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The Manhattan Mall Santa

A number of years ago in New York City, Christmas took on a new meaning for hundreds of families.

In the Manhattan Mall, across the street from Macy’s and the Empire State Building, the Christmas decorations were bigger and brighter than ever before.

Included in the magnificent display was a substantially sized Santa’s Grotto. It looked as anyone would expect a Santa’s Grotto to look. There were helpful Elves, giant candy canes and the perfect amount of glistening, unmelting snow on the tiny buildings surrounding Santa’s enclosure.

The Santa Claus that year particularly suited the role. The man was just under six feet tall, heavy set, and wore classic, steel-rimmed glasses. He had a genuine head of white hair and a real, full white beard. He wore the red suit with pride and seemed to have a permanent smile on his face. He had a manner about himself that made every child love him. The Manhattan Mall had managed to obtain the perfect shopping mall Santa, much to the envy of every grotto for miles.

For ten dollars, children could visit Santa, sit by his side, get a photograph with him, and leave with a gift.

As the Christmas season picked up pace, more and more shoppers stood in line to give their child the briefest of glimpses of Christmas magic.

As child after child spent a moment with Santa, more and more children were leaving without the customary wrapped gift. Instead, they held a small photo to commemorate the meeting with the jolly gentleman in the suit, and a small, sealed envelope.

On a number of occasions, a child would leave the Grotto holding a gift, but they would walk only three or four steps before running back in through the exit and leaving a few moments later, the gift replaced by a small, sealed envelope.

Parent after parent would ask their children about their visit with Santa, inquiring about the gift. Each child who was asked the question would silently point to the envelope with a smile on their face. Each child’s envelope had the words, written under the child’s name:

Do not open until Christmas Eve

The Manhattan Mall received calls and letters from confused and upset parents, wondering what the Mall’s Santa had done with their child’s Christmas gift. Each of the complaints were received and assurances were given that the matter would be investigated.

Before any answer could be communicated to confused parents, Christmas Eve arrived. Excited children opened their envelope, keen to see the message meant for them. A handwritten note simply said,

I will have your gift by the large Christmas tree in the middle of Central Park at 7pm on Christmas Eve.

Remember what you promised.

Santa Claus


Puzzled parents and excited children hurried to the meeting place. As the time approached, a large crowd had gathered around the incredible Christmas tree. The thousands of lights were sufficient to light up the faces of everyone in the crowd as they kept themselves wrapped up, fending off the chill in the night air.

At exactly 7pm the man in the red suit stood at a podium in front of the large and increasingly impatient crowd. They were unwilling to wait in their quest to understand the reason for the seasonal ceremony in Central Park.

“Good evening, and Merry Christmas!” said the Santa. “I know a lot of parents want to know what’s been going on this Christmas and I’m here to give you an explanation.”

Murmurs started spreading through the crowd. Santa held out the palms of his hands, like a politician quieting the noises of the discontent.

He started to explain. “I told every child who sat with me this year about the hundreds of children in New York that wouldn’t be getting any Christmas presents this year. “Every one of the children here tonight agreed to do something special with their gift.” His voice started to break with emotion.

A group of scruffy children seemed to come out of nowhere and file in behind the jolly man with the white beard. Parents looked down at their children, most wearing embarrassed smiles.

With everyone in place Santa continued, “Your little people are small, but they have big hearts. They have decided to receive their present here this evening, and then to hand it to a child who needs it more than they do.”

The parents were surprised but proud of their children. One by one the children were called up to the front to take a gift and hand it to one of several hundred children in tatty clothing.

The underprivileged children’s faces lit up far more than any Christmas tree lights could manage at the receipt of a gift.

While the children fulfilled their promise, Santa explained the children behind him has walked from orphanages and homeless shelters not too far from Central Park. Most would not receive a gift for Christmas, and would have been happy to receive anything.

The children, after collecting from Santa and delivering to a needy child, returned to their parents with a beaming smile. By the end of the evening there was not a mother or father in the crowd with a dry eye. They were so proud of their children for being the example in Christmas charity. The evening concluded with some brief carols with every child’s voice drowning out the adults. Every single person in attendance knew at that moment that Christmas meant something.

In the heart of New York City, on a night when thousands of people were in a frenzy seeking gifts and all but forgetting the basis of the Christmas spirit, these children gave up something that meant little to them to someone who needed it more.

The Christmas spirit as a result of the charitable idea of one shopping mall Santa gave hundreds of families a Christmas they would not forget, instilling an attitude of giving in children that would hopefully remain for years to come.

May each of us this Christmas take greater joy from the giving of gifts, as opposed to receiving them. May we all take every opportunity we can spare to help those in need and thus feel a greater sense of warmth and joy that this season of giving has to offer.

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