Operation Santa Claus
23 December, 2010

Christmas is finally here in the United States. This is the most beloved holiday that usually takes off right after Thanksgiving and sticks around till after the New Years. This is the time for gingerbread houses and Christmas trees decked out in their fanciest gear.This is the holiday that brings families together and delivers Seasons Greeting cards from the people they haven’t heard from since last Christmas. If Thanksgiving holiday

is all about giving Thanks for what we have, Christmas is all about flaunting how much we have and how much we can buy for our loved ones. For the youngest children who still believe in magic, favorite part of Christmas is unwrapping gifts brought over by Santa Claus and his reindeers.
This year, by the looks of it Santa is going to be skipping quite a few houses. With 9.8 % unemployment rate and recent tax cuts that benefit the rich only, there seems to be little to be joyful about. It’s hard to go shopping when the money spent on gifts could help feed a family for a week or pay part of a mortgage on a house that increased without any warning. And it doesn’t help that kids in the States have gotten used to the good stuff. If it’s not a Nintendo or an Ipad, gift wrapped under the tree, there are some very disappointed faces greeting their parents.
But what is sadder than anything is that even the spoiled children are feeling the economic pressure their parents are under. This year letters to Santa have been filled not with requests for toys but with pleas for the help for a parent to find a job. U.S Postal Service workers have a tradition of reading the letters addressed to Santa Claus and distributing letters to the  companies or individuals (a.k.a. Secret Santas) who volunteer to donate the toys requested in the letters. A staff of twenty-two people (Santa’s elves) read and sorts two million letters as part of Operation Santa. This year is a sad time for the elves. The letters are so heartbreaking some workers can’t help but get tear-eyed. In their letters to Santa, instead of asking for Toys and candy, children are asking for winter coats for their parents, for socks and shoes and other necessities. Most disappointing is that, due to economic downturn, the number of volunteers to be Secret Santas has decreased as well. This year half of the letters to Santa will not get answered.
So, what do people do when there is no help from the government or from Santa Claus? If they are lucky not to be alone in this world, they turn to their families. Sitting together, near a fire, drinking eggnog and talking to each other is a gift enough for most families. Of course there are people who cannot for the life of them show up to a Christmas party without bringing presents and this year such people have gotten crafty with baking cakes and cookies as presents. Home-made gifts are making a comeback, and there are blogs on the internet to give readers ideas on how to knit a scarf or bake a whole gingerbread house instead of buying the gifts at the stores.
And the stores are feeling it. Usually Christmas shopping starts right around thanksgiving and the stores are packed with holiday shoppers looking for bargains. This year, it is easy breezing through the malls. This is not good news for the stores that do most of their business during holidays. Surprisingly the Greeting Card stores like Paper Source are seeing increase in shoppers. It seems that if people can’t afford to show their love and affection with expensive gifts they at least want to do it with words.