Apparently, Santa is small

You are probably familiar with the poem attributed to Clement Clarke Moore that begins “Twas the night before Christmas”. We have at least two copies of it in book-form in our house (with James Marshall and Corinne Malvern as illustrators), and it’s a book that Harriet has been frequently asking to have read recently.

It’s justly well-known, as it, as much as any other source, is responsible for the modern-day conception of Santa Claus / Father Christmas / St Nicholas. According to Wikipedia’s pages on Moore’s poem and Santa, the 1823 poem (called “A Visit from St Nicholas”) can be credited with establishing:

  • Santa’s physical attributes,
  • arriving on Christmas Eve,
  • traveling via a reindeer-drawn sleigh,
  • the names of the reindeer,
  • entering via the chimney, and
  • bringing toys to children!

So, after the n-th reading of it, I was surprised to realise that there was something I’d missed. Although all the illustrations that accompanied the poem depicted St Nick as normal human-size (as well as every illustration I’ve ever seen of Santa), the poem clearly casts him as a midget. Not only is Father Christmas pint-sized, but so are all of the reindeer.

Here are the relevant lines from the poem:

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof

He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh’d, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf

Yes, that’s right – Santa is a tiny elf who travels in a miniature sleigh. Hence why the reindeer can land on the roof of a house and why he can fit down a chimney (although, some physicists have speculated at other ways Santa might fit down a chimney).

The part of the Santa Claus cultural tradition that states that he is a large, portly man comes not from Moore’s poem, but from elsewhere, e.g. soft-drink advertising campaigns, or Thomas Nast’s illustrations. It is the combination of this large Santa with Moore’s slim-chimney-fitting Santa that has created a problem, i.e. that we need to explain how Father Christmas gets down the chimney.

So, now every time I read the story for Harriet, I’m going to have dissonance in my head between the words and the pictures, and will dread answering how Santa gets into the house in a way that gels with the poem as well as the more “normal” view of him. Although it was very influential, it’s a pity that the poem wasn’t also influential in the matter of St Nick’s size.

One last way that the poem has been influential is in the number of alternative re-tellings that it has generated. There is a good collection of them here. I like the one about assembling presents – this is also something (given two children under three) that I dread will happen.

Skateboard on a stroller

Whether you call them skateboards, buggy boards or stroller boards, they sound like a good option for extending the use of a stroller. You attach a wheeled board to the back of the stroller, and the older child can stand on it while the baby rides in the stroller proper. Certainly, it’s cheaper than replacing a single stroller with a double stroller.

Since we had our second child, three weeks ago now, we needed to do something to allow both kids to be transported by a single adult. Although being on leave at the moment, it’s not yet a big deal, but since that’ll end soon, we thought we’d give a skateboard a try.

We have a 3-wheeler stroller (Swallow Beema Q model) which we are very happy with, and used a lot during our first child’s early months for walks around the neighborhood and at the shops. The sales assistant at the baby store recommended the Lascal BuggyBoard Maxi as a skateboard that would fit our stroller. But now that we have fitted it and put it into use, I don’t think I’d recommend it at all.

For others that are looking to fit a buggy board to your Beema Q, I think you’ll be disappointed, based on our experiences. You can see some of the issues in the above photos, but I’ll summarise the pros and cons here. I hope this helps others who are considering this option.


  • Older child can be carried short distances on the stroller without needing to be picked up, enabling one adult to undertake short trips with two children.
  • Fits securely and can be clipped in and out with ease.
  • Can handle bumpy footpaths.


  • Brake is obstructed, preventing use while older child is on board, and otherwise requires operation by hand rather than usual operation by foot.
  • Older child can step off at any time, and needs to be watched (which is certainly not unique to this particular skateboard).
  • When older child steps off, their weight is temporarily held by the top-back of the stroller (where they would hang on), causing the front wheel to lift.
  • There isn’t really enough space to accommodate the height of the child on the skateboard. Luckily ours is not tall, so it will serve us for a few months, but others may need to consider this.

So, while we may occasionally use it, I think putting the younger child in a baby carrier (such as an Ergo or BabyBjorn) with the older one in an umbrella stroller will be the more typical arrangement.

Where the cheap razors have gone

Although it’s complete coincidence that Movember ended a couple of days back, I wanted to give a quick update on razor blades. I previously wrote about how the razors in supermarkets were very expensive, but I now have some good news.

The major supermarket chains (Coles, Woolworths) may have stopped stocking the older and cheaper razor blade systems, but the discount chains still have them. Today I bought a Schick Ultra razor for $5 from The Reject Shop. Please excuse the quality of the photo – it was taken with my phone camera.