St Nicholas, the jovial and benevolent bearer of Christmas gifts died when his custom-made sleigh collided with a Jumbo Jet just outside the North Pole, newly-impoverished parents reported to their children yesterday.
The man more commonly known as "Father Christmas" (or "Santa" to the offspring of out-of-work American stockbrokers) was out on one of his regular pre-Christmas reconnaissance missions to check which children have been good this year, when chief reindeer Rudolph "got spooked and steered the sleigh directly into the path of a Toronto-bound 747," distraught kids were told.
"Come on now Timmy, you have to be strong," said Brian Gough, a recently-laid-off construction worker from Redditch, as his 6-year-old son's bottom lip started to wobble. "We must give thanks for his life - not cheapen his name by thinking of ourselves on Christmas Day. I know you were really looking forward to that remote control car, but sometimes cherished memories can be as rewarding as material gifts."
Jeremy Davis, a 37-year-old HBOS executive whose five-figure new-year bonus was cancelled due to the credit crunch, gathered his two children solemnly in his study as he broke the news. "I know it's tough, kids, but your mother and I want to make sure you still have the best Christmas ever - so we will fill your stockings with satsumas, socks and other simple gifts to remind you that only Santa was special enough to have been able to find you a Playstation 3."
"You should probably still leave out that whiskey and plate of mince pies though as a mark of respect. It's what he would have wanted"
Brave Lauren Cole, 5, said that children everywhere would do their best to keep the memory of Father Christmas alive. "Mummy told me not to worry about Mrs. Claus or the elves because they have stopped making all those presents, and are now busy building a shrine to Santa in Lapland."
Lauren concluded that she was "happy" Father Christmas was now in heaven playing party games with the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny, who also perished recently in unrelated incidents involving pillow suffocation and death by chocolate respectively.