From the December 23, 1977 edition of the Vineyard Gazette:

The children of Christmas have spoken.

For the most part they were Vineyard children, but the letters arrived from elsewhere in the country also. The letters were addressed to Santa’s Helper who lives in Vineyard Haven, and Mr. Helper answered all of the dozens of letters he received during this Christmas holiday period.

What the children of Christmas 1977 had to say follows:

“Dear Santa Claus — I hope all the people get a lot of toys and make the poor people get some toys. Please send me back a letter. Thank you. Peter Gillis, Vineyard Haven.”

“Would you please surprise me but please don’t give me a doll. I will be eight on Jan. 9. We are having a Chistmas show. My sister is singing a solo. Dear Santa have you had the measles? Well that’s all for now! I hope you and Mrs. Claus are fine! Bye. Sarah Mayhew, Menemsha.”

“I would like a goat, a real live goat. You came pretty close last year but I would like a real one this time. If you could, it would be nice if you could lode some grain and hay on your sleigh and any thing elts a goat needs. It would’nt matter if you didn’t give me anything elts.

“Well lets get down to the important thing. What should I make you. If you can’t get me another kind of animal please. P.S. A black, brown or white goat. Love, Dorie McCullough, West Tisbury.”

“Dear Santa — Andrew Bacheller is four years old and is asking you for three motorcycles. Happy Holidays. His Mom, Vineyard Haven.”

“Dear Santa — I have been a good boy all year. Will you please bring me some present for Christmas. I would like; Stretch Arm, Stretch Monster, Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop, Weebles West Train, Winnie the Pooh House, Magic Kingdom, Mickey Mouse bean bag, King Kong punch bag. Merry Christmas. Make sure the reindeer don’t get lost. Love, Erik Claussen, Vineyard Haven.”

“Dear Santa — What are your Elves’ names? How are you, Santa Claus? What does “Claus” mean, and why is it your name? Can you bring me a lot of toys fill my stocking well and decorate our Christmas tree? Thank you for the sugar plum trees you left. They look pretty and yummy. I love you Santa Claus and hope you have a good Christmas. Love, Brian Athearn, West Tisbury.”

“Dear Santa — Thank you for the letter. I liked it very much. I also like Christmas and you very much. I can’t wait till Christmas. Love, Amy Rezendes, Vineyard Haven.”

“Dear Santa Clause — How are you and Mrs. Santa Clause? How is Rudolf the red nose reinder? How’s the weather up there? Is it snowing?

“One day I raked the yard, and the trees are almost bare. When you come here look on the table and you will find some cookies and milk. Just leave me some toys that you think I should have. And don’t forget to leave my brother Eric some toys too. Love, Lisa Hathaway, Edgartown.”

For shoppers, it may be, the time seems to pass swiftly, shortening the hours and days left in which to accomplish the designs, so slowly realized, of the Christmas season. But for children, for the children in us all, and for the ordinary category of adults if there is such a thing in mid-December, the time slows. Perhaps this is partly in respect to and observance of the days that shorten, but mostly it is because of the pre-Christmas pause decreed by the day itself. It would not be Christmas if it came swiftly.

The “now” is one with almost countless yesterdays. Out of the East and out of the past come the lengthening beams of light, the streams of memory, the firmer awareness of hope and faith, the glow of a warmer humanity.

This is Christmas recurrent, pressing on toward its appointment, and the most worldly among us unable to deny Christmas in his heart. There’s myth and the converging of indecipherable folklores, there’s Santa Claus, good King Wenceslas, Bob Cratchit, good old St. Nicholas; there’s Melchoir, Gaspar and Balthazar; there’s Noel, Tannenbaum, the reindeer, the chimney and hung stockings, holly, mistletoe, candles, and carols in many languages and climates.

One reads that the date of Christmas, December 25, was first set in 336, a day observed in Pagan Rome as the festival of Natalis Invictus Solis, or Birth of the Unconquered Sun. All these slow increments, the accumulating larger reality of what has been the central reality from the beginning and so remains in this age of science, questioning, and new escape. Christmas contains, embodies, and cosmically disburses all the tributaries, tides, illuminations and increments that make up its present substance. Whoever dreamed that Christmas could be a single, unshared, impermeable event? Not so. Now it comes on again in the twilight of the year as the days run out slowly, the better to fulfill the greatest of missions. What may the Gazette better say than those words the occasion itself has invented and perpetuated, Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas to all who are linked near or far to Martha’s Vineyard, members as Saint Paul wrote in those famous words, of one another.

Compiled by Hilary Wall