Saturday, December 25, 2021

’Twas the day after Christmas Eve...

Written for the Duluth News Tribune By Jim Heffernan for Saturday, December 25, 2021

Well, he made it. Santa Claus is back at the North Pole after last night’s grueling journey around everywhere delivering lots of toys to girls and boys.


“It was a rough one,” the Jolly Old Elf admitted after landing at sunrise near his cozy cabin and toy factory at the top of the world — not feeling quite as jolly as in the weeks leading up to his annual trek.


Eager to “hit the sack” (not the sack he carries on his back, but his cozy bed), Santa granted an interview before snuggling under the quilts and covers for a long winter’s nap.


“But make it short,” he said. “I’m bushed.”


Why was this Christmas trip such a “rough one?” he was asked.


“Because it’s different now. Everything’s changed from the old days when I could harness up the reindeer just after dark on Christmas Eve and make my way south, red-nosed Rudolph in the lead in case of fog.” Every direction is south from where Santa and Ms. Claus live.


He said, for one thing, he’s had to worry about the elves coming down with COVID all year while busily making the children’s toys. “We all made it,” Santa said, adding, “I think it’s too cold up here for the virus. But we’re careful. We all wore masks all the time, although it’s hard to get a mask around my flowing white beard. Drives me nuts.”


“Then there’s the con-sarned clouds,” he went on. “It used to be kind of pleasant up there in the clouds, drifting along in my sleigh, Dasher, Dancer Prancer and Vixen in the lead behind Rudolph, with Comet, Cupid. Donner and Blitzen pulling their weight behind them.”


“But,” he said, “now the clouds are full of words and reports and letters and all sorts of stuff where people store the materials from their computers. It’s a mess up there.”


Asked what sort of stuff he encounters, Santa almost blushed, although his face is so permanently red it’s hard to tell. “You have no idea what people write on their computers and then store it in the cloud. Companies, the government, and ordinary people clog up the clouds with their data. I’ve never had to deal with data before.”


He went on to say all of the data in the clouds is confusing the reindeer as they led the sleigh around the world. “We plowed into the data from the Internal Revenue Service and had a hard time finding our way out.”


“Then there’s this global warming,” he groused. “Believe me, that is not a good sign for delivering gifts to the kids on Christmas.” He noted that with less snow in the future, his sleigh will have a difficult time landing on roofs as he delivers the toys to eager children.


“You don’t see as many polar bears around the yard here either. It’s a mess. It’s just not as much fun as it used to be. I should retire. Hardly anybody believes in me anymore anyway,” he said as he loosened the belt on his huge red bathrobe.”


“Oh now Santa,” Ms Claus chimed in. “You’re just tired and you ate too many cookies children left for you along the way.”


The usually Jolly Old Elf indeed was not very jolly at all this morning as he mused about last night’s journey around the world. Not a “ho” to be heard, much less two more ho’s.


“You aren’t going to retire or anything are you?” the interviewer queried.


“Nah, I don’t think so,” he answered. “It’s just that everything’s so changed these days it kind of gets a Saint like me down.”


“Cheer up, Sweetie,” Ms. Claus interrupted. “Here, have an egg nog and you’ll feel better after a good rest.”


With that, Santa turned on his heel and headed for his cozy bedroom for a long winter’s nap. But I heard him declaim as he hit the sweet hay, “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good day.”


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Holiday music evokes memories...

Written by Jim Heffernan for the Duluth News Tribune/Saturday, December 11, 2021

I listened to a rendition of “Jingle Bells” in the Baroque style the other day on public radio and it put me in a Christmas mood right away. Holiday music has a way of doing that better than any other Yuletide tradition.


Oh, there’s the beautiful decorations cropping up on houses all over town, the shopping in decorated stores and, of course, here in Duluth we’ve got Bentleyville down there on the waterfront. Very Christmassy, indeed.

But, for me, it’s the holiday music that can send my emotions about Christmas swelling, bringing back memories of Christmases past, and, believe me, I’ve racked up a lot of Christmases past.


Some of the music is enduring, some ephemeral. Both seem to put me in the Christmas mood.

Who can forget the engaging “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” (underneath the mistletoe last night)? Well, maybe some have forgotten it, but I haven’t. That’s Christmas to me. How about you? No?

And then there was the plaintive “All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.” It was sung by the great Jimmy Boyd, who, to the best of my knowledge, got his two front teeth back and never thang another thong. Still, what a sentiment, what a holiday plea. Gulp. That’s Christmas to me too, although I think it might be the one “carol” left unrecorded by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

A bit longer lasting in the pantheon of inspiring Christmas music is “Jolly Old St. Nicholas” (bend your ear this way). Sigh. Johnny wants a pair of skates, Susie wants a dolly, Nellie thinks dolls are folly (ahead of her time). What could evoke the holidays more touchingly?

How about “Baby It’s Cold Outside”? It always shows up at this time of the year, although there’s no actual mention of Christmas in the lyrics. That’s OK. If it’s cold outside it must be Christmastime. That’s good enough to put me in a holiday mood. Just like “Walkin’ in the Winter Wonderland”: (“In the meadow we can build a snowman, we’ll pretend that he is Parson Brown. He’ll say, ‘Are you married?’ we’ll say, ’No, man, but you can have the job when you’re in town.’”) Could that snowman be Frosty?

Oh, my, we can’t forget Rudolph in this compilation of Christmas music to inspire the yuletide spirit. There was no “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in my earliest years. But along he came, shiny nose and all, when I was still a kid, making me feel bad that the other reindeer wouldn’t let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games. I have always wondered what kind of games reindeer actually play, but no matter. Puts me in a Christmas mood, that’s for sure.

Just like those “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire.” Everybody knows that ubiquitous holiday ballad performed by so many artists. It simply reeks of holiday spirit, although I have never actually seen chestnuts roasting on an open fire, and don’t know anyone who has. Marshmallows might have been better. But still, that’s Christmas to so many of us.

How could I organize this compendium of inspiring Christmas music and leave “White Christmas” out? Well, I’m not going to. That song actually came out when I was a child too (yup, I’m that old) and is, perhaps, the most popular Christmas song ever composed in America.

In my youth, I sang in several choirs — church, high school, university — and, of course, they all embraced Christmas as a time to show off their talents. I’ll always remember the words to one of the numbers I’ve joined in singing many times in various choirs. It’s from Handel’s “Messiah” and it goes like this:

“For unto us a child is born, a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”


It has a ring to it, don’t you think? Without that, none of the rest would exist.


Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la.


Jim Heffernan is a former Duluth News Tribune news and opinion writer and continues as a columnist. He can be reached at and maintains a blog at