“Dear Santa: I’m Jewish, but I really love U. Can U give me a present though. (Please don’t give me coal).”

This letter to Santa, which often pops up in anthologies of communication with the jolly old gent, transports me to a long-ago time when as a Jewish kid myself, I also had a question for Santa.

Despite our family’s religious preference, he always showed up at our South Providence tenement, just as he did at the non-Jewish households in our polyglot postwar neighborhood.

I wasn’t surprised that he included us in his rounds because that’s just the way it was. I viewed Santa as a secular and equal-opportunity gift-giver.

Neither was I doubtful of Santa’s ability to travel the world in a single night — everybody knew he could do that.

My concern was that in our walkup apartment there was no fireplace, so how did he manage to get in? My parents said he made entrance though the Vulcan water heater in the kitchen— an old-fashioned device the size of a tall cookie tin. I never quite bought that part of the story, because the Vulcan was way too small to accommodate Santa’s convivial bulk, magic powers or not. There was also the potential of his getting boiled like a Rhode Island lobster. 

This conundrum turned moot when we moved to a place with an actual chimney and fireplace.

When you’re Jewish you don’t want to be cheeky with Santa, so my own letters to him were straightforward and modest: a baseball glove (left-handed, please, Santa), a cap gun, the ageless Slinky.

Current letter-writers are more sophisticated, as was this young man whose request got posted. “Dear Santa: Here is what I want for Christmas.  An attp//amazon.com9p/product/B0032HF60.”

I hope Santa is computer literate. If he punches in that code he will discover, as I did, that the little shaver was asking for a $42.95 “Kid Galaxy RC Car Morphibians Shark All Terrain Remote Control Toy, 49 MHz.”

That’s about as far from a Slinky as you can get.

Modern-day kids brook no nonsense from Santa. One wrote, “Dear Santa: You better bring my pony this year, or there will be consequences.”

Said another: “Dear Santa: How are you? Well, enough chit-chat. Let’s get down to business. This year I want…”

And today’s kids aren’t bashful about speaking their minds, as in, “Dear Santa: You need to stay away from the junk food… that’s why I’m leaving you vegetables this year with Ultra Skim Milk.”

On the other hand, a more accommodating youngster wrote, “Dear Santa: If you want to grab a beer feel free— the fridge is near the door.”

As for practicality, one kid wrote, “Dear Santa: How are your reindeer. If you cannot buy what I want take it easy on yourself. Just give me tens and ones.” 

My old letters were mundane compared to some of these recent ones, but even after many decades and retirement, I hope it’s not too late to try again– and I’ll keep it brief and tight:

Dear Santa: I agree with that little Jewish kid – please don’t bring me coal. In fact, it’s okay if you don’t leave me anything. But when you go back up the chimney – please – take 2020 with you!

Gerry Goldstein (gerryg76@verizon.net) is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist.