We’ve been watching a lot of holiday videos at my house lately. And to be honest with you, I never realized before just how much Santa Claus is a cranky old man who’s virtually forced to keep doing his job.

Watching the animated Rankin-Bass classics from the ’60s and ’70s really brings this into focus. In “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” he’s given a magic snowball that allows him to spy on kids whenever he wants (he would be put in jail for that today), and when they ask him why they shouldn’t pout or cry, he yells, “I’M TELLIN’ YA WHY!”

In “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” he decides to cancel Christmas — conveniently forgetting about a little something involving a baby and a manger; after all, it’s all about him — because he has a cold. “Twas the Night Before Christmas” has Santa almost passing up an entire town on Christmas Eve because one kid — ONE KID — writes a letter to the newspaper questioning his existence.

But St. Nick is at his absolute worst in “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Not only does he try to cancel Christmas, he berates the elves, refuses to eat his wife’s cooking, and shuns poor little Rudolph because of the way he looks — until, of course, there’s something in it for him; i.e., he has someone to lead his sleigh team in the fog.

Jolly old elf, indeed.

But then I started to think that maybe Santa has a reason to be so cranky before Christmas. He has to wade through thousands of lists, check them once and then check them twice to determine who’s been naughty or nice, knowing full well the bratty ones’ relatives will probably get them something anyway.

He has to deal with parents foisting their screaming, terrified infants on his lap, and with older kids who want the moon and more, for hours on end. Occasionally, he gets a bathroom break, which usually makes the kids standing in line cry.

And he has to fly through all manner of fog, snow, sleet, hail and what have you to deliver a bunch of presents to people who may or may not appreciate it.

Heck, I would be cranky too.

But I believe that, deep down, Santa really does believe in the spirit of Christmas. Because he always comes through.

I think that Santa truly loves little boys and girls — and maybe his crankyness is his way of reminding them that they have to behave if they want to stay in his good graces and get a gift. To teach them responsibility.

So remember that on Christmas Eve, kids. Remember to give Santa a little love with a handwritten “thank you” note and a cold drink — milk is the standard, but if you want to put some of dad’s “extra-special” eggnog out instead, that’s fine too.

Oh, and don’t forget the cookies. Extra-chunky chocolate chip cookies are a nice choice. With macadamia nuts.

It’s all about a little quid pro quo: Keep Santa happy, and he’ll make you happy in return.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

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