In 1994, I found the cutest little Santa Snack Set. It was perfect. The set included a mug and little plate for Santa so my kids could leave him cookies and milk on Christmas Eve. It also contained a pencil that had “For Santa with Love” written on it along with a cute little note pad with an etching of Santa feeding one of his reindeer.
At the time I bought the set, Charlie was 5, Anna Marie was 3 and Emily was seven months old. In fact, it was Emily’s first Christmas that year. I couldn’t wait for the kids to use the cup and plate that year. We got home early that evening after Christmas Eve mass at Prince of Peace where Charlie was a shepherd along with many other little boys during the Children’s Christmas Eve Mass, or, as we always affectionately called it, “Screaming Baby Mass!” Seriously though, it was always so sweet to see all the babies there and of course every 10 minutes or so, you’d see a dad carrying one of the screaming babies out to the lobby!
After dinner that night, the kids got into their Christmas pjs. One of our family traditions was (still is) wearing new Christmas pajamas. Then, right before heading upstairs to go to sleep, Anna Marie and Charlie picked out the perfect rice Krispy squares with sprinkles and put them on the Santa plate and I poured a little bit of milk into the mug. They were so excited about giving Santa something to eat and they both loved rice Krispy treats so that was their choice that night. Then like children all over the world, they went to bed dreaming of what Santa would bring them that night.
The next morning, they awoke to wonderful surprises but what they weren’t expecting was a response from Santa! They noticed some crumbs on the plate so they just knew Santa had eaten the rice Krispy squares they left and the milk was all gone too! Then they saw a letter next to the plate. Santa had written them a letter! Mama had to read it to them and it said:
Dear Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily – Thank you for the rice krispie squares with sprinkles. They were delicious! Rudolph liked them too! I hope you will make them for me again next year! Charlie – enjoy your Sega with Sonic the Hedgehog. Anna Marie – have fun playing with your new doll house, and Emily – have a ball with your bumble ball! Merry Christmas, Love, Santa Claus
The kids were so excited that Santa wrote to them. And this is how a tradition started. The next year, the kids left Santa a snack and he wrote them a letter and addressed each of them individually in it. Then in 1997, the kids decided to write their own letters to Santa. They were so cute – of course for Emily I wrote what she wanted to say in a Christmas card for Santa.
Charlie’s card (the exact way he wrote it) – Dear Santa – I hope I down’t get a lump of coel. I hopw it dusnt rain. I hope you have a good chrismas. Love, Charlie
Anna Marie’s card – Dear Santa, I know about giving but there is something that is special. Jesus’ birthday.
Emily’s card (as dictated to me) – Dear Santa, I love Santa and you love me and my sister and brother. Thank you for the presents Santa! You can eat the cookies after when we go to sleep. Love, Emily
From that year through 2004, I don’t know who was more excited about the letters… me and Eddie, or the kids! Sometimes the kids would ask some pretty tough questions in their letters too. In 1998, Charlie had been involved in a classroom project for kids at Gateway City. It really impacted him and in his letter to Santa he said, “I have a question for you. Why can’t you go to the gate way city and give them a good Christmas.” Of course, I read that around 1 in the morning after Eddie and I finished putting gifts around the tree and making sure everything had batteries and was put together! Those were the good ole days… I was pretty exhausted when I read their letters and got ready to reply, but I had to work on a reply that would be meaningful to Charlie. So, in Santa’s response “he” said, “Your question about the kids at Gateway City is interesting. It is important to remember that giving someone a good Christmas doesn’t always mean giving presents. Some gifts don’t come in packages – some gifts are acts of kindness. Like the kind things you and your classmates did for the Gateway families. I hope that what I give to children is the “spirit of giving” so they will want to share with the less fortunate. That is the true spirit of Christmas. I hope that answers your question, Charlie.” These types of questions from the kids always made my heart swell. It was through these letters that felt they were really understanding the meaning of Christmas.
The letters stopped after 2004. Emily was 10 years old and of course, Anna Marie (13) and Charlie (15) would write their letters to keep the tradition going for Emily’s sake. It was such a sweet thing for them to do. And “Santa” would always respond to each of them. It was actually an opportunity for their mother to interject a few things as though they were coming from Santa! But Santa’s last letter was to all three of my children together where he ended it by saying, “You Odom kids be good this coming year. This means helping more around the house, making good grades and always doing your best. I know you won’t let me down! Now…have a wonderful Christmas vacation! And don’t forget that I’ll be watching!