The Santa Clausist Tragedy

soundtrack

When Henry Hogard decided to run for a Grade Three Model Parliament the last week of school before the holidays, he had no idea what an impact he’d have on the Saskatchewan town of Pottin Lake.

Having moved to Pottin Lake from Minnesota in the middle of a school year, he was the oldest kid in the class at 10 years of age. Most of the other students were 8 or 9. Still, he was small and friendly, and his age was never really an issue.

This was the early 60s, a time when the Norman Rockwell-Coca Cola version of Xmas was at its mass media peak.

Henry’s Platform

When he decided to run as an independent, his teacher – Mrs. Effans – asked him to describe his platform to the class, “Student candidates, please tell everyone what you want to do or say…”

Henry’s best friend Steven Levitt was running on the Save the Squirrels ticket, smartest kid in class Joan McCrag ran as the Better Cartoons–Less Fastfood candidate, and most of the other candidates showed concern for litterbugs, coach potato-hood, or Cooty-prevention. But not Henry.

Henry read from his notes: “I am here to tell all of you that Santa Claus does not exist. It is your parents who buy the gifts, and then they lie to you. This charade must stop. It’s dishonest and lacks dignity.”

Mrs. Effans was dumbfounded: “How do you know this, Henry?” she asked with a kindly but stern voice. “Who told you something like this?”

No one got to hear his answer. The classroom immediately exploded into shouting and noisy distraction, with everyone talking at the same time and throwing spit-balls and other small objects.

Mrs. Effans,hit in the eye with a large spit-ball, stepped out to get the first aid kit. When she got back a minute later, she regained control of the group, and patiently asked Henry to go see the principal.

He said sure, ran off to the office where the principal patiently explained that he was older than the other students and that they too deserved the same Xmas narrative that he had enjoyed as a 9-year-old. Henry apologized right away and promised to drop out of the model parliament and never speak about the Santa Claus thing again. Problem resolved. Normal kid learning stuff. That seemed to be the end of it.

Or at least, it could have ended there, except for one thing.

The Blame Game

Poor little Anna McTavish’s father had been one of the many people laid off at the Pottin Lake bottling plant a month before the holidays. A few other of Henry’s classmates had lost their incomes as well.

Anna’s dad – Mr. McTavish – was too proud to admit falure to his daughter, so rather than explaining the real reason why he couldn’t afford to buy presents and risk ruining the Santa Claus story and losing his daughter’s admiration – Mr. McTavish fibbed that Santa hadn’t come this year becuase of Henry Hogard’s “lack of faith in Santa.”
Henry ruined Xmas. Sorry, Anna. *Hugs*

Anna had never particularly liked Henry (or any other boys for that matter), and learning that he was the one to have angered Santa … filled her with plastic-pearl-clutching rage. The McTavish’s lived in a simple but large bungalow next to the lake where Anna would go to cry when she was fed up.

Her father’s recent binge-drinking and foul humor also seemed to point towards the infidel anti-Santa ranting of Henry – the non-believer. The misery of a present-less Xmas was thus laid at the feet of the ten-year-old apostate. The lake told her this was true.

The first day back to school in January, Anna shared her trauma with two other kids (Alice and Sara) who had not received any presents either – both of them the daughters of lay-offed bottle plant workers just like Anna. Though they hadn’t been told why they had been shunned by Santa, Anna’s well-told story convinced them that it must have been Henry’s fault. They had all been so very good, so very kind, that nothing else made sense. Why would Santa snub quiet, TV-watching kids who hadn’t been assertive at all, unless it was because of the pre-holiday lack of faith of one of their impure colleagues? And a boy, of course, would do this kind of thing.

Alice remembered that Henry’s neighbor and best friend Steven and his family were Jewish (at some point in history), and that Henry’s mother was half Lebanese-Muslim (or something). Thinking that this might explain Henry’s lack of faith in Santa Claus, they burned both Henry’s and his neighbor’s houses to the ground later that night, while singing Xmas carols.

When word got out throughout Saskatchewan and the rest of the world of what had transpired, all sorts of militarized grups showed up in Pottin Lake; racist vigilante groups, some American KKK members, Hunting Associations, B’nai Brith, Orangemen Associations, and many retired soldiers and independent mercenaries showed up from all over North America to protect either the fine Santa-fearing children of the homeland, or to protect the victims of the Santa-fearing children of the homeland. When these armed helpers arrived, they found a well-armed cavalry of local parents on both sides of the Santa Claus Divide already in place and ready to brawl.

Home fires were started, gunshots were heard day and night, kids fought to the death against other children – and by Valentine’s Day, all of the houses, businesses and schools of Pottin Lake had been burned to the ground and the residents had all fled.

And all because someone didn’t believe in Santa Claus.

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