Putting a little ha-ha in the ho-ho-ho

November 30, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

GREAT CACAPON, W.Va. - The image of Santa Claus is beloved.

His abilities to bring gifts and cheer to those around the world are considered magical and hopeful.

But, when you get right down to the practicalities of how Santa does his job, there are plenty of opportunities for humor.

Gregory Hoffman, 50, who lives near Great Cacapon, W.Va., pokes fun at the dilemmas Santa can run into on the job in "Santa Needs a Vacation," a picture book released in late September.

At first glance, the colorful cover for the thin book might make it seem as if it's intended for children, but it's not.


For Santa's tribulations on the job - including facing a guard dog and a seductive widow - are enough to cause jolly St. Nick to take a nip now and then in Hoffman's creation.

After all, Santa is sneaking into people's houses in the middle of the night.

"Nowadays, being the way things are now, he couldn't do that kind of stuff," said Hoffman, who works as a correctional officer at Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown.

The book is not for little kids. Instead it's aimed at teenagers and adults, Hoffman said. He said he'd give the book a PG-13 rating.

"I've never gotten anything but really good comments about it. Women seem to like it," Hoffman said.

Originally, he said, Santa had even more of an edge in Hoffman's story, more of a wino-type, but Hoffman mellowed the character a bit.

Reading an original draft of the edgy story with his three children - ages 14, 16, and 17 - brought tears to his eyes from laughing, Hoffman said.

To balance out the edginess of his story, Hoffman added a less satirical poem in the back of the book about Christmas memories. The poem is more likely to generate tears of nostalgia.

The poem reflects on his youth, Hoffman said. It is told from the point of view of a grandfather, though Hoffman is not one yet.

Hoffman originally set out to write a Christmas song, not a book.

As a hobby, he had written some comedic and country songs, but said it's difficult to get those published.

Then one night, during the holiday season of 2004, he was listening to the radio and got the idea to try a Christmas song. It got too long to be a song, so he turned it into a story.

Hoffman said he couldn't find a local illustrator for the book, so he drew the cartoonish images himself.

If you buy ...

"Santa Needs a Vacation" is available through and for $13.99. It also was being sold at Hunt Brothers Pizza, Portals and The Bath House, all in or near Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

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