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Issue 08 – Christmas 2021

The Publisher's Desk

The Publisher's Desk

On Christmas.


In the genre of Christmas movies, the stop-motion Rankin/Bass Christmas special Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) occupies a special place in my heart. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974) is my favorite, of course, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) must be the one everyone knows best, but the Burgermeister Meisterburger and the Winter Warlock I like to imagine as rival professors of ethics.

These two petty lords contend with the young toy maker Kris Kringle and force him to develop a series of ad hoc customs that become the basis of the Santa Claus myth. The show’s plot is more complicated than you may think wise for a fifty-minute holiday special, but we need recall only a few details here. Sombertown, the center of our story, is a brutal authoritarian burg run by the Burgermeister, a man who hates happiness, toys, and children’s joy. (Mary Kate Skehan recounts her meeting with a somewhat less tyrannical municipal authority figure on page 30.) Outside Sombertown the woods are terrorized by the Winter Warlock, who spreads misery and scares all the baby animals. Santa Klaus (known as a child here as “Kris Kringle”), we learn, was delivered as a foundling to the Burgermeister, grows up in the town’s “Orphan Asylum,” and later ventures outside its borders into the Warlock’s woods. (Another fictional tale of supernatural goings-on appears on page 57, from Ree Brannigan, winner of our Christmas ghost story competition; a true one, of a well-documented haunting that comes down to us from a nineteenth-century American frontier priest, is on page 29.)

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