in Canada it appears that there is not one to be had anywhere – except on resale websites. And the resale price is not double or treble but up to five times the original $80.00 (yep $400.00!). In news stories parents were stamping their little feet in anger at having to pay that sort of money to guarantee that come December 25 morn their beloved loin fruit will not be stamping their little feet in anger at not receiving the latest “thing” from that old mean bastard Santa Claus. And by extension angry at their parents who give them everything.
I will refrain from doing the curmudgeonly thing where I suggest that the little sweethearts simply suck it up and do without. Nor will I even mention they should be happy with the 49 other gifts they will receive and that when I was a child I was happy with an orange and a few candies in my stocking. Okay that last bit is a gross exaggeration I always got one Santa gift and it was pretty much what I wanted as well as other small treats plus those damn scratchy wool socks from my godmothers. And finally I will not say how ridiculous these parents are in their bid not to fulfill the desires of their children but to prove that they can!
In a rather nice contrast Lost Ottawa ran two pages from the Ottawa Journal of December 4, 1916. In those days it was one of several newspapers in town and they asked children to send in their letters to Santa and they would publish them in the paper so Santa could read them – everyone knew that Santa, as would any good Ottawan, subscribed to the Journal. And if your household didn’t subscribe chances were someone in the family would buy a copy at the newsstand just in case that letter from little Mary or tiny Sam was published that day.
No doubt many of the children had help from adults writing to Santa but aside from the odd greedy little sort who boldly stated what they wanted and that was that, most were thoughtful and showed a concern for Santa, his wife, and in a few cases for loved ones at the Front and else where in the world.
It may take a bit of an effort to decipher a few of the words but I think it worth it if for no other reason than to hear the voices of children one hundred years ago telling Santa of their wants, perhaps in some cases needs, their hopes and in a small way their fears.
A left click will enlarge them for ease of reading
There is a sameness to many of the requests – a dolly, a dolly cutter or sleigh, skates, games or books for themselves, brothers or sisters, and even friends. A few suggest the impact of the world on them with their requests.
Thanking you very much for all past favours, and wishing you a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year, I am your little friend Harold E. Mckeen 901 Bank St.
Two friends from Aylmer asks that, as well as their gifts, Santa not “forget the Belgians” and suggest that he “not give the Kaiser anything.” One little girl asks that he “send my daddy back for Christmas since we are all lonesome for him.” Another words it perhaps a bit strangely but she confides in Santa that “My Daddy is at the war. I hope you will visit me this Xmas for the sake of my Dear Brother and sister.”
It would appear that there was a flu going around that December as several of the children inquire after the health of Santa and Mrs Santa. And more than one asks for things for family and friends. One little lady wants to make sure that Santa knows that she appreciates the trouble he goes to every Christmas and express the hope that “you will not get tired coming down chimneys.” The same young lady asks him to remember the soldiers and does “hope I am not asking for two (sic) much.”
I will not get all poetic and uppity about how simple things were then – perhaps that oft mentioned dolly cutter (left) was the “must have” of Christmas 1916 and was prominently displayed in Ogilvy’s or Caplan’s Christmas window or even advertised in the pages of the Journal. I am sure children are still writing letters, or in this day and age e-mails, to Santa and may well be reasonable in their requests and show concern and care for family, friends and those in distant places. I’ll will comfort myself with the belief that children have not changed that much and that the media carry-on about this year’s must-have is nothing more than that – media carry-on.
And perhaps some child somewhere is writing that last minute letter to Santa and, like young Master Harold E. McKeen of 901 Bank Street in December of 1916, is asking him for “a little motor truck, but not an expensive one, and a story book, and also a game of some kind and anything else you can afford.” And the parents who read it along with Santa did exactly that – surprised young Harold with what they could afford.
On this day in 497 BC: The first Saturnalia festival was celebrated in ancient Rome.