Dale McFeatters - Shaping up as a tough Christmas for Santa Claus

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This Christmas is turning out to be a potentially bad season for Santa Claus.

("Santa Claus" was how Saint Nicholas came out after the speaker had made too many trips to the punch bowl, but the name was catchy and, in the late 20th century, convenient because it neatly dodged any religious overtones.)

But to return to Santa's problems.

The North Pole is melting and as it shrinks there's the danger that it will reveal the location of the secret workshop where Santa and the elves spend most of the year making toys, cleverly disguising their origin by labeling them "Made in China."

Moreover, as the ice melts, nations are beginning to lay claim to segments of the Pole in the belief that under the ice cap there are oil, gas and mineral deposits in addition to a super-efficient toy factory.

Some blame the shrinking ice cap on global warming and it's only a matter of time before some group of scientific killjoys singles out Santa and his sleigh as the culprit because of the atmospheric disruption caused visiting somewhere around 120 million households in a single night.

The practical solution would be to strictly enforce the "naughty or nice" criterion but that would be bad P.R. just as Santa is facing serious online competition and next-day, instead of once a year, delivery.

The red costume trimmed in white is increasingly out of step with winter fashion. This year's hot colors, according to web sites that know about these things, are gray, chocolate, camel, honey, nude, French vanilla and ivory. Nude doesn't even beat thinking about. And fire-engine red is not among them.

And if that white fur trim is real fur there's going to be big trouble with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Some PETA zealots don't even hold with fake fur. In Manhattan, my wife was pelted with the occasional snow ball for wearing an obviously fake fur; it was green, for heaven's sake, but who know what creatures lurk in the swamps of New Jersey?

The iconography of the modern Christmas created in 1823 by Clark Clement Moore in the poem that came to be known as "The Night Before Christmas." And for almost two centuries the idea of a sleigh being pulled by eight tiny reindeer was cute, even appealing, but that was before deer became a garden destroying urban and suburban pest.

Not only did Santa arrive at Moore's house with eight hungry herbivores, he smoked, heavily apparently because the smoke encircled his head like a wreath. Ma in her kerchief awoke from her long winter nap screaming, "What's that smell? I smell tobacco. Nobody better be smoking inside this house!"

And then she joins her husband at the window and, before she can enjoy the sight of the pristine new fallen show, she spots the deer. "Hey, you lousy deer! Get away from my shrubs unless you want to become venison sausage in the next five minutes."

Santa, being a jolly old elf, was on the short side and fat as well. He was chubby and plump with a belly that shook like a bowl full of jelly. Moore incautiously blurted out, "I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself."

The next morning, Moore was summoned to Human Resources and given a stern warning and a letter in his file about making inappropriate comments about people who don't fit conventional ideals of height and weight.

The question always arises: Does Santa really exist? All I know is that somebody drinks those three fingers of bourbon I put out every Christmas Eve.

(Dale McFeatters is a columnist of Scripps Howard News Service.)

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