Nicho and the Very First Ugly Christmas Sweater

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
Nicho thought himself a very naughty elf. Little did he know he would be the beginning of a fashion craze.

Submitted: December 02, 2019

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Submitted: December 02, 2019



I should probably warn you from the beginning, this is no once upon a time story.  In fact, it might not be a story at all.  Because it happened in a real place, in a real time.  Hi, I’m Nicho, and I used to be a naughty elf.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, I live at the North Pole, and yes, I know Santa; and Mrs. Clause, and the reindeer, and a lot of the other elves.  There are a few new ones every year so, there may be some I’m yet to be accquainted with but... There are still a lot I’ve known for a very long time.

Okay, Okay, I know.  It wasn’t cool.  I thought it was then but... I hear you.  All you moms and dads or other family members reading this to the kids; and, you’re right.  It wasn’t.  In retrospect.

Of course, I know that now; and if it helps, I have since reformed.  The Big Guy and I had a talk after the Incident, and he helped me see the error of my ways, along with the Missus and a gazillion other North Pole inhabitants.

Yeah, the movie got it right.  At least some of them can talk.  But enough.  I know you’re waiting for The Story.  So, on I go; but be prepared.  Some of you might want to hang on to... Well, whatever there is to hang on to.

It all began in the year 1976...

We’re talking mid 70‘s, disco era for those of you who can remember that; for those who can’t let me paint a picture.  We’re talkin’ loud clothing, especially pants, platform shoes, and disco balls, with as many lights as could fit in a room.  We’re also talking a time before computers, when most everything we, or anybody did was done... you guessed it, by hand.

Now I know some of you little ones may find that odd, since you were born not so long ago.  Computers, cell phones, they’re the norm now.  You don’t know anything else, but believe me, then?  Making toys and prepping them to go on Santa’s sleigh was a lot of work, and it took a lot of time and effort to make sure everything was just right.

Things are mostly that way now.  Santa and the Missus believe in tradition, but they use a computer to track the lists at least, and cell phones to keep things moving.  During the busy time there are hundreds of messages a day flying back and forth, between the big house and the shop.  Nothing gets missed this time of year.

We’re talking toys, accessories, electronics; colours, name brands... Oh yeah, it matters!  And the lists themselves; most of you know them.  The Nice and The Naughty; they get compared, and updated, (via computer now thankfully.  And in this day and age, even Santa says he wouldn’t know what to do without it.

But not then.  Then, as I said, things were still done completely by hand.  Each doll, every train set, or car, dollhouse, whatever, was built by hand, and then shipped down the line to paint and accessories, so that each of you could have just what you’d asked for, with a deadline of course.  No one, especially not Santa could afford to be late.That’s where the story starts.
The night of the big deadline...  How could I forget?

I should tell you that elves usually live to a ripe old age.  In fact, 500 years is quite common, and I was only 150 at the time.  So if you could think of me as a tweener, or a young teen; that sounds about right.  And so is a little... I hate to use the word, but rebellion, comes to mind.  Nothing serious mind you; it was just a little fun, really...  A little... I guess you could call it payback; which I thought was deserved, at the time.  It wasn’t til later that I realized...

But, maybe I should just get on with it.  You see, there’s another piece, another tidbit if you will, of information I haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s the party...

And, I hear more of you; whether you said it or not, you’re thinking it.  

You’re thinking, Party; what party?  Who has time for a party; especially there?  Here everybody is, working like mad to get things done by the deadline, (which is actually December 23rd fyi), and you’re talking a party?!  

Nicho!  What exactly is going on up there?  We thought we had this Santa/reindeer/holiday thing all figured out, and now you’re saying...I mean, come on!  We all know, Santa flies around the world in one night!  He has who knows how many stops to make.  He barely has time for the milk and cookies!  What’s this about a party?!?

Now, I know; it seems crazy, even to someone like me, who’s been around for... I’m not sure I want to say how long exactly.  But yeah, there’s a party; every year, on Christmas Day.  You see we all get up late and wander up to the Big House for dinner...  The MIssus, she is one awesome cook!

And, it’s part of the tradition, and she pulls out all the stops.  We’re talking food for days, and all kinds of stuff!  Cookies, cake, pie; no one seems to know where the main stuff comes from, but there’s always an over abundance of it, and I haven’t even mentioined the hot chocolate or the egg nog!  

From scratch, which is the best kind.  It’s all served via fountain too; and I’m not talking some small thing.  I’m talking big!  Gigantic!  Humungus!  Take your pick of adjective, but these fountains are so big!  They sit in the middle of one side of the room, which is festively decorated of course, with wreaths and trees.  Our youngest make some of it during classes, and our pre-schoolers.. well, a lot of them have help at home, but all of them contribute.  Santa and Missus like it that way; and it is pretty colourful, all that red and green, silver and gold.  Some’s done in ice blue.  Anyway, it’s all brought in a few days early and hung to decorate; and there’s a contest.  Each decoration is categorized and evaluated and then the top ten or fifteen in each gets a prize.

We have a lot of entries.  But like I said, that’s just the beginning of it.  On the day of the party, we all go over; there’s food and games, music... and there’s always a theme.  This particular year it was disco.

Go figure!  

Now I don’t know, maybe that’s what set me off.  You see, I really wasn’t into disco at the time...  I mean, really?  There are lights all over the Pole, all the time!  And they’re on pretty much 24 - 7, so who needs more?

Thinking back I realize that it was a thing; a fad, but back then, even as young as I was... I just couldn’t get into it.  But I was into something else.  Something I thought was not only entertaining, it was useful, and warm... and, I was already working on it.  Had been for a couple of years at the time; but it should have, knitting all of those sweaters by hand.

You know the kind parents; all colours of the season mixed with the worst possible renditions of every character.  It really didn’t matter who it was.  Santa, Mrs., Rudolph; oh, yeah he’s been around for eons, and he’s so popular, still!  They’ve been singin’ that song for years!  He’s a real story too.  From outcast to most wanted celeb in the area in a season.  I mean, WoW, and all because of his red beacon of a nose!

But I’m getting away from the story, so let’s go back.  1976... Things were humming along smoothly as usual.  Lists were coming in, being sorted and sent up to the Big Man to be read.  He gets mail by the mine car full every day for months, and each letter is scoured for those important bits.  That’s how all of you end up with trees full of gifts every year.

Anyway, so that was happening, decorating was going on, and party plans were humming along too.  Mrs. Claus was in the kitchen with her own brigade prepping for the big day after the big night, and there were the invites...  That’s one of that brigade’s main jobs.  Getting the invites out.  

It usually goes so smoothly too; no problems at all.  So imagine my surprise when I went to my mailbox; and found it empty.

I remember frowning, and watching a whole lot more of us opening their boxes, pulling out the familiar candy cane envelope.  That’s the Missus’ signature.  You see one of those, you know she’s been thinkin’ of you.

Anyway, so no envelope.  I thought it had been a fluke; or maybe mine was on its way.  There was no reason to worry, I told myself.  It usually takes a few days after all.  But when a week went by, and then longer?  

It was the worst feeling ever.

I suppose I should have known better, and I could have asked; or said something.  I’m sure the problem would have been solved.  An invitation would have been given, and our little world would have continued with the same peaceful happiness.  On top of which... those two don’t make mistakes; ever.  

But I didn’t think about it, and I didn’t think about the consequences.  In fact, I didn’t even consider that.  I considered one thing... Revenge.

Now, if I’m honest, such things aren’t the norm; and to put it simply, they don’t happen, but I had an agenda.  Number one, I wanted to make a point, and number two...  Number two, I wanted to make a point.  The point was, they were going to see my project, invitation or not!  
And I focused on sabotage.  Not of the party directly, but of things.  For some reason I thought that, that was the way to go.

For instance, and it seems silly now, I short-changed the others on the little stuff; like hot chocolate and sugar cookies on breaks, and paper and bows in the wrapping room.  Even paint.  I could not tell you the number of times there was a panic over that one.  

Then, there were the trees.  I took to the outdoor ones first, and not all at once, or every one of them.  If I had I would’ve been caught for sure, and this was more of a covert mission.  The odd damage, most of which could be blamed on simple things; like wind, or the occasional storm.  No one seemed to notice, or if they did, they didn’t say a word.  At least not until I sent out my first sweater, to the first elf; and I waited, watching to see her react.

I expected her to be shocked, or angry, maybe both, and she did have a strange look on her face at first.  It was more puzzlement.  And then she looked around.  I dove behind a tree.  I still hear my heart thumping as I’m telling you.

I expected her to angry, or insulted, something; even remotely negative.  I was so sure she’d get upset, but instead... I watched as she studied the thing and ran her hand over it, and then slip it over her head.  I’d made the mistake.  The sweater I had chosen; it perfectly matched her eyes.

It bothered me at first; I’d expected so much more, but in the end I let it go.  Sent out the next few packages, and kept my eyes peeled for the first signs of dissention.  There would be a few.  I was sure of that!  

I kept the rest of it; especially my thoughts to myself and it wasn’t until I sent out the last two sweaters... anonymously, to the Big House.  That night, Santa and the Missus came to me, and I thought I would catch trouble for sure.

Turned out I was wrong about everything.  The lack of an invitation had been a simple mistake.  Mrs. Claus handed it to me in person, with her hugest apology.  And, they both loved their sweaters!  Said they’d hee-heed, and ho- hoed for quite awhile over them before they finally found their senses.  Then they shared their gifts, only to find out that there were others; and, the Missus found the invitation, still sitting on her desk in the OUT tray.  She said she felt horrible for the oversight, which made me feel bad.  I remember dropping my head, and staring at the floor.

‘What’s the matter?’  Santa was the straight-forward type.  Probably the beginnings of the lists in the first place.

‘Um... ‘  It took awhile, I will admit, but I finally did meet the man’s gaze.

He wasn’t exactly smiling.  In fact, he looked concerned, and I could tell ‘cause his brow had an odd sort of wrinkle in it.

‘Hmm, sort of... ‘

‘Nicho.  What did you do?’

He wasn’t angry.  Angry isn’t in his nature, but he had to ask.

‘I... ‘  I felt myself squirm, and they saw it.  It felt as if my body had taken over.  Moving and shaking... I couldn’t help but think, I should have thought things through.

‘I kind of did some stuff.’

Brows rose; he waited for me to go on.

‘And it wasn’t very nice.’

‘Are you saying you’ve been naughty?’

I could feel myself flush, and it was way beyond the usual rosy cheeks we had during that time of year.  I finally nodded.  ‘I didn’t get an invite, and some of the toys... I don’t know, I didn’t... I didn’t think you wanted me.’

Oh, Nicho; no!  We would never think that!’  

The Missus is always so nice.  Sometimes it’s a bit much, even for us.  But there she was, apologizing and making sure things were put right again.

‘So you’re where the sweater came from?’

‘Yes Sir.  I made them myself; all wacky, on purpose.  I figured it would make people feel bad; like I did.’

‘So, revenge?’

‘Yes Sir.  Except... I don’t know if they did.  Feel bad, I mean.’

‘I am sorry.  Truly.  If I had thought, or even realized that the whole thing had been... ‘

Santa was nodding, slowly.  ‘It is always better to know the facts of a case, before jumping to judgement.  It can save a lot of time and unnecessary frustration for everyone, don’t you think?’

I nodded.  I felt I had too, and besides, I had learned my lesson; even if I was still confused.

‘But the sweaters... ‘

Santa chuckled and his belly bounced, just a bit.  ‘Well, I can’t speak for others, but I quite like mine.  And, I think the likeness is uncanny!’

‘I like mine too,’ said the Missus.  ‘I think you gave it just enough flair.  Yes, it’s ugly, but in a charming sort of way.’  She smiled again and her cheeks glowed pink as they did, and she added, more to her hubby than myself, ‘You know, I’ve noticed, most everyone is wearing them.  Why don’t we make it a sub-theme at the party?’

I could feel him thinking, and then he agreed.  ‘And there’ll be an incentive.  The one deemed “ugliest” wins a prize.  And, we’ll include everyone, from the largest on down.  No one should be forgotten, and... ‘ he looked at me.  ‘We’ll even mention it in the paper; it’ll be front page, Ugly Sweater Contest December 25th.  ALL WELCOME! Big and Small.’

‘But... how many got out?’

‘Oh... yes.  Nicho, how many are there, and how fast can you make them?’

It was a question I was totally unprepared for.  To create more of these things, and how long?

‘I suppose that would depend.  On how many you want, and whether you want to include the reindeer... or anyone else outside the general crew.  Of course, if we concentrated our efforts, turned out more than one at a time...  I used a loom.’

‘Then that’s what we’ll do!’ Santa said suddenly and he hurried to the main office, to use the public address system.

I can’t remember the announcement exactly, but I do recall it went something like this, ‘This year will mark an inauguration of sorts here at the Pole.  You’ve all worked so hard, and we are only days away from our big goal; which means, we are also only days away from our party.  Now it’s come to our attention that several of you, including ourselves have received anonymous gifts this holiday, in the form of a special kind of sweater.

Granted it’s not the kind we would normally release on our trip, but they are unique, and, if you didn’t know, they were handmade, by our very own Nicho.  As a show of the appreciation and respect he has for each of you.  The Missus and myself each received one, and believe me... there was joy in the big house this morning!’

To this light we would like to announce that we have asked Nicho to create more of these crazy, colourful knits, and I am pleased to announce, he has agreed!’

Cheering came from the next nearest rooms, and I thought I heard some from places outside.  Santa went on.

‘But... making a sweater as nice as these, even one, takes time, and so... I am asking for volunteers.  Elves that will not be busy following loading, to join Nicho in the knitting room on December 24th, just long enough to complete enough to allow all of you to have one.  The designs I must say will be up to Nicho and his crew, but we plan to have them ready and waiting by the front door when you join us for our celebration of a job well done, come the 25th.
And we will be holding what we have decided to call an Ugly Sweater Contest.’

‘Now to that end, I am going to be sending Nicho on a mission; to visit every room of the workshop, clipboard in hand, looking for recruits, and I am hoping that you will be more than willing to give to our little project, because it is being done with you in mind.  Thank you.’

He signed off so abruptly, it almost startled me, but it also spurred me to action.  I grabbed the nearest clipboard and made up a dozen ‘recruit’ pages; then I conferred with the Clauses for a minute.  Just to get a feel for their vision.  And, I was amazed.  It went far beyond one time, or even the single day in question.  The Missus said she was hoping the sweater might be marketed through some of our more... southern contacts, and maybe if that happened, they might “catch on”.

‘Of course, it could take time... and we’d have to find the right people... ‘ she smiled, ‘but honestly, if this takes off, it’s very likely that the knitting and sewing departments may be busy for a very long time.’

And she was right.  It took four years, mostly in the creation, but when that first sweater hit the market it really took off.  People all over were looking for and, or asking for them.  We were flooded with orders, long before out usual time.  We had a thousand looms just a spinnin; churning out yard upon yard of wool and sewing machines stitching up a storm, just to try to keep up!

And the best part of that?  I could hardly believe it.  Santa put me in charge, of designs and of the entire department in general.  And now... I’m still a part of things, though I’m a lot older now.  I’ve taken on more of a... consultant’s role.  People ask questions, and I give advice, but I still love it.  I’m sure I will for a long time.  But looking back; knowing what I know now; I certainly would have taken a different approach.  And I’m glad it worked out the way it did.

That party back in ‘76?  It worked out great!  We only had thirty-six hours to do that first order of sweaters, but we had a great bunch of recruits; even the Missus lent a hand for a little while.  And everybody was happy; even moreso than usual.  Some even called me a genius!  Of course, I did my best to play it down.  It does no elf any good to let fame go to their head.

So the sweaters were done, boxed and wrapped and stacked in their spot at the house.  They’d brought so much excitement that it was really hard to wait; but we did, until noon the next day, when we all got together.  Hot chocolate and cookies never tasted so good; and the games... They had the best prizes that year.  And when it came down to the contest, you’ll never guess who won.  Sweater numero uno.  The blue one with the deconstructed Christmas tree on it.  Blue sweater, green, red, and white patches, representing the tree, with a giant half star at the top.  And Liza, that’s her name; Liza took it one step further.  She hunted through the shop and found a “reject” crown.  It had been meant to be gold but ended up being some wierd shade something that wasn’t even close.

She wore it anyway, and in the end, she won the contest; and, something else happened that day.  It turned out she’d figured it right from the start.  That I was the maker, and it made her feel special; because... She liked me!  I mean, really liked me!  She even let me walk her home when it was all over.  And she still has her trophy.

That was the big prize; a big, shiny silver cup engraved by some of our own.  Winner, 1st Best Ugly Sweater Contest 1976.

But, now you’re asking, ‘How do you know that, Nicho?  How do you know Liza has the cup?’

‘That’s easy.  ‘Cause I see it every day.  First thing in the morning, and last thing at night.  You see I married that elf, and she is the prettiest... but, enough.  Lets just say, we are very happy years later, and as far as the ugly sweater goes... It may have fallen out of fashion, but they still exist.  I see one every so often in my travels. and in my estimation, it’s the best mistake I’ve ever made.


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