letter from Santa - Christmas 1940
Scarcity and poverty are great levellers of class and creed.
The dark clouds of war that burst over Europe in September
1939 were still gathering momentum during 1940. The Irish
winter of that year was lean and hungry; everything was
scarce; tea, sugar, and butter were rationed, everybody
ate brown bread; white bread no longer existed; cigarettes
and petrol had become extinct; an ounce of tea might be
acquired on the black market at a price which only a favoured
few could afford. The cost of living had increased rapidly
and seriously eroded the incomes of most families; money
was scarce; payment bore little relation to time spent on
In spite of our Country;s neutrality, there was widespread
apprehension that we might be forced into the hostilities;
tensions increased enormously in the bordering counties
Cavan and Monaghan when on the night of Friday, 20th December
1940, two German bombs fell on the creamery near Shantonagh;
the explosions rattled the windows and doors of houses eight
to ten miles away; conjecture was rife. Due o an imposed
press censorship the general public didnt know what
was going on.
As Christmas approached, young Cavan lad, Brian Madden was
five years old. On Christmas Eve, he went to bed early and
hung a large stocking at the end of his bed for Santas
presents. Santa had been very generous to him the previous
year; he had brought him a big red pedal car. His immense
joy at Santas generosity remained with him long after
the car had fallen to pieces. To night he recalled his confusion
the previous year when on looking into his stocking on Christmas
morning he found only an apple and an orange, nothing else;
he remembered, searching around his bedroom floor and peering
under the small table in the corner of the room, just in
case something had fallen out of his stocking; finally,
he had looked under his bed, where to his amazement he discovered
the big red peddle car; he then understood why Santas
present was not in his stocking; it was too big to fit into
it and Santa had put it under the bed because it was a very
safe place for such a magnificent present. Tonight, pretending
to be asleep, he watched for Santa through half closed eyes,
his gaze fixed on the stocking at the end of his bed. Eventually,
excited and tired from staying awake much longer than usual,
he relaxed and fell soundly sleep.
When he awoke on Christmas morning he immediately dived
towards the stocking. He couldnt see anything protruding
from the top of it so he jumped unto the floor to make a
better inspection. He was shocked; there appeared to be
nothing there, not even the usual apple and orange bulging
at the bottom; he pulled down the stocking and stuck his
hand inside; near the bottom he found a little booklet rolled
up in a rubber band; he took off the rubber band and quickly
unrolled the little booklet and gave it a cursory examination.
It comprised four flimsy pages of cartoon type pictures
of trees, all drawn green. He had seen a similar one in
Bradys shop window with the price four pence
marked on it. Then, recalling the previous year, he suddenly
realised that Santas real present was probably somewhere
in the room; he immediately got down on all fours and peered
under the bed, not a sign of anything; he crawled under
the bed to make a better inspection; snot here,
must be under the table this time he murmured to himself
as he rapidly began reversing. Just then he heard his room
door open and footsteps approaching the end of his bed;
he stopped and saw the shoes and socks of his big sister
Ann. Im looking for Santas present
he called out to her as he extricated himself from under
the bed; cant find it, he added. Look,
look she interrupted, Heres a letter to
you from Santa. It was in your stocking. A letter
from Santa, for me he gleefully responded, I
didnt see it when I looked in me stocking, there was
only that old book like the one in Bradys window
he added pointing to the discarded booklet on the floor.
Will I read Santas letter for you she
replied. Do so, I cant read very good,
he replied. See she said, showing the letter
to him To Brian - From Santa, is written in big letters
on the envelope. He looked closely at it, slowly studying
each letter. Yes, to Brian, from Santa is written
on it, he said with delight, quickly repeating, To
Brian from Santa and with great enthusiasm and expectancy
he said, Open it quick.
Ann tore open the envelope and took out the letter and they
both sat on the side of the bed as she unfolded the small
sheet of white paper. He stared fixedly at the neat blue
writing as holding the letter between them and with her
left arm around his shoulder she read, - -
I am very sorry that I was not able to bring you the ball
with all stripy colours and the box of red, blue and yellow
paints because all my reindeers except one got sick and
he was only able to pull a small sleigh load of toys all
the way from the North Pole so I could only bring some small
presents for good boys and girls. When my reindeers are
better I will bring you the ball and the box of paints.
I hope you like the small book, which I left in your stocking.
Be a good boy and always do what your mother tells you!Santa
Is that all what it says; thats all he brought,
- that wee book? queried an astonished Brian.
Thats right, his reindeers got sick so he could
only bring you a small present; hes bringing you the
other presents when his reindeers get better.
What did he bring you? asked Brian, still in
shock and gazing at the letter.
Oh! Something small; got a letter too.
Where is it? Read it for me.
Oh! I threw it away.
Santas envelope is the same as the ones Mammy
has said Brian, still in shock and slowly examining
the letter and the envelope.
Thats right, sure he wrote it here last night
and probably borrowed one of hers because all his were used
Santas writing is the same as Mammys.
Maybe a little, but all big peoples writing
looks the same. Look I got to get ready for mass; so have
you; you better get dressed and have your breakfast.
Ann hurriedly left the room and Brian, still numb with disappointment,
put on some clothes and with a brave face proceeded to the
kitchen for breakfast, leaving Santas letter and present
discarded on his bed.
Some days later, he was seated sulking on the wall outside
his home, Santas small booklet protruding from his
coat pocket. A childs voice near him said, Did
Santa bring you that book? He turned and saw little
Mary Hannon seating herself on the wall beside him. She
was about a year younger than him. Her mother helped his
mother with house cleaning once a week and Mary often came
with her. Mary grabbed the book from Brians pocket
and commenced examining it. Oh! She exclaimed
with delight, Its the very same as the one he
brought me; its great!
Is it? remarked Brian, surprise in his voice.
You didnt colour any of the hidden pictures
she replied turning over the pages.
I only saw two and anyway Ive no paints,
Look, theres the first picture, see theres
four birds hiding in that tree, she said carefully
tracing the outlines of the birds with a small finger, and
adding, one, two, three, four; four birds in that
tree, Brian looked closely and saw the outline of
the birds barely discernable among the elaborate branches;
Mary continued, See behind those mushrooms on the
ground, look there! Theres two leprechauns, I coloured
their clothes red and their faces blue.
Ive no paints, said Brian, dejectedly;
he added, Did Santa bring you paints?
No, he didnt, Ive no paints too, I coloured
mine with my big brothers red ink and blue ink and
my own pencil; you can use your sisters red and blue
ink, shes got some, cause shes in the same class
as my big brother.
Yeah! Thats right, Brian replied, She
must have red ink and sure Mammy has blue ink anyway; Ill
have great fun doing that.
Its a great book; isnt Santa really great?
Yeah! Hes great; replied Brian; but alas,
like the shattering of the stillness of the night on 20th
December, the the exploding bombs at Shanonagh, Brians
faith in the omnipotent power of his good friend Santa and
his reindeers was shattered forever.
Taken from Breffni Blue 2005