Archives in the Movies: The Christmas Chronicles
'Tis the season for me to write one article in December and cover all the holidays in the process! All I can say is at least I'm consistent!
So let's talk about The Christmas Chronicles where Kurt Russell plays the sexiest Santa Claus in the history of Santa Clauses - Santa Clausi? In this made-for-Netflix movie, brother and sister Teddy and Kate Pierce, hatch a plan to capture Santa on camera and end up getting entangled in a Christmas Eve journey of hilarity and heartwarming fun for the whole family.
In all fairness, the movie itself is pretty good even if the CGI elves and effects are kinda cringey. At the center of the story is a family still reeling from loss and grieving through the holidays with Russell's Santa serving as the herald of the kind of magic that children cling to and adults seek to reclaim.
But what's important for our purposes is a scene in which Kate falls into Santa's toy sack and finds herself in what the film refers to as the "mailroom." She's surrounded by wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor drawers that resemble a library card catalog. Sorted alphabetically, Kate finds that each drawer contains letters written to Santa with each child's letters sorted chronologically. Looking up her own letters, Kate also discovers that Teddy, despite claiming he doesn't believe in Santa, wrote a recent letter asking for their father back. It's a touching scene that gives Kate and the audience some insight into Teddy's grief and his desire to still believe.
So, we can all agree that the "mailroom" is a massive archives, right? Because that's what it is. Every letter is sorted alphabetically by name and chronologically by person. The letters are unique items that reflect the person who wrote them, which means there are few, if any, duplicates. They are also a reflection of the time period in which they're written as well as the dreams and desires of children who often speak more truthfully than the adults around them.
Letters to Santa, especially letters published in newspapers, are a time capsule in and of themselves. They reveal the priorities and honesty of children set within a cultural context even if toys are a consistent ask. I mean, they're still kids so, yeah, give 'em some toys but also understand that dad isn't working at the mill anymore so whatever you bring would be nice! If you ever get a chance, there are plenty of websites that find entertainment and genuine interest in past letters.
Back to the movie, though, because I love the scope and scale of the mailroom in that it visually lets us see how many letters have been archived over the centuries. If anything, it still seems like a small archives if you consider the origins of St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus. Kate finds her name real quick, so I can only imagine the room she's in is the modern era letters. But that's a big assumption on my part. There's no archivist to be found, but apparently there's an elf, Fleck, who's the designated Assistant Mailroom Clerk, so...Archives Assistant, maybe?
Another assumption could be made that Santa is the actual Archivist, but it also feels like something he'd delegate to the elves while making his lists, training reindeer, and singing the Blues.
Either way, The Christmas Chronicles is a delightfully fun movie that happens to have an archives you didn't know was there, but that's why you have me to look out for these things.
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!