When Santa came for tea

Dear Uncle George thought it would be a jolly nice idea to invite Santa Claus over for tea. The excitement he imagined in his nephews’ and nieces’ faces when he announced his jolly idea brought tears to his dear old eyes.

It didn’t take much to coax a neighbour to dress up in a rented Santa suit – a dusty bottle of whisky long forgotten in the broom cupboard did the trick – and soon the great day came. The crowd that gathered in Uncle George’s living room was a sight to make the heart soar. It was crammed with sparkly-eyed children, tanked up for years by their parents and other assorted relatives on the God-like aura of Santa. And dear old Uncle George was ready with a song too, cranked up to ear-piercing volume on his neighbour’s new stereo system, borrowed in exchange for another bottle of whisky he’d discovered in the toilet tank.

With perfect timing, Uncle George pressed the Play button, and in strode Santa Claus with a hearty “Ho, ho, ho” and a scattering of dust from his fake beard, which made him cough. The song was “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and as Santa circled the room, beaming at each child in turn, it was like Santa himself singing the words of the song: “He’s making a list; he’s checking it twice; he’s going to find out who’s naughty and nice; Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Some of the children stopped smiling, and one little girl’s bottom lip began to tremble. Her mother elbowed Santa aside, punched the Stop button and rushed to her daughter’s side. “It’s all right dear, it’s just a song, Santa’s not really like that.”

The little girl sniffed a snorty sniff and said, “But Mommy, you said yourself that Santa wouldn’t bring me any presents if I was naughty. You said it yesterday when I was screaming and throwing things in the toy store.”

“Well, yes, that’s right, dear,” her Mother replied, “but all Mommies do that at Christmas-time to get their children to behave. It’s tradition.”

Santa in the rented suit laid a gentle hand on the girl’s shoulder and spluttered through the dust, “Yes, my dear, Mommy and me (cough) are only doing what religion’s been doing for centuries (hack). Threats have been jolly useful in getting lots of naughty adults to behave too. You’ll be using threats on your own kids too one day, so cheer up kiddo (cough and splutter), you’ve cottoned on to the secret of fear religion and stressed-out parenting all in one go.” Santa tried another “Ho, ho, ho” but turned purple with coughing instead.

“How jolly this all is, isn’t it?!” cried Uncle George as he pressed the Play button to finish the song.

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