Toddler’s first letter to Santa: a messy bonding experience

Christmas FM provides the soundtrack to creche collections

My husband does the creche drop-off and I do the collection. Every afternoon I sit into the car and switch the radio from RTÉ Radio One to Christmas FM. And I have to presume that every morning he turns off the joy that is Christmas FM, in favour of the non-joy that is morning talk radio.

I don’t know why he resists its charm when the power of Christmas FM cannot be denied. And not just because it raises hundreds of thousands of euros for charity. Within seconds of first tuning in, the toddler (quoting Slade?) squealed “It’s Christmas!” and the baby stopped crying – it was a Christmas miracle!

The station’s jolly, jaunty playlist transformed our regular route. It was impossible not to get into the spirit. One afternoon, a bin truck decorated with Christmas lights passed by and with the sound of accompanying background bells ringing all around, it felt like we were in a heartwarming TV ad; albeit one for a waste collection company.

Further along the road, we spotted a man high up in a cherrypicker putting lights on what we have dubbed the Ugliest Building in Ireland. Every year, only two of the six floors of the Ugliest Building in Ireland are covered with lights and it's hard to imagine how anything could make that building less attractive than it already is all by itself, but the paltry show of twinkly lights barely covering its modesty somehow manages it.


But not even a hunk of 1960s brutalism could break the mood. I’m a Christmas fan. I wouldn’t be first out of the blocks with a tree or decorations mind you – I’m a Christmas fan, not a Christmas freak. I like the season so much I want to keep it sacred to the month of December and not start it so early that we grow weary of it.

I am not a fan of shopping, though. Our family Kris Kindle ensures one gift covers all; it has a monetary limit of €35 – a massive 75 per cent increase on the €20 limit we started with back in 2009. Ah, the bad old days!

My parents are to this day very smug about how good they were at Christmas shopping when we were children. They'd dress for work and drop us to school as usual but then instead of going to work, they'd head to Newry, get all their shopping done and be home in time for tea with none of their four children any the wiser.

It never occurred to us to ask where the multiple copies of the Argos catalogue appeared from. I’m not sure we even knew what Argos was, other than being a terribly glamorous toy, jewellery and footspa magazine. It was a prized possession in our house. My youngest brother would go to sleep with it under his arm like it was a teddy bear. We never wrote our letters to Santa without first consulting it and absolutely never posted them before watching the Late Late Toy Show.

I’d love to go back in time now to my parents, and tell their mid-1990s selves that by the time I’m their age, I can do all of my Christmas shopping in one hour, on a Sunday evening, without leaving the couch. To which I’m sure they’d reply,

"How? Does Argos have a postal service now?"
"No, I did it online."
"On what? Did you do it during Glenroe?"
"No, Glenroe's finished. Biddy died."
"Ah no, not Biddy."
"Sorry I tell a lie, I topped up the shopping with a few bits from one of the German supermarkets."
"So you had to go to Germany?"
"No, I went to Cabra. "

I took a notion that the two year-old would “write” a letter to Santa even though her concept of the whole thing is questionable. We had no catalogues, she hadn’t seen the Toy Show. The whole process can be added to the list of things that in my head were going to be cute, bonding experiences but in reality were, at best, non-events and at worst, a disaster (topping that list is babyccinos: milk...everywhere).

I should have called it a day after she spent the time scribbling in black marker over what I had written and spiritedly informed me that she wanted a blue bike (when I was doing the hard sell on the yellow bike that had already been ordered). But no, I continued with the charade which she wasn’t grasping, and took us both off to post the damn thing. The letter had just dropped in the postbox when I noticed there was no signage on the box and I started to panic that maybe it was out of commission. Until I remembered that in this particular instance, it really didn’t matter (because the magic would take it there, of course).

Her knowledge and interest in Santa has developed rapidly since. Her previous obsession with the Virgin Mary has been replaced by a true devotion to Santa Claus. We have three Santa decorations that never made it to the tree as she insists on carrying them with her at all times. When the doorbell rings, her usual guess of “the postman!” – nearly always right, to be fair to her – has changed to “Santa?”.

The first time she said this, I opened the door to a grey-bearded man who delivered the gift of a cheese hamper and then marked us off his list before quickly disappearing, so who knows maybe she was right.