OK, so I'm sure most of you know this story well by now (at least, the adult among you - children stop reading now!), but I thought I'd write the basics out for anyone who doesn't, just because Christmas is coming. I was also prompted by this story, in which Noddy himself suggests that "People think I live in a cave all year and come out in December, shouting It's Chriiisstmaaasss!", as if we didn't all know the truth.
A long, long time ago, back in the late 1960's, Santa was a very happy legendary creature. He had a nice, cosy home at the North Pole, well hidden from all those pesky explorer types, and he and Mrs Claus had finally got the elves performing like a well-oiled machine (there had been some trouble over the years with keeping them focussed). In fact, they had got to a point where they were starting to get plenty of relaxation time through much of the year - Mrs Claus was happy enough making pies and cakes for the elves, but she could really have done with Santa getting from out beneath her feet. He was getting a little restless, and that was making him a little irritating (No, not irritable, irritating! He was always quite happy to be that).
So, in a moment of frustration (of which there were many around that time), she suggested that he might like to take a little holiday, and go and see the world in daylight for a change. Indeed, there was some mention of long walks, but he wasn't a big exercise fan, and a short pier somehow didn't seem a suitable venue for such an undertaking anyway. He was a little dubious, of course, but eventually the idea that it might help him to understand what people really wanted for Christmas if he actually met some actual people persuaded him.
A bit of a problem occurred to him, though, late one night as he began to plan his trip beneath the big tree (while fishing some needles out of his pockets, as he had to do every few minutes). They didn't actually have any money. None at all. Not a penny, nor even a dime (depending, of course, on which side of the Atlantic you are reading this from). It's not something he'd previously considered, since they didn't have any need for it - everything they needed was provided by the inter-dimensional magic creatures, a few generous and wealthy benefactors, and one or two creatures with, shall we say, some very odd waste-production habits. When it came down to it, though, Santa-ing just wasn't a well paid occupation, in fact, not a paid occupation at all. If he wanted to enjoy the world, he had to be able to travel (and clearly reindeer weren't an option in daylight - that would have been a dead give-away), buy food, buy things, buy beer, and that kind of stuff. They had lots of stuff, of course - raw materials, magical things, and so on, but none of it was really stuff he could think about selling. This was, of course, going to be a problem.
He took this problem to some of his most trusted and innovative elves, and since they were equally fed up of Santa getting under their feet they set their minds to searching for a solution straight away. They hunted high and low (the original inspiration was well hidden within the final version, but you may remember a song written about this process by the band A-Ha. They were, of course, from not far away from the North Pole, and had heard some rumours, though no connection was ever admitted to), but nothing seemed to fit - they knew the basic theories of supply and demand, and some simple economics, of course, but just couldn't work out how they could make something from it.
It was two of the most artistic and colourful elves who eventually hatched a plan that they all thought just might work, though - Gimli (pronounced 'Jimly', obviously - Tolkien had long been a mate of his, but they argued over the spelling of his name when he wanted to put him in his book, and so badly that he ended up making the character a dwarf out of sheer spite - they never spoke again) and Daveill.
They'd been messing about for years with various musical instruments, learning to play bits and pieces, and they'd been fascinated by the rise of requests for music records in the Christmas lists through the 1960s. The solution became obvious in a moment of revelation (the thing, not the bit in the Bible, obviously - that would just be wrong, and no Beasts were allowed to take any part in the process at all) - Santa should do a really great and memorable Christmas song. It had to be believable, though, so between the three of them (along with drummer elf Donp - good drummer, but far too silly a name for band usage on its own, even with some creative spelling!) they decided they should start by making some other songs, getting themselves known and doing a bit of travelling, before hitting the world with the big one.
The execution of the plan is well known history, so I won't go into the details of that. It worked perfectly, though, and for years nobody noticed. There were always rumours, but that's all they were, and indeed all that they still may be, since nobody has ever confirmed or denied the story officially. We all know what's going on really (apart from children - I hope none have read this far!), of course. Santa had his cunning disguise to try to fool us, complete with a bit of hair dye for authenticity in the early days, although the elves pretty much turned up as they were (as pictured above - elves do like to be bright and colourful in a manner humans tend to think somewhat silly (something else that Tolkien got irritatingly wrong, obviously)).
And that is how the legend started, and how it continues. Every year, Santa (with a pseudo name suitably taken from a well-known children's toy, and the fact that he was the holder of every Noddy item destined for the world's Christmas trees and stockings) spends most of his life on holiday around the world, popping back and forward to the North Pole every few weeks, but not enough to get in anybody's way. Of course, he'd never manage to get away with it without his disguise of being clean shaven (the accent is real, though - it's a little known fact that much of the English Midlands was long ago populated by renegade bands of former North Pole residents, shifted out during the dreadful 'North Pole Clearances' to make way for bigger and better workshops - it's a part of history that Christmas stories understandably tend to gloss over), but around mid-October every year he starts the growth process.
First come those famous and distinctive sideburns, ready for his annual sales push for the song, and then in mid-December, promotion done and dusted and money made to fund the following years holidays, the beard is allowed to return in time for Christmas eve. Come new year, off the facial hair all comes once again. And so the annual ritual continues, and will continue until the end of time unless evil Santa (known as Lemmy, and locked in an eternal battle with his more generous and frankly rather less 'wild' cousin) finally manages to end their immortal reign of ever-balanced pleasure and terror (I'll let you decide for yourselves which brings which to the party).
Think on this, though, if that song ever begins to annoy you - without the little commercial enterprise dreamed up by Santa, and his merry elves Daveill, Gimli and Donp (pictured above), Christmas would be a far sadder time. Children would be disappointed, and trees would remain unadorned by gifts. Without his annual treks around the world, had he been stuck permanetly at the North Pole as he used to be, there is no doubt that his wife would, by now, have committed some heinous crime against Mythicalcreaturity. This simple song has saved the sanity of her and the elves, saved the life of Santa, and saved Christmas for us all.
Of course, the sweetest part of this whole story is that he still thinks that we don't all know.
Merry It's Chriiisstmaaasss!