The columnist’s partner waits in delightful anticipation of cranberry upside-down cake. (ERIN O’MARA PHOTO)

Santa is exceptionally talented at being Santa.

There are people in the world who aren’t good at their jobs, don’t love their careers and even ignore their callings. But Santa trudges a steady ramp of innovation, inventory, operations, fulfillment and logistics — all for a singular, year-defining, this-moment-means-everything event — and every book about Santa says he does it with joy.

Stamina? Creativity? Stress management? Good humor and a can-do attitude? Santa’s got ’em to spare.

Constant curiosity must invigorate him, because he has to be ahead of trends and up to date with technology. It’s not that long ago the must-have toy was a cup tethered by a string to a ball. The goal of that game was to catch the ball with the cup.

Can you imagine, in 2022, the look of gleeful anticipation sliding right off your child’s face as they realize the whole past year of self-control for a position on the “nice” list got them a cup, string and ball?

One day, Santa was stuffing stockings with early animation flipbooks or maybe an orange, and now he’s delivering flat-screen TVs and streaming service subscriptions.

He doesn’t get a day off to watch the holiday rom-coms he stars in on the Hallmark Channel because he’s busy retooling his shop and implementing robust on-the-job training for the elves. But he never needs a vacation.

Santa must view every challenge as an opportunity, and he handles international and labor relations with aplomb.

No country has ever taken a potshot or fired at his sleigh in a fit of pique. He crosses borders with abandon and never has to have an awkward conversation with customs authorities about the value of the goods he’s importing.

Constant change in the workplace, even when it’s for the greater good, is stressful and puts tremendous pressure on the team. But you’ve never heard of a labor action at the North Pole, have you? I know you’re thinking that the North Pole is pretty far away and we don’t get their news, but I need to remind you that those reindeer can talk and any effective action against management needs publicity.

And Santa might have invented catnip for CEOs. He can’t make the gifts people want without a little copyright infringement here or a peek at trade secrets there. Maybe Santa struck a deal allowing corporations to use his likeness in their marketing in return for a little freedom on his production line? Or maybe titans of industry are helpless against that jolly eye twinkle.

Santa runs the largest, most complex organization in the history of the world, yet the glow in his cheeks and his generous spirit never wane. With a belly like a bowl full of jelly, that spring in his step must cause uncomfortable jiggling, but he doesn’t complain. 

Santa is filled with delight.

Of course, Santa is a magical being and that helps. He has a different sense of time, so he’s got more days to fit into a year and more hours to fit into an evening. What looks impossible to me is easy for him. There are other benefits of being magical. Nobody ever gives Santa the side eye for helping himself to a second piece of pie.

But it must be more than magic, because there are lots of terrible magical beings. The Heat Miser and Snow Miser are petty, petulant little monsters who use their power to torment each other and all of us. Think of them when it’s 90 degrees in August with no rain in sight or when it’s 10 below in January.

The Abominable Snowman was magical and terrifying — that is, until Santa gave him a different path and a sense of purpose.

Santa’s enthusiasm is magnetic, his charisma contagious. Spells aren’t in his repertoire. He can’t bend wills or force hands, yet those in his orbit share his joy and spread happiness.

I’m not magical and I’m not responsible for delivering toys to the 2.2 billion children of the world. We should be thankful for that because logistics aren’t in my wheelhouse.

I do try to find delight where I can. I get to take delight in my family, friends and neighbors of any or no religion. I manage my considerably smaller gift list and make sugar cookies because baking cookies makes my house smell like childhood.

And I have time to explore new obsessions, like upside-down cakes. I’ve made several and my elation when what was on the bottom somehow perfectly lands on the top might be the purest joy I’ve ever felt. It is delightful.

It’s cranberry season again and things are about to get topsy-turvy at my place.

And I get to delight in offering a hand where I can. I, like a lot of you, am one of Santa’s helpers. I think he’d like me to tell you that if you are of a mind and have the means, the Harpswell Santa Fund is here helping our neighbors. Happy holidays start with a cozy home and the Santa Fund helps with fuel oil as well as clothes, food and toys. You can find them at

As we count down to the end of the year, Santa is managing inventory and disguising reindeer fitness classes as games to ensure his fleet is flight-ready.

I will be snug in my bed, belly full of upside-down cake, dreaming of sugar cookies, wishing Santa a safe flight, and wishing all of you much delight and a good night.

For those who’d like more information on Santa, check out NORAD’s Santa Tracker at

Erin O’Mara lives in Harpswell and serves on the Harpswell News Board of Directors.