Santa’s sister Debbie was not amused. Her brother was ballooning out of control, from sampling all those cookies and drinking all that milk. She had long suspected he was lactose-intolerant, as was she. She had her health well in hand, being rational above all. She sometimes wondered if they really were related, if one of them (him, surely!) was adopted. She did not want to nag but he wasn’t getting any younger. She had talked to her sister-in-law on the side, hinting at diets, gifting them books on health which she saw re-gifted almost instantly. She was thinking of doing an intervention, but the elves would not take part in it and she didn’t know who else to enroll.
She convinced Niklaus to wear an activity tracker which would also allow the kids to follow his whereabouts on Christmas Eve. For her part, she was hoping to raise his health awareness. However, wearing the device had unexpected consequences. Santa became obsessed with his heart rate and sleeping habits. He convinced himself he needed to sleep longer hours and avoid strenuous activity. He started being concerned about suffering a heart attack. As he was progressively getting more sedentary and afraid, his hearty laugh no longer booming in the elf factory, Santa started hinting that it might not be advisable for him to do the rounds on Christmas Eve. He cited his statistics, his health, the strain of going up and down chimneys, even the strain of laughing heartily.
Her sister-in-law was furious, calling Debbie meddlesome and refusing to have any further contact with her as she tried to change her husband’s mind. The elves convened, and a delegation went to see Debbie to apprise her of the latest developments. She had not foreseen this and did not know what to do. “Do you have any suggestions?” she asked hopefully. The elves looked shyly at each other, and one of them came forward. “We were wondering if you would consider replacing Santa on Christmas Eve this year?” Of course, when they were young, both Niklaus and Debbie drove the team of reindeer. They had grown up in the North, knew how to thrive in that country. One way was to respect the wildlife and work together with them. As they grew into adulthood, they had gone their own ways. She married and became an accountant, he married and became Santa Claus. Ironically, neither had children.
Debbie had kept fit and trim doing cross-country skiing. She hadn’t driven a team since university and, of course, she didn’t know the route. Yet she felt like this mess was her fault and couldn’t see a way out. Reluctantly, she agreed, but on the condition that she would do it her own way and that the elves would follow her directions. They enthusiastically agreed. Secretly, she had often longed to distribute the presents all over the world. Due to her competitive nature, she thought she could do it quicker and more cheaply. She also thought it was time a woman were in charge. She thought long and hard. She interviewed the reindeer to see if she should plan an alternate route.
The red sleigh was iconic and so was the fat and jolly silhouette. She had to find a way to preserve the tradition yet promote a healthy weight. That was quite the challenge as thin Santas did not appeal. She had to effect a mindset change in her target audience. She used social media to try and get the kids to consider Santa’s health and well-being. She suggested glasses of water (you’re never too hydrated) and carrots for the reindeer. The cookie companies retaliated with ads and commercial campaigns took off. It was a real nail-biter to see how it would play out the day of. Her list was computerized – she thought she would tally the kids who were not health-conscious and perhaps leave a thank you note to those who left her water and carrots.
Meanwhile, Santa had more time on his hands, being bedridden. He was following the smear campaign with alarm. He was a health risk? A bad example? No more milk or cookies? He complained to the elves and to his wife, to the reindeer and to his sister. This farce had to stop. Debbie explained her approach, her concerns, her strategy, all to no avail. At least, it resulted in Santa getting out of bed and regaining control of the situation. He did understand, for the first time, that his sister wanted to be part of the tradition, in her own way. He asked her to oversee the carollers, but that was not glamourous enough. She felt it was patronizing. She wanted to lead the way, and to keep an eye on him.
Well, as we all know, Santa can do magic. How else could he deliver presents all over the world in one day? And so, Debbie agreed to be Rudolf one day a year, leading the way and being the one the children spotted from afar. When Santa took too long (Is he eating still?), she would stomp her feet or jingle her bells. She enjoyed the sights and smells of the whole planet, and the jolly company of her brother. And never again did she meddle in his well-run enterprise. As for him, he ditched the electronic activity tracker, and accepted her gift of a year-long trainer. On Christmas Eve, he straps on a pillow on his trim figure, and wears his oversized costume. He wears a fake beard on his clean-shaven face where the cookie crumbs still gather. Some things never change.