I wanted to speak to Santa, but as you can imagine he is very busy right now. So while I waited for my opportunity, I decided to bundle up and take a walk around the North Pole. I was amazed at all the new businesses, especially eateries. There is a renewed interest in the North Pole and it’s Christmas operations and the folks there have responded positively. Even the big chains have shown interest! Starbucks was the first to show interest but was quickly rejected. They said that with Rudolph around, dealing with one star buck was enough! Dunkin’ is coming though, however, they are still trying to figure out how to prevent all of their coffee from becoming iced coffee five minutes after leaving their shop. Then there are the locally owned ones. There’s Chilly’s – it specializes in cold cuts served on its outdoor patio. Business so far is a slow build. Windy’s just opened out on the tundra. Being new, it will take time to catch on. At this time the most popular has been “Mrs. Sprat’s House of Blubber – Home of a Whale of a Sandwich”, owned and run by Mrs. Sprat and her husband Jack. It offers something for every appetite including a wide variety of platters. These new additions have allowed other businesses to open. One of the reindeer has started a delivery business he calls DoorDasher. There are many job opportunities with many going unfilled. I did meet Sammy Seal, who just got a job as a burger flipper.

I got back just as Santa was returning. He seemed more stressed than usual. He agreed, but then added, “Not from the job, rather from being forced to take up a hobby to relieve stress.” He was returning from trying out ice fishing. By the time he drilled through several feet of ice, he was too tired to enjoy it and it was time to get back to work.

He then told me that his biggest concern is how the increased cost of living with its huge price jumps has affected the whole Christmas operation. Inflation has taken a big bite, even though his daughter Misty, the Chief Financial Officer, told him to let her worry about it. He can’t help himself. He then gave me several examples. All the hay and straw for the reindeer must be imported (even winter wheat has its limits) and the cost has skyrocketed. And with his team needing as much energy as possible, their appetites have also skyrocketed this time of year. The sleigh needed new runners. It had been a few years since the last replacement and sticker shock hit Santa hard. “I used to be able to buy a whole new sled for what I paid for these,” he said. I’m not so sure about that, but I got the idea. Then there is the price of materials to make all the things that bring so much joy on Christmas. There was no choice but to cut some costs. So now most boxes will say “Batteries NOT Included”. Then of course the elves compensation has increased as well. They are a very important part and Santa wants to show how much they are appreciated.

In truth, though while these are major concerns, Santa really stresses out every year this time. He won’t be satisfied until the Big Day has come and gone and everybody possible is happy. As I left, I thanked him for the time has has given me and I told him I won’t disturb him again until after his return. He wished me and everybody a merry Christmas and joyous Christmas season.

_ Written by Dan Sivco