Short Story: Susan and Father Christmas

I mentioned Persephone Books Biannually yesterday and after reading one of the stories in it, "Susan and Father Christmas" by Mollie Panter Downes, I had some thoughts I wanted to share. For a story written in 1938 it is quite modern.

In the story, Susan is a little girl anxiously awaiting Father Christmas to fill her stocking. Nanny is participating in the festivities by hanging holly and a cardboard bell. Susan's Mom, Mrs Ramsey, is not impressed. She "read in a book that children should not be confused by untruthful fairytales." She tries to convince Susan that Santa isn't real but Susan isn't buying it.

The story is told from Mrs Ramsey's point of view, which is a bit different because aren't we supposed to empathize with little Susan who just wants to believe in magic? Instead, I felt sorry for Mrs Ramsey, even though she's a stick in the mud. Nanny and Susan obviously have a relationship that leaves her on the outside. She even fantasizes that if she fired Nanny, she and Susan would be the best of pals. 

Mrs R has good intentions; she reads the books and wants to protect Susan from "the horrors" of the hypocrisy she experienced as a child. I think that's what made me feel bad for her. She's trying her best, or what she thinks is best, and yet it's not right for Susan. Susan is a different kid and needs her to play along with the fantasy. Mrs R just isn't getting it. I could to relate to her in that respect. She's just a mom trying to do what's right and getting it wrong.

It's that time of year again when Santa is everywhere and the kids start to think about him more seriously. I know my girl is getting a little old for Santa and I suspect she knows the truth but doesn't want to give up that belief yet. As long as she wants me to keep it up, I will. I'm still scarred from the Tooth Fairy incident.

Susan and Father Christmas was published on December 24, 1938 in The New Yorker and reprinted in The Persephone Biannually Autumn/Winter 2011-12.


  1. The story I read for today ("Bliss" by Katherine Mansfield) has similar elements in that the mother feels she is left out of the relationship between her daughter and the nanny. So sad.

  2. I've been saving this one for when it's a bit closer to Christmas, but you have me looking forward to it even more!

  3. Julie- Going to check it out.

    Nymeth- Enjoy!

  4. It must be so hard to see their children grow up and realize the un-truths that were so much fun when they were young.

    I woke up one time when the tooth fairy visited me ans she looked just like my mom but when I confronted my mom she told me I must have been dreaming. LOL!

  5. I am in the Christmas spirit already so I will take a look! My kids believe in Santa for now but we are the only ones around here who do Santa so I doubt it will last much longer. I hope it does though, it's a magical time!


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