Saturday, December 18, 2010

Poetry Prompt #36 – A Letter to Santa

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the famous "Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" letter written in 1897 in reply to eight year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's query about whether or not Santa Claus is real (Yes, Virginia - Letter and Reply). I recently read the letter again and thought it might be fun to write letters to Santa this week.

For this prompt, traditional letter format is fine (prose poem style), but you may wish to refine into stanzas once your ideas and images are in place. There are many possibilities: your slant may be serious, humorous, or even satirical (just be wary of seasonal clichés and sentimentalizations). 

Here are a few ideas:

1. Start with a simple "Dear Santa" and write your letter.

2. Typically, a letter to Santa is filled with requests for tangibles, but you may want to ask for things like love, peace, friendship, or forgiveness. You may want to write about a single gift you'd like ("All I Want for Christmas Is __________").

3. Write a letter to Santa from a perspective other than your own (a celebrity, a political figure, a sports person, the earth, something from nature, someone no longer living, an animal).

4. Another option is to write a letter from Santa. Just as the Virginia O'Hanlon story involves a letter and a reply, you might want to write a letter to Santa and his reply to you.

5. How have you been "naughty or nice?" Write a letter poem about your own "behavior," a letter to someone who has treated you badly, or a letter to someone who has treated you well. 

6. If writing a letter doesn't appeal to you, you  might consider writing a poem about this section of the reply to Virginia's 1897 letter. How does this passage speak to you?: “Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”


  1. This really takes me back to my childhood -- wonderful memories, wonderful prompt idea.

  2. Thanks for another great prompt. I don't know how much writing I'll be able to do this Christmas week, but your prompts are always fun to read and think about.

    Here's the link to a site that has a great article on Christmas poetry and some Christmas poems:

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


  3. My friend Adam Fitzgerald sent me the following Christmas poem by T.S. Eliot. I've been an Eliot devotee for many years, but I'd never seen this poem before. (It's not a Santa letter, but an amazing poem that I'm happy to share).

    The Cultivation of Christmas Trees
    By T. S. Eliot

    There are several attitudes towards Christmas,
    Some of which we may disregard:
    The social, the torpid, the patently commercial,
    The rowdy (the pubs being open till midnight),
    And the childish - which is not that of the child
    For whom the candle is a star, and the gilded angel
    Spreading its wings at the summit of the tree
    Is not only a decoration, but an angel.
    The child wonders at the Christmas Tree:
    Let him continue in the spirit of wonder
    At the Feast as an event not accepted as a pretext;
    So that the glittering rapture, the amazement
    Of the first-remembered Christmas Tree,
    So that the surprises, delight in new possessions
    (Each one with its peculiar and exciting smell),
    The expectation of the goose or turkey
    And the expected awe on its appearance,
    So that the reverence and the gaiety
    May not be forgotten in later experience,
    In the bored habituation, the fatigue, the tedium,
    The awareness of death, the consciousness of failure,
    Or in the piety of the convert
    Which may be tainted with a self-conceit
    Displeasing to God and disrespectful to children
    (And here I remember also with gratitude
    St.Lucy, her carol, and her crown of fire):
    So that before the end, the eightieth Christmas
    (By "eightieth" meaning whichever is last)
    The accumulated memories of annual emotion
    May be concentrated into a great joy
    Which shall be also a great fear, as on the occasion
    When fear came upon every soul:
    Because the beginning shall remind us of the end
    And the first coming of the second coming.

  4. Merry Christmas, Adele!

    Thanks for another great prompt!

    Perhaps readers will enjoy this brilliant poem by John Milton:

    Máire Ó Cathail (Ireland)

  5. I can finish my Christmas shopping, wrap the gifts I've already bought, or write a poem ... Christmas Eve is three days away!

  6. Thank you and merry Christmas to you, Maire!

  7. To Anonymous,

    How about writing a poem after you finish the shopping and wrapping?

    Have a wonderful Christmas!