52% intelligent. 9% modest. More monkey than bear.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

so be good for goodness sake....

A couple of years ago, a colleague of mine asked me if I would mind pretending to be Santa Claus and write a letter to her five year old daughter (details here). Not having any kids of my own, it was actually really nice to get a glimpse into a totally different world - a place where Christmas is still magical and where Father Christmas really does exist.

My colleague told me the other day how her youngest daughter Hannah came home from school, went to her room and pulled out her folder with all her special things in it. She pulled out the letter from Santa and spent a couple of minutes looking at it. She then put it down, wandered over to her mum and asked if she could see a sample of her writing (apparently she already knows what her dad's handwriting looks like). My colleague showed her some of her writing, and she took it away. When she thought her mum wasn't looking, she carefully compared the two bits of writing, looked a touch confused, and put the letter from Santa away again. She's now 7 years old, and is probably just at the age where she is starting to hear that Santa might not be real (although apparently not at an age where she might think that someone other than her mum, dad and Santa Claus might have written the letter). Her faith in Santa apparently confirmed, both Hannah and her older sister Ellie wrote their letters to Santa and left them in the chimney for collection (they've apparently both decided that Santa must have a letter fairy who delivers all these letters to Santa at the North Pole).

Having realised that any future letter from Santa was going to be scrutinised like never before, my colleague asked me if I minded terribly much getting my fountain pen out again....

Of course I didn't.


Dear Ellie

Thank you for your letter. I do have a fairy who collects my letters for me. She tends to get rather dirty, poor thing, so Mrs Claus is always having to do the washing.

The little fairy definitely prefers clean chimneys - she has told me yours is quite good. She absolutely hates it when people light fires in the chimney. Honestly, how do they expect her to collect letters when there has been a fire burning? I've told her she doesn't need to collect any letters if there is smoke coming out of the chimney.

I hope you have a lovely Christmas and enjoy your presents. Mrs Claus has done a great job on your dress up and I'm sure you will look beautiful

Lots of love from,



Dear Hannah,

Thank you for the letter you wrote with your sister.

Things have been very busy in the North Pole. The fairies and the elves have been working overtime and at one stage Mrs Claus ran out of black thread for her sewing machine. She had to send the letter fairy off to get some more. Actually, I think she might have been making your costume at the time. My, that WAS a bit of a challenge! I'm not sure she has ever made one quite like that before!

As the weather is so very cold, and as we need to keep hidden, we actually live in a massive cave system underground. We have many rooms, and many hallways, and lots of tunnels down to secret cellars for storing all the presents. It is very important that no-one finds us, so there is only one entrance to the outside world. It makes it quite a challenge to get all the presents out and onto the sleigh, but a little bit of magic usually does the trick.

I hope you have wonderful Christmas with your family. It is so nice to be able to deliver presents to this address again.

Lots of love from,



Aw. Int Christmas brilliant?


  • At 10:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    My, my, you do have quite the imagination there, Swiss. Adorable and very sweet. Brought a smile to my studying-weary face.

    In his next letter, perhaps Santa could explain why yours is the only blog that my computer doesn't automatically check for a new page. I always have to manually reload to see your new posts...

  • At 10:48 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    Oh - all credit for the content is due to my colleague, not me. I'm only the scribe here.

    I'll let you know how they react to the letters when I see my colleague next week.


  • At 11:13 pm, Blogger LB said…

    I thought Santa's wife was called Mary Christmas?


    Next year, how about:

    "Dear Girls

    This red incarnation of Santa was invented by Coca-Cola and actually doesnt exist. Your presents come from Argos and I am an imposter.




  • At 11:16 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    Point taken Lizzy ... but, like I said, I'm only the scribe here. And besides, if you knew my colleague at all, I don't think you'd be worried about those little girls growing up all meek and submissive.

    She is an Australian, after all.


  • At 11:19 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    and I hate that coca cola have tried to lay claim to the red and white image of santa. Cobblers. It's an ancient tradition and dates back to Saint Nicholas' episcopal robes.

    bloody commercialisation. Frankly I salute the fact that these girls are getting home-made dress-ups for christmas.

    In 2004 Hannah thought the best present she had was the letter from Santa.

    I refuse to be cynical about this.


  • At 11:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Perhaps Mrs. Clause should give Santa the what-for with her sewing needle, Lizzy. :) It might be enough to get him off his fat arse...

  • At 11:28 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    oh come on!

    It's a family run business and Mrs Claus a co-owner/partner.

    And yes, all the elves and fairies are paid a fair wage for their efforts and have excellent working conditions and benefits.


  • At 11:28 pm, Blogger ian said…

    Dear Girls.

    I'm sorry you may have received a letter from a sourpuss called Bargain. He has no sense of magic, or wonder, although he does believe everything he reads on the interweb, and further, is wrong. Let that be a lesson to you: just because someone has a title, doesn't make them right.



  • At 11:42 pm, Blogger Jenni said…

    This is really odd, as I was going to write a post today closely related to what Lizzy is saying...

    I understand and support her point. On the other hand, I don't want to make ST feel guilty for writing the letter requested by the girl's mother.

    I've lost the opportunity to have certain jobs because of backwards-minded thinking. Lizzy is right, it's the pervasiveness of this type of thinking that leads to us having to put up with it on a daily basis.

    On the other hand, it is Christmas and it was quite nice of you, ST, to bring those girls a bit of Christmas magic. And who ever said Santa was perfect?

  • At 11:45 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    no lizzy - I'm not saying it's "just a bit of fun". You've raised a very interesting point, and it was something I hadn't noticed. It's interesting the way that the gender role has - and it definitely has - slipped in.

    I do however think that saying that this is "Limiting expectations and causing a child to internalise miserable gender pigeonholing is the issue" is a bit more of a moot point.


  • At 11:50 pm, Blogger Hyde said…

    I seriously doubt ST's letter is going to be the thing that alerts these girls to gender-pigeonholing. If they haven't already picked up that women stereotypically traditionally do the washing and the sewing, I'd call it a miracle. Especially if it's their mother who dictated the letters... Besides, it's Santa who runs around delivering gifts, so I'm with ST on this one-- if it's a family business, Mrs. Claus should be expected to pitch in...

    I think it's very sweet of you, ST...


  • At 12:05 am, Blogger ian said…

    Women do all the sewing? Ha! Not in my house. I bought my missus a sewing machine for her birthday, and you know what? She hasn't even used it.

    (and before anyone starts, it's what she asked for)

  • At 4:07 am, Blogger Alecya G said…

    I think its adorable ST, really sweet. As a child I would have been so happy to get a letter like that. And you know, the last thing on my tiny feminist mind is a gender pigionholing issue. I think Hyde's right. And the little ones are probably delighted at the thought on someone magical hard at work all over them.

    You're a gem swiss

  • At 8:19 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…


  • At 9:34 am, Blogger Cat said…

    Ahhhh, I think thats lovely. There's plenty time for little girls to worry about the bigger picture when they are big girls. For now, let them believe in magic. Because it sure as hell sucks as Christmas when you get old.

  • At 10:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Swiss i like the way you have turned Santa's grotto into a James Bond baddie "spectoresque" hideout!!

    We live in a secret bunker with many rooms...

    Imagine that, santa in his sleigh being chased by bond in his aston, santa throwing presents out thats actually dynamite...

    I think i've watched die hard too much...

  • At 3:33 pm, Blogger Flash said…

    Yes, Christmas is fantastic & so are you ST, for doing that for those children.
    It staggers me that people seek to take away from that.

  • At 4:44 pm, Blogger Ali said…

    I wish Father Christmas would have written me a letter like that.


    Perhaps he could look into outsourcing the laundry to a cooperative paid minimum wage, and import the costumes under a fair trade agreement next year?

    We shouldn't be too critical, afterall he is a self-confessed cave man!

  • At 5:06 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Yes, Christmas is wonderful. And, it was fantastic of Swiss to bring a bit of Christmas magic to these two girls. But when those girls are in their 20s (or even sooner than that), they'll be thanking people like Lizzy too for having the courage to point out the things we still need to change in our society.

    I think we all should stop giving Lizzy a hard time. If you can't be bothered to stop because she's right about the fact that gender stereotyping isn't necessary, perhaps you could stop because berating her for sticking up on behalf our gender is not very Christmas spirit-y.


  • At 5:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well just to set you straight,i am an old man and can't sow so Mrs Claus does it for me, she does moan alot though the miserable reindeer but she doesn't have to fly all across the World delivering presents to children.

    Swiss, i think your letter from me to the two girls was a lovely thing to do, and all this politically correct stuff is stupid, oh how rudolph would laugh!

    I think if the young girls realised the toys they were getting for christmas were manufactured by 8 year old chinese children earning £1 a month will probably upset them more and affect them more in future life then a bit of make believe about mrs claus making the tea....

    Merry Christmas

  • At 5:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Literary Hoax will be getting some lovely mittens and some bath oils for christmas, the oven gloves and iron have been sent back...
    I am an obliviously privileged simpleton but still know all this is bollocks...

  • At 6:04 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    I was just about to say that I hoped none of this was personal and that Lizzy is free to say what she wants here.... but come on now Santa, that's enough of that.


  • At 6:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I received a letter from Santa when I was a kid...only it was a "if you don't behave better next year, you won't be getting any presents!" Only my mother could be a mean Santa. :/

  • At 6:37 pm, Blogger Threelight said…


  • At 8:23 pm, Blogger Mark said…

    i´m going to have to look at this properly when i´m not on holiday

  • At 10:19 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Has clarkson had 2 autobiographies?

    1. When i was at top gear

    2. When i came back to Top gear

  • At 12:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ha ha. Oh dear.

    Let's see what we have here:

    "But it's Christmas!" a.k.a. "not the time or the place!" – check

    [The first, and only person to say that was you. Perhaps you were too busy setting your watch to notice, but no one else posited that argument.]

    "Don't worry, the kids are being brought up to be feisty despite it all!" – check
    [Who are you quoting? Or is this an insight into the voices in your head?]

    "Noticing internalised power structures in language is an act of cynicism and defies the goodwill behind it!" – check
    [ST’s use of the word “cynical” – which was used in the context of how he felt about it, not as an accuastion aimed at you - was clearly directed at the commercialisation of Christmas, not your observation.]

    multiple jokes about fair trade/loony lefties/political correctness gone mad – check
    [From whom? Are there posts not visible to everyone? I see no mention of any of these “jokes”.]

    "But birds are oppressed all the time, so what's the point in commenting on this in particular?" – check
    [Again, you’re quoting something that wasn’t said.]

    Anecdote about individual woman who bucks stereotype in one specific way, as though this disproves the entire point – check
    [Where is this?]

    "Well I'm a woman and a feminist, and I hold a different view, SO YOU MUST BE WRONG!" – check
    [Or this?]

    "They're only kids, no point attempting to be anti-sexist until they're adults" – check
    [Another quotation of something that no one said.]

    "Taking issue with the language used by someone nice means you seek to detract from their goodness, and quite frankly, how dare you? You make me SICK." – check
    [Again with the quotations, and the hyperbole, and the pre-emptive strike that pre-empts nothing at all.]

    comedy sexism applied to person making the point, to take her down a peg or two – check
    [How else to react? You’re hearing voices, quoting them, and insulting yourself – why would anyone with any sense attempt to engage with that in a rational, serious way?]

    lone voice defending person making point, roundly ignored – check
    [You weren’t making a point. You raised an issue and then tried to beat everyone over the head with it until they submitted to your will.]

    Blimey, that's nearly the whole set. Splendid.

    If someone could just close the deal with a suggestion that my shrill, strident "whining" might be cured by a spot of "deep dicking", I win a signed copy of Jeremy Clarkson's autobiography. Volumes one AND two.

    Come on! Make my day.

    Merry Christmas to you all.

    [And why not finish off with a spot more self-insult? You raised an interesting point. The language in the letters did contain gender bias, and that fact could have formed the basis of a discussion. Instead, you turned it into conflict, condemning any view that wasn’t your own and, seemingly unimpressed with the sensible, rational counterpoints being raised by others, set about arguing with yourself. You took a strong position from which to argue your point and turned it into an ad hominem (verging on ad homo) rant. I had a look at your blog to see if that was a one off, “having a bad day” thing (and no, before you accuse me of it, I’m not suggesting your menstrual cycle is to blame), but it would seem that your post here are in fact slightly toned down compared to your blog style.

    I resisted the urge to post yesterday, suspecting that what you really want is reaction, but in the giving spirit of the season, today I changed my mind. Merry Christmas. I hope this made your day.]

  • At 5:48 pm, Blogger LB said…

    Ian - I have a two year old. Santa exists. It was a joke. No need to be quite so miserable, eh?

    ST - I bow to your episcopal knowledge.

    *remembers never to post a joke on here again*

  • At 3:37 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There is no rational counterpoint to gender stereotyping. It's wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. I'd say it again, but I'm sick of hitting my head against a brick wall.

    If you think there are rational counterpoints to the types of views that pigeonhole people, then maybe you really are an obliviously privileged simpleton.

  • At 7:32 pm, Blogger Aravis said…

    I made this comment at Jenni's and decided to share it here as well:

    I hadn’t read the comments at ST’s until you wrote this, assuming that they would be full of praise for his actions; what he did was very sweet and he shouldn’t be chastised for it. He didn’t draft the letter, the mother did. I didn’t initially pick up on the gender-stereotyping of Mrs. Claus. I’ve grown up in a world where my mother cooks and sews. She also chops wood, mows the lawn and pays the bills. I don’t assume because a woman does traditionally women’s chores that she doesn’t also do men’s. That being said…

    I felt that several of the people were being deliberately obtuse in their comments and their reading of what you and Lizzy said. Your points were clear and accurate. That one long comment in response to Lizzy’s checklist was insulting. Lizzy’s summation spoke directly to the subtext of the comments of others, subtext that was clear to this reader despite my attempts to look at where each commenter was coming from in a fair and neutral way. Did I mention people were being deliberately obtuse? The comment from that person proved my point. And I have no respect for people who post such things under an assumed name. Even if it’s obvious that it was someone who previously commented under their own name, it’s lame. If you have something to say, say it directly with your own identity. Don’t try to be cute or hide behind a false persona. If you don’t agree with a person’s viewpoint, that’s fine. Disagree and argue your point. But to make personal attacks is unacceptable. It wreaks of a mean and ugly soul with a need to tear others down in order to feel better about yourself. Are there no better ways to pass the time?

    So good for ST for doing a lovely thing for a coworker and her daughters.

    Good for all of those who argued their points reasonably, whether I agree with them or not.

    As for the rest? I’m sure I can find something else to do with my time…

  • At 10:44 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Being a grumpy fucker I saw that this was a Christmas related post and skipped over it entirely. Until I noticed 30+ comments!

    For what it's worth, not only did I agree with Lizzy but I also got a bit angry -not as Swiss personally- but at the whole thing. Yes, the letter perpetuated stereotypes and so on but it was also a complete lie.

    One thing I hate about Christmas is the fact that to most people it is Santa and reindeer and all that and it is a complete lie; parents deliberately trick their children from the moment they're born and I find it a offensive. It's no wonder that we live in cynical times when many people's earliest memories include a massive betrayal of trust on behalf of their carers.

    Why can't we just celebrate as a family and give each other presents? Why do we have to pretend there is some fat bloke in a suit?

    All that 'but it's only Christmas' or 'it's magical' stuff is bollocks. Lying and deceit are considered bad things pretty much universally why do we make an exception at this time of year? Fictional stories are fine when they are presented as such -in fact they're of huge cultural importance- but not when they're presented as truth.

    And that boys and girls is why I'm such a grumpy fucker at Christmas. This li'l ol' atheist has a morality issue with the common perception of Christmas. And that's leaving the whole religious aspect out of it!

    Oh, and for the record, I do 'celebrate' Christmas in as much as I give presents, meet up with family I hardly ever see and so on; that aspect of it is all part of our culture and wholly a Good Thing.

  • At 4:23 pm, Blogger swisslet said…

    I just want to be clear that every viewpoint is welcomed here as long as it is reasonably well presented and avoids any name-calling. I'd also prefer it if people who do have a blogger ID refrained from posting anonymously - but as long as they adhere to the guidelines above, I don't really have an issue with that either. What I don't want is for people to be afraid to comment because they are worried about the reaction that they will get. That's rubbish, and I don't want it to happen here again.

    I'm a little surprised that this whole debate has got so heated (and it has got heated on all sides of the debate), to be honest, but I fervently hope that no lasting damage has been done.

    If there's going to be any ranting around here, I reckon it should be done by me.

    merry xmas all.



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