Seven year-old Tamara crept downstairs early this morning, eager to be the first person in her family to see all the presents under the tree. It had been a hard year for her, a year of zoom classrooms, no contact with her friends, and too much contact with her parents, who are both now raging alcoholics. On top of that, her grandmother hasn’t moved since Tamara hugged her on Christmas Eve morning.
Tamara had stood strong through this year’s hardships, though, knowing that Christmas would eventually arrive. She’d asked Santa for an iPod and a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, telling the Lampoon that it “would help to drown out the screaming my parents are always doing since Dad got furloughed.”
But when Tamara opened the living room door this morning, she didn’t find any iPod shaped presents – in fact, she didn’t find any presents at all. The room was empty of everything but tinsel-coated furniture, a Christmas tree, and her grandma’s corpse.
Many children this Christmas experienced the same traumatic scene. In an unprecedented Christmas catastrophe, Santa missed millions of children’s names from his Excel Spreadsheet Nice List this year.
Our Christmas correspondent asked Tamara’s parents what effect this disruption had on their festivities, and her father told us “Well, to be honest, she asked for an iPod, which was already above our price range anyway. We thought Santa might be able to pull through, but if he thinks the little brat doesn’t deserve a merry Christmas, who are we to argue? We’re just mortals.”
“You mean you didn’t buy the iPod?” Tamara’s mother cut in, “I wondered why she was trying to talk to me this morning. For Christ’s sake, David. Jesus Christ! I’m going to get my bourbon, and not to make eggnog. Christ, David – you’ve got me blaspheming like a heretic on the birthday of Our Lord.”
As David pulled a Christmas cracker by himself, our Christmas correspondent decided it was the right time to fake a faulty internet connection and end the Zoom interview. Just as they were leaving the meeting, they caught a glimpse of what was inside the cracker: a paper party hat, a piece of paper that said “What goes Ho, Ho, Ho, thump? Santa laughing his head off!”, a thimble shaped like a reindeer, and a mid-sized, well-sharpened kitchen knife. David took the last item and moved out of frame with a deeply un-festive look of vengefullness.
In order to understand why this Excel spreadsheet error had occurred in the first place, the Lampoon’s travel editor managed to get an exclusive interview with Father Christmas himself, in exchange for the release of two elves we had tied up in our office with tinsel.
“Basically,” Santa told the editor, “the problem was to do with the file type or something. We were using XMS file types for our spreadsheets. But apparently they’re too big for Excel. I can’t see why we had to move from good old quill and parchment, personally, but there have been some pretty major difficulties recently, so maybe we can blame this on the Elvish Workers’ Revol- I mean, on Covid. Blame this on Covid.”
When asked why he had used the ineffective XMS file type, Santa replied: “Well, it looks like ‘Xmas’, doesn’t it? See, here at Santa’s Grotto, we use a legacy system, which means that practically speaking we need to include references to Christmas in as many different places as possible. We even go to the point of not treating an elf’s skin condition unless he calls it ‘eczemas’. So naturally XMS files will continue to be used.”
“Wait,” our travel editor replied, “does this mean the same issue will continue to happen every Christmas?”
Santa chuckled a smug ‘ho ho ho’: “Well, more or less. We’ve worked out that the number of children missed out from our global spreadsheet is the exact number of children living in the UK. So from now on we’ll just miss your lot out and deliver to everywhere else.”
“But why the UK specifically? Surely there are other small countries you could ignore.”
“If I answer, do you promise to release my elves? Those two were loyal to me. I need them to bust up all the talk of unions in the factories.”
“Absolutely. A time for giving, forgiving, forgetting and getting.”
“Doing all the paperwork in time to get into the UK next year would take a Christmas miracle. I’m not planning to get stuck in Kent.
“Now give me back my elves.”