Dear Santa, I hope you can read my letter after it’s burned…

When I was a child you know what I got to do on Christmas Eve? What every kid loves! Practice my penmanship! What’s this, you ask? Well, my mother would have us sit down at the dining table and carefully write our letters to Santa. In fact, we needed to re-write it until our individual letter was honed and mistake-free. Once my mother said it was okay, we burned our letters in the fireplace, with the understanding this was how they got to Santa. Burning wasn’t optional. I told myself elaborate stories about how the ashes must somehow magically reconfigure themselves back into a letter once they’d cleared the chimney.

This little enterprise was a sham on several levels. First, having to practice handwriting on Christmas Eve. And then burning a letter no one would ever read. And there’s the fact that the presents we were going to receive had already been made or purchased, so fat chance of getting anything requested. (What did my mother think as she read our wish lists of things we stood small chance of getting? “Chumps”??).

I never knew anybody else who grew up with this peculiar ritual so tonight I googled “burning Christmas letters to Santa.” Bingo! We got hits! It seems that it’s a custom for British children to burn their letters to Santa. I was knee-jerkedly going to tell you well my family was certainly not British – my father was 100% Italian (northern-not-Sicilian), and I learned to recite that we were “Irish, Dutch, French and German” on my mother’s side, something I went on saying for decades. My mother proudly liked to claim her “Irish” heritage and always wore green on St. Patrick’s Day. Except…except turns out that’s not entirely true.

About 2 or 3 years so I independently discovered very detailed maternal genealogy online and learned that yes, there was German, French, and Dutch back there, but the “Irish” bit was negligible. (If I recall, my mother was an eighth Irish, meaning her children were a scanty sixteenth.) Moreover, there was a healthy dose of English! This was both freaky and kind of exciting to me – surely not on the level of discovering you’re in line to inherit the Rockefeller fortune, or that your real dad is Kevin Costner – but interesting nevertheless.

I kind of wonder now if that heretofore undiscovered English heritage a few generations back is the reason I had to burn my letter to Santa on Christmas Eve. Well, blimey, mates! Bollocks, I just don’t know. I think I’ll go eat some crisps and think about it…

20 thoughts on “Dear Santa, I hope you can read my letter after it’s burned…

      1. Victo Dolore

        Do you blog or read from a phone? I have had that happen a lot, too, and all I can figure is that scrolling down was hitting the unfollow so I switched scrolling hands. And I have had legit comments from real bloggers end up in spam, too. So much wonkiness…

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        1. writerinsoul Post author

          No, no phone and it’s you in particular I keep losing. Maybe I’m doing something, I don’t know. I did see a couple different conversations on this topic (mystery unfollowing) about a month ago. And John C went through a weird period where ALL his comments went into everybody’s spam. At least now I know not to think, “that’s funny, she hasn’t blogged in a couple days…”

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    1. writerinsoul Post author

      Thank you John! Funny, I was thinking about your Irishness…. it was weird to go from being Irish to English overnight. I had to take up whole new hobbies and everything, ha!

      Merry Christmas to you too.

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  1. Angie Mc

    Great mystery solved, if there is such a thing as ever solving these mysteries completely! Aside from going from Irish to English overnight (oh my) I’m struck by the penmanship and rewriting part. I wonder how many odd things parents do can be traced back in this way, making them a little less odd, gratefully. Cause let me tell you, there was a lot of “odd” going on in my childhood.

    Thanks for the link, Colette!

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      1. Angie Mc

        I agree. And even if there are roots, as adults we need to reevaluate, especially for the sake of young minds and souls that are trying to make sense of the world. Your “perfect penmanship and burn the paper” activity is worth asking if it fits the intent of the holiday. I, too, grew up with a lot of mindless handed down behaviors. I’ve tried to keep the good and ditch the rest!

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          1. Angie Mc

            Colette, you made my day! It’s because I needed to give much of my childhood the heave ho that I became a mindful parent. I couldn’t, wouldn’t foist it on my children and I really didn’t want to dump my issues on others in general. But it took a lot of work…creating the wheel. Yet, that is exactly where my passion for a truthful, hardworking, and happy life comes from. Thanks for seeing me ❀

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