A Question of Father Christmas

A Question of Father Christmas

By Madeline Quiñones

In the life of every child who has ever believed in Jolly Old Saint Nicholas, there comes a time when another child attempts to disabuse them of the notion.

Sherlock Holmes was seven years old.

Mycroft found him taking refuge in the library from the yearly festivities. The little boy had tucked himself into one of the window seats, knees drawn up to his chest as he stared out at the softly falling snow. Sherlock looked as though he’d had yet another unpleasant confrontation with his less-intelligent cousins — Ezekiel, in all likelihood, who had never treated Sherlock very kindly.

“Penny for your thoughts, brother mine?”

The boy started and glanced up at his brother before returning his gaze to the snow. “It’s nothing.”


Sherlock sighed. “Ezekiel said there is no such person as Father Christmas.”


Sherlock looked at Mycroft again, his large grey eyes troubled. “Is he right?”

Father had never allowed his firstborn the luxury of believing in fairytales, but his relationship with Sherlock was more… distant. And it was for the better: Father’s strictness could crush his younger son’s spirit. Sherlock was more… fragile… than Mycroft.

And Sherlock believed in Father Christmas.

Mycroft saw no need for him to stop just yet — let the boy have his childhood. There would be time enough for skepticism when they were men. “Sherlock Edward Vernet Holmes, is Cousin Ezekiel ever right about anything?”

The little boy giggled. “No.”

Mycroft smiled and sat beside his brother. “What else did Ezekiel say?”

“He said that no one has ever seen Father Christmas, and that seeing is believing. That it is foolish to believe in something you cannot see.”

Mycroft snorted. “Then he is the fool, brother mine. There are many things in this world that we cannot see which are no less real for it. Like friendship.”

“Like love,” Sherlock murmured.

Mycroft smiled again. “Precisely. Our cousin is the silliest and most ignorant child I have ever had the misfortune to meet and don’t you dare ever tell him that.”

Sherlock grinned, eyes dancing. Then he asked the question Mycroft had been hoping he wouldn’t: “Mycroft… do you believe in Father Christmas?”

And even at the tender age of seven, Sherlock could tell when his brother was lying. Mycroft’s mind raced. Finally, he opted for honesty. “I’m afraid I do not,” he said gently. Sherlock’s face fell again. “But —” Mycroft held up a finger — “I do believe in what Father Christmas stands for. Generosity, and goodwill to all men.”

Sherlock nodded thoughtfully.

“If Father Christmas did exist, I think he’d be a man worth meeting, and I think I would do well to be more like him.”

Sherlock grinned again. “Fat and jolly?”

“Demon child!” Mycroft lunged at his brother in mock indignation, and Sherlock leapt up and away, laughing merrily as he ran from the room, Mycroft close on his heels.


On Christmas Eve, after the Holmes household had all gone to bed and the lights were put out, a small figure slipped downstairs to the drawing room, where the Christmas tree stood. Sherlock Holmes curled up on the settee with an afghan and waited. If Father Christmas was real, he wanted to see him. Surely it would not be long before he arrived… it was already half… past… eleven…

When Sherlock next opened his eyes, he could barely do so, but something had disturbed his sleep. A rustle of movement, a flash of something that might have been red… “Fa’er Christmas?” he murmured.

“Shh,” someone whispered. A large hand gently smoothed his hair away from his face. “Go back to sleep, Sherlock.”

The little boy gladly obeyed, too drowsy to care about his plan anymore. He nestled further into the afghan and soon fell back asleep.