SIKESTON - Santa and his reindeer will soon be heading out for a busy night and several Sikeston youths have a few insights as to how it all works.
Snacks are a must, the children insist. "Santa and his reindeer sleep all summer because they have to stay up all night on Christmas Eve. You should leave him cookies. Any kind will do, but Santa might like chocolate," offered 8-year-old Mary Kendig. "But maybe he mostly could just have a little bit of cookies. I put lots of cookies out for him one year and some of them were left," she cautioned. And for the reindeer, she suggested leaving something like sugar cookies. But remember, you must leave milk to go along with them.
But it has to be white milk, stressed 7-year-old Mark Blanton.
"Chocolate chips cookies are good to leave him. He'd like any kind of cookie though," informed Brady Glaus, 6. "I always make the reindeer candy, it's pretty yummy."
Although Nathan Hopper goes along with the general consensus, there are those who differ in opinion. "I have a friend who says he leaves spicy chicken wings and Dr. Pepper. I think that's weird," said the 10-year-old.
And then there's 2 1/2-year-old Hannah Payne who says M&Ms are the best way to go for Santa and popcorn for his reindeer.
"I like his nose," Hannah softly replied when asked what she likes most about Santa Claus.
Although it's a mystery, Mary feels pretty sure that Santa eats his cookies at the houses he stops at, while the reindeer take theirs back to the North Pole to devour after a hard night's work. After all, they deserve it, you know.
"I think they all eat the food that is left for them when they get back to the North Pole," said Nathan.
"I think they eat when they get back to the North Pole and then he takes a break until Dec. 1," Mark said.
"I think they eat it in the sleigh because if they come in, they'd make too much noise. You know how reindeer are," surmised Brady.
But how does Santa know which houses to go to in the first place, you may wonder. "God tells him," Mary said matter-of-factly. "And they never get lost because of Rudolph."
"They know where to go because Santa leads them with the reigns," said Nathan. "When he wants to go left, he pulls the reigns to the left."
"He just knows automatically. He has a good list and a bad list and that's how Santa knows whose house to go to," explained Mark. "To get on the bad list you have to be real bad and you don't get any presents. Have I ever been on the bad list? Oh no! But nobody's perfect."
Chimed in Brady, "I think it's because Santa's got this important list so he knows where to go. He says, 'On Dasher...' and all the rest come. It's kind of like a spell thing he has."
Nathan and Mark estimate it takes 10-15 minutes for Santa to put his suit on, while Brady says it takes about as long as it takes to put your clothes on.
They also have an idea what Mrs. Claus does while he's gone. "I think she stays at home and makes stuff for him, like food to eat when he gets back," Nathan said.
"I think she takes care of the elves," added Mark.
Everyone agrees it's a good idea to go to bed early on Christmas Eve, to allow plenty of time to get to sleep before the jolly elf arrives.
"I'd say go to bed as early as you can," Mary advised. "It's hard to get to sleep but you can just pretend it's summer and nothing's going on. But if he catches you awake, I think he could just take one present away or put a little piece of coal in your stocking."
Nathan suggests going to bed at 9 p.m., since that's his bedtime anyway and Mark recommends going to bed somewhere between 8-9 p.m. since Santa comes at 1:30 a.m. and is finished by 3 a.m.
"If he sees you awake he will go back up the chimney and you won't get any presents," Mark pointed out. "And many people try to take a picture of Santa, is that what you're doing?"
Brady says he always goes to bed on Christmas Eve when it starts getting dark. "And if I can't get to sleep I just calm myself down. I usually have no trouble getting to sleep though, I sleep like a log."
And on that note, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.