For America's Santas, It's Hard to Be Jolly With the Tales They're Hearing - WSJ.com
A wintry measure of hard times can be found this holiday season on the knee of white-bearded, red-suited men around the country. A couple of years ago, children were shooting for the moon, asking St. Nick for Xboxes, iPods and laptops. But with the economy still fragile, many children are requesting basics such as shoes, library cards and even eyeglasses, say dozens of Santas who work at malls or on the party circuit.
"Kids will hear the E-word, but it's not Elmo," says Tim Connaghan, who runs a Los Angeles Santa-training school. "It's the economy."
The extent to which money woes are weighing on children is clear from the letters flooding into North Pole, Alaska. That's the home of the Santa Claus House, a Christmas-themed shop where parents can order letters from Santa with a North Pole postmark. It gets tens of thousands of letters to Santa every year. Operations manager Paul Brown says the messages not only predict the holiday's hottest toys months in advance but also gauge the mood of the nation.
"When we had the housing crunch, we saw, 'Please help us stay in our house,' " Mr. Brown says of the letters, which are forwarded to a nonprofit that works with charities in the children's hometowns. "This year, it's more job-related."
Read the whole thing. And then have a good cry.