NORTH POLE - For the tenth consecutive year, Santa Claus gave out coal and candy canes to trick-or-treaters.
Hordes of children and their parents traveled to the North Pole to meet the jolly old man, who happily welcomed each visitor by name. With the help of his wife, Santa gifted the nice children with mint-flavored candy canes, while the naughty kids received lumps of coal.
"It's nothing personal," said Santa, whose age could not be determined. "I'm actually doing them a favor. You see, by giving out candy to the good kids and coal to the bad ones, they get a little taste of what to expect at Christmas. And if little Jimmy is upset with his Halloween coal, he has some time to change his behavior. Who knows, maybe if he stops picking on his sister and starts cleaning his room, he'll be able to get that new video game he's been bugging his parents for?"
The idea came to Santa after Christmas 2003. Like other years, he received millions of hate mail from angry children who found lumps of coal waiting for them under their Christmas trees.
"The letters usually contained misspelled profanities and threats," said Santa. "But there was one naughty child who claimed she had no idea she had been a bad girl that year. So, after some brainstorming with Rudolph, we came up with a way to solve this dilemma."
For Halloween 2004, Santa invited all trick-or-treaters to his home. Mrs. Claus had felt uneasy about letting naughty children near her husband because she was afraid they might try to harm him as retribution for the Christmas coal.
"How would those mean kids react when they were given coal for Halloween, too?" said Mrs. Claus. "It seemed like a very hostile situation to me."
The overall results have been positive. In the past decade, the amount of angry letters decreased dramatically while the number of trick-or-treaters continued to rise. Last December, Santa only received around 630,000 letters. This Halloween, more than 500 million trick-or-treaters visited the North Pole.
"After last Christmas, I wrote Santa a super angry letter," said 9-year-old Jimmy Mallman of Boston. "But this Halloween I went trick-or-treating at the North Pole so I could yell at him in person. When he handed me a handful of coal, I threw it back in his face. It felt really good. I'm definitely coming back next year!"