Publishing “Letters to Santa” from local schoolchildren is a Journal tradition that stretches back many years, and one that I’ve been happy to continue since becoming editor in early 2016. It’s always fun to see the letters start to arrive in my inbox, but every year I realize how increasingly out of touch I am with the hot trends and popular toys of the season. My own son is 22, so is well out of the toy-giving stage, and I don’t yet have any grandchildren, so it’s instructive—and sometimes a challenge—to see what today’s kids are hoping to find under the tree come Christmas Day.
The first batch of letters is always the hardest, especially if they’re handwritten and have been scanned, mostly because I’m out of practice. As all parents (and probably grandparents) know, the hot items can change from year to year, so I can’t always depend on past Christmas letters to guide me. “Paw Patrol” I recognize, and I also now know that anything to do with “LOL” does not mean “laugh out loud”; it refers to a popular series of dolls (and accessories) that apparently come inside a container and are wrapped in layers of material, so purchasers don’t necessarily know what they’ve got until they unwrap the gift.
As someone who had a Barbie doll in the late 1960s, I can (sort of) see the appeal of the LOL dolls and their accessories, although I rather like the idea of knowing what I’m getting. However, since I was thrilled when my baby brother presented me with a dump truck when he arrived home when I was two-and-a-half, and I cut off my Barbie’s hair to give her a not-very-fashionable bob as soon as I could wield scissors, I’m probably not the best judge when it comes to anything to do with dolls.
So when I saw Paw Patrol and LOL requests among this year’s first batch of requests, I felt I was on solid ground, and mentally patted myself on the back. Then I came across a request for FNAF toys, and was thrown. What on Earth was “FNAF”?
They say that Google is your friend, and so it proved to be. “FNAF” turned out to mean “Five Nights at Freddy’s”, which is — according to Wikipedia — a “media franchise based on an indie video game series”.
I understand this sentence now, but my 10-year-old self would have had no clue what it meant; the sentence might as well have been written in Aramaic, for all it would have conveyed. Still, decrypting this enabled me to move forward with slightly more confidence; the same feeling that the decipherers of the Dead Sea Scrolls must have felt when they made their first tentative forays into translating what they had found.
Okay, maybe not quite the same, but you know what I mean. I came across more references to Freddy’s and was able to use that first mention as a touchstone, enabling me to carry on.
There were requests for Lego and Hot Wheels, both of which were welcome flashbacks to my youth. I was a huge fan of Lego, and my brother collected Hot Wheels, so it was good to see that both are still going strong (although it was slightly weird to see that there is now such a thing as “Lego Hot Wheels”: when did this union take place?). And as a child who relished the quiet pleasure of a good book and something to mark one’s place — a plague on the house of anyone who turns down the corner of a page to show where they’ve got to — I quietly rejoiced when I found one student who asked Santa for a bookmark for Christmas.
Whether you have children or not, there is much to savour and enjoy about the “Letters to Santa”. I hope you enjoy them as much as I will over the next couple of weeks. And remember: Google is your friend.