Editor's note: The following interview with Santa Claus may make good material for parents to read to their young children this holiday season.
Good news for the children of Central West Virginia.
Santa Claus says almost all have been nice this past year and will receive presents when he and the reindeer visit on Christmas Eve.
Santa and Mrs. Claus were in the area over the weekend to check with some of the children and their parents and to confirm the route for Christmas Eve.
"Some of the children have moved," Santa explained, "and I want to make sure I find them. I'm all set now."
Santa smiled and stroked his beautiful snow-white beard as he praised the children.
"I'm really impressed with the little girls and boys this year. They've been paying close attention to what their parents and their teachers have been telling them. They're so sweet and so smart. What a blessing to have such wonderful children."
Mrs. Claus said she helps keep track of the children.
"He's right," she said. "The vast majority are wonderful. We have only a dozen or so names on the 'naughty' list in Central West Virginia this year."
She said most were reported by a brother or sister, and the complaints mainly involve talking back to parents, not sharing, or not helping with chores around the house. Elves investigate all complaints, and a child isn't added to the "naughty" list until the complaint is confirmed.
She said boys typically outnumber girls on the "naughty" list, and that's the case this year, too. She declined to give the children's names.
"They know who they are and what they've done or not done, and that's all that's necessary," she said. "They know ... they know."
She added that the children on the "naughty" list still have time to become "nice."
She said, "They can help their parents with chores, or they can be nicer to brothers and sisters or they can clean their rooms. Also, they can say 'please' and 'thank you' more often. It never hurts to be polite. Santa likes that."
Santa nodded. He said the elves and the reindeer get along so well because they treat one another like they'd like to be treated.
He said the reindeer - and especially Rudolph - always look forward to Christmas Eve, and Dasher and Prancer have been getting ready by running around the pastures a lot. He added that Dancer is as light on his feet as he ever was. The reindeer are about 200 years old, Santa said.
Mrs. Claus said she's thinking about teaching the reindeer to read. Television isn't allowed in the stables, she said, and so some of the reindeer get bored. She thinks they might enjoy the book "Reindeer Christmas" by Mark Moulton.
She said, "If any of the children have reindeer books they no longer need, they can leave them out with the cookies and milk on Christmas Eve, and Santa can go through them."
What's Santa's favorite cookie? He laughed and rubbed his tummy.
"Oh, I like all cookies, and my favorite at each house is the cookie the children like most," he said. "They're made with love, and that's what makes them really good."
He added that he doesn't eat all of the cookies on Christmas Eve. He puts some into a bag and takes them back to the North Pole to share with Mrs. Claus and the elves.
"They like cookies, too," he said.
Will all the children get everything they want on Christmas?
Santa looked sad.
"Probably not," he said. "The sleigh can hold only so many presents, and there are a lot of children in the world. But I'm going to do my best to make sure that all of the children are happy. Again, the most important ingredient is love. I love all the children, and that makes the presents special."
He said he's going to follow his usual routine on Christmas Eve. He starts harnessing the reindeer, including Rudolph, just before dark. Then he begins his long journey. He said he first visits the houses of the children who go to bed first.
The children won't hear him or the reindeer, he explained, but a mother or father might still be awake when he visits. And when that's the case, he said, he'll drop off his presents, get back in the sleigh and fly off into the night shouting, "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"
Contact George Moore by email at email@example.com.