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What Santa Really Wants

Our Santa was different from the others, because he was an Epicurean.

“Let’s leave him a treat!” my father, writer Roald Dahl, would say as he placed a little tin of Beluga and a glass of vodka on a bowl of ice. “He’ll like this.”

“But Daddy, Father Christmas likes cookies and milk,” I would protest on Santa’s behalf.

“Rubbish,” my father replied. “This is the stuff he likes.”

How I tried to stay awake, to see this jolly fellow filling my stocking at the end of my bed. Inevitably, I drifted off and woke up Christmas morning to find my stocking stuffed and a note from Santa himself. The notes, year after year, read something like, “Thank you for the delicious treats. My bossy wife never lets me touch the stuff, so it was especially good.”

And then came the Christmas morning I shall never forget. The caviar tin was empty, as was the vodka glass — and so was my stocking! I ran into my parents’ bedroom, clutching my empty stocking, shrieking, “Mummy! Daddy! Father Christmas didn’t come!”

My mother opened one hung-over eye and said three words that changed everything: “Shit. We forgot.”

Sometimes Santa left us kids a poem instead of a note, but there was always a reference to his wife who, as we all know, works very hard preparing Christmas (which is certainly true in my household of seven children). Some years later, after we were grown, I’m sure he still felt the same, as he wrote a Christmas poem for a charity auction, which sold privately, and therefore never published.

Where art thou, Mother Christmas?
I only wish I knew
Why Father should get all the praise
And no-one mentions you.

I’ll bet you buy the presents
And wrap them large and small
While all the time that rotten swine
Pretends he’s done it all.

So Hail to Mother Christmas
Who shoulders all the work
And down with Father Christmas
That unmitigated jerk.

Family traditions linger. I too made sure Santa left a big fat stocking at the end of my children’s beds, and a note — and thankfully never forgot. Now the children are older and no longer expect Santa to pop down our chimney; however, other family traditions continue. While the Christmas goose is in the oven, we all gather around the kitchen table and greedily pile our spoons with caviar and sip ice cold vodka.


Lucy Dahl is an author and screenwriter in Los Angeles. Her other articles about food, memory and family can be found here.