Leona O'Neill: A different Christmas doesn't necessarily mean a bad Christmas

Parents have been stretched this year so it's OK to let already worried children know that Santa is subject to Covid restrictions too to help manage their expectations, writes Leona O'Neill

Santa will be delivering books and clothes and lovely little things this year; unfortunately, due to coronavirus restrictions, he can't do tech

LETTERS to Santa could well have a very different tone this year. As opposed to the long list of toys our kids are asking of him, many of his letters will be poignant reflections of our children's anxieties, observations and special wishes this Christmas.

I was reading an article online during the week about a post office in France at which local children were posting their Santa letters. Some of the staff got to read the letters before sending it on to the North Pole.

One little boy placed a surgical mask inside the greeting card he sent to Santa and asked him to make sure he stays safe at work. A little girl asked Santa to ensure he used the front door for access because she didn’t have a fireplace and the back door entrance was reserved for Granny and Grandad only to use to minimise their risk of picking up the virus.

Several kids wrote heartbreaking letters asking Santa to take the virus away, that it was scaring them. Some wrote of their fears about their mums and dads who worked in hospitals and care homes. Others wrote of being constantly worried or scared because their parents looked worried.

In among the lists of much-wished-for toys there were requests for vaccines, for big hugs from Granny and Grandad because it has been too long and most common of all, an end to the coronavirus and a return to normality.

Kids are no different from us grown ups in that regard. We all want to return to a normal where it’s not dangerous to hug someone you love, or it’s not a perilous pursuit to go shopping or to work. They have been impacted just as much as the rest of us. And they worry, perhaps not about the same issues we do – such as health, hospitalisation, loss of earnings, loss of jobs – but about when they can next see Granny or Grandad again properly.

I’d imagine this year’s Santa letters will be a big release for many of our children. They have been through a tough year, with lockdowns, having to socially distance from their friends, isolate from their grandparents, wear masks, lose their social life and watch their parents worry their way through the past few months.

I saw a social media post during the week which also made me think. The post was by a social worker who was calling on people to stop telling their children that Santa was the guy who supplied all the expensive tech equipment that our kids often ask for at this time of year. She didn’t want any child to feel that Santa was punishing them, after what has been the toughest of years.

She urged parents to tell their children that it was them who provide the tech, Santa was a man more concerned with lovely books and beautiful clothes, teddy bears and the like. So that on Christmas morning, no child was disappointed if the console or tablet they had asked for wasn’t there.

So many parents are seriously struggling this year. So I’m going with this line. Like a lot of parents this year who have been heavily impacted by the pandemic and don’t have an abundance of money this festive season, Santa has been hit really hard too.

Due to coronavirus restrictions and social distancing rules Santa’s elf factory doesn’t have the capacity to build iPads and Xboxes and PS5s this year and he will be delivering books and clothes and lovely little things this year. Like parents, he is trying his very best to get to everyone’s house and leave everyone something nice because this year has been tough on everyone.

We have all been changed by the events of the past year and family and what we love have come back to the core of our lives. Christmas will be different this year, but that is not a bad thing.

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