Dear Children of the World,

I bet you never expected Santa to write to you! Are you being good little boys and girls? I sure hope so, because I’m going to be coming to your town this Christmas! If our reorganization plan we’re working out with a consortium of EU finance ministers goes through, that is.

Now, you may have heard, “There is no Santa,” or "It doesn’t matter if you’re good or bad, " or “Santa’s first two quarters of 2008 were so out of line with expectations that only a massive bailout will allow him to meet current cash-flow obligations.” Well, if you’ve heard one of your “friends” say that, maybe he or she’s not really your friend. Maybe he or she’s just a little 7-year-old speculator who shorted our stock (listed as “Touch of Class Toy Delivery GmbH”).

The fact is I do exist. It is important to be good. And Santa’s business environment has been challenging, for the following reasons:

Increased expenses. The price of feed for my flying reindeer has almost doubled since a year ago. And the air conditioning at the North Pole, which I purchased as a gag gift during the cash-rich ’90s, has actually had to be turned on more than once this summer.

Mission creep. Santa always says that a good boy or girl doesn’t make excuses, but, just to clarify, it was the advice of my investment bankers to go public, which forced Santa to concentrate on deal-making at the expense of his core mission. It’s in that context that my agreement to be a lead sponsor of the Beijing Olympics should be understood—in my excitement at the potential of bringing the concept of a happy Christmas morning to the Chinese market, I forgot that Hu Jintao and the rest of the Chinese leadership were widely considered to be naughty.

Salary inflation. I’m not talking about Santa’s salary. Seeing the smiles of the faces of happy children is payment enough for me. Although, despite what critics say, my compensation package is not out of line compared to someone like Uncle Sam, especially considering I no longer have the military-contracting sideline he has. What’s killing Santa is the unconscionable demands of the elves. Do you know that if Santa supplies them, as they ask, with a fourth meal (they call it a “snack,” but let’s not kid ourselves), it might literally end Christmas?

I know a lot of you boys and girls (especially you, Hunter Davis!) are scratching your heads and saying, “Gee, Santa, what does any of this have to do with me?” I’m glad you asked, because this is the important part. Though I’m still totally committed to providing a satisfying yuletide experience for every child, Christmas is going to be just a little bit different this year.

For one thing, all deliveries in a region will be made to a single, nonsectarian community drop site. This is something we’ve been meaning to do for years. It’s easier on the reindeer, it’ll eliminate the ever-spiraling cost of stuck-in-chimney insurance, and it’s a great way to reduce our footprint.

Also new this year will be your opportunity to choose your own gift! The No. 1 complaint I hear from kids is “Why didn’t you bring me what I asked for, Santa?” (Sound familiar, Jenny Cooper?) Sometimes it’s a feasibility issue to do with the size or cost of the present, or with the complicated international rules regarding live-animal handling. Sometimes, perhaps more often than most people realize, you were just bad. Regardless, your complaints have been heard and I’m eliminating the guesswork. This year, Santa will bring you exactly what you want, from these three choices:

1. Rubber Ball

A powerful bouncer made from fine South American rubber that comes in one of four fruitrageous colors: biznana, strawberry sexjam, apricomicide, and sparkle. But it’s like two gifts in one, because each rubber ball, which I personally inspect, also comes with a complete list of games and instructions!

2. Train Set

A wonderfully detailed, H0-scale, three-car ride down Memory Lane, sure to provide hours of imaginative, old-fashioned fun. Get your parents to purchase the optional track, transformer, and engine and you’ll really be getting somewhere!

3. Dolly

You’ll love Dolly. She’s fire-retardant!

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Now, let’s be honest: We all know Christmas isn’t really about toys, or presents, or generally accepted accounting principles. It’s about the spirit of giving. So when, just this once, Santa asks your parents to open the discount window, he’s really asking everyone to open their hearts and grant a Christmas wish to someone who is, in the end, too jolly to fail.

In the red (and white!),
S. Claus