It’s time we recognize the unsung hero of Christmas.
I’m not talking about the moms and dads who slave all year to buy their children gifts or the bell ringers outside grocery stores. The charities, the volunteers, retail workers, or the U.S. Postal servicemembers. They’re all saints, of course, but compared to this Christmas angel, they’re enjoying Kardashian levels of fame.
No, this woman is normally relegated to the role of helpmate during the holiday season – putting in the work while a man takes credit for it, as so often is the case.
This woman spends 364 days a year supporting her unemployed husband, feeding him, washing his oversized underwear, caring for his livestock, good-naturedly putting up with his high-energy, incompetent employees.
This woman is Mrs. Claus, and she deserves some g*ddamn respect this year.
I’ve always been a fan of Mrs. Claus. My first impression of her wasn’t as Kris Kringle’s glorified assistant but as a renegade, a rebel, a savior of the holiday season. Maybe that’s because the first Christmas film that burrowed its way into my memory was the Rankin Bass special The Year Without a Santa Claus.
The stop-motion-animated classic told the story of the year when Santa basically called it quits. He’d gotten a cold, you see, he felt underappreciated by the general public, and he used those excuses to justify his decision to cancel Christmas that year. Later I’d learn that many grown men revert to small children at the hint of a sniffle and many more require women to nurse their egos daily. Back then, I just thought Santa was a bit of a dick.
Mrs. Claus did too, though she was too gracious and well-mannered to say so in a children’s Christmas movie. Instead, she let her husband rest while she donned his suit, strapped on his boots, and took charge. She inspired a new sense of Christmas spirit, convincing Mother Nature to scold her two bickering boys, Heat Miser and Snow Miser, to work together for once to save the holiday season. She rescued a couple of inept elves when they bungled part of her plan. And she helped her husband realize what a selfish toad he was for thinking of calling out of his one day of work that year.
I’ve seen other Christmas movies since then. I’ve heard songs, read stories, seen shows, all dedicated to the big man in the red suit. He’s a beacon of hope and joy, one people cling to during the season, especially in hard times, and look, I get the appeal. A hearty laugh, a lover of baked goods, a man who brings you gifts with no strings attached? Sign me up!
But I feel it’s time Mrs. Claus gets her due.
After all, this is a woman who, after hundreds of years, has yet to be given a definitive name. Santa has a moniker in nearly every language. Mrs. Claus may be named Anna, possibly Jessica, but no one knows for sure and the world seems fine with reducing her identity to something akin to her husband’s property.
If the lack of a name doesn’t light your bonbons, maybe the fact that Mrs. Claus puts in an unimaginable amount of work only to disappear into the background on Christmas Eve will. Here’s a woman celebrated in prose for baking, wrangling the elves, tending to the reindeer, keeping her forgetful husband on schedule, helping him keep meticulous records through the naughty and nice list. She’s got the workload of an intern, and Santa happens to be the overweight boss who feels her up occasionally and constantly takes credit for her hard work.
And I think deep down, we know this to be true.
What man puts enough thought and care into his outfit that it’s lauded in song?
But it’s more than just unrecognized effort that puts coal in our stockings.
Stories of Kris Kringle number in the thousands. He was a living saint before his image was transformed into the stuff of childhood fairy tales. Mrs. Claus came along much later, probably to give her husband some much-needed good PR. After all, what kind of parents are okay with a heavy-set, unmarried old man watching their kids while they sleep? A wife certainly makes the job description a lot less creepy.
She might not sport the place in history her husband enjoys, but she bears the same burden he does. She’s volunteered to live in an inhospitable environment – I don’t care how magical that place is, the North Pole is a far cry from an island in the Caribbean. She’s taken up her husband’s dream, helping him to run a workshop full of ham-fisted, unruly elves. I’m assuming she feeds them and provides lodging, seeing as the kind of sweatshop labor needed to provide toys to every child around the world probably requires 24-hour availability. She cares for the reindeer – even Comet, who has notorious bowel issues – she keeps Santa’s outfit clean, despite his insistence on sliding down every damn chimney across the globe. She forgoes the thrill of travel, the glory of fame, the joy of bringing gifts to children who deserve them so that her husband can be gilded in verse, inscribed into legend as the sole reason for the season.
She grits her teeth, bearing every sexualized song dedicated to Mr. Claus. Odes about his physique fetishizing oversized bellies and white beards and his overall “daddy” status. She puts up with women inviting him in for milk and cookies and other things, hinting that they’d give it up for the right gift, calling him “baby,” kissing him under the mistletoe.
And when it’s all over, when the presents are under the tree, the sleigh is parked in the driveway, her roaming husband comes home, she has another year of the same nonsense to look forward to. Kringle’s got a night of adventure and the adoration of millions to keep him going. Mrs. Claus? She’s got the promise of nursing her 1,000-year-old husband down from his sugar high and nights filled with milk farts in her future.
So sure, sing Santa’s praises this year. Write him letters. Send your wish lists. Go sit on his lap and whisper in his ear and pin all your hopes and dreams for the season on the guy.
This year, I’m putting my faith in the Claus who’s the real brains behind this whole operation, the Claus with the strength of will to spend 364 days a year surviving subfreezing temperatures, a demanding, petulant life partner, and hundreds of damn elves without thought of notice or thanks.
I’m recognizing the real reason for the season, the reason we find joy and happiness especially easy this time of year – the unsung work of a woman.