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Seeking recognition is a downward path for a legend who performs his tasks in the veil of night.
Recently, a fellow portrayer of Santa posted an image on Facebook that they constructed to look like a magazine cover with him on it and several story snips like many publications have on their covers. You may have seen it if they are your friend on Facebook. It looks okay. The composition is good, but the rendering when uploading it to Facebook became distorted it and it is quite pixelated when you look at it from a development standpoint.
What got my goat was his choice of accompanied text, “Finally got a little recognition…”. Let me say that his post was all in jest, I am certain. This man is one of the kindest, gentlest, giving souls you will come across. I love him as a brother. Yet his unintended incursion on the spirit of the Claus legend got me more than a little flustered. And I know it would be last thing he would want anyone to get from this posting.
If you are in this to seek recognition, get out. Plain and simple. It’s the last thing that the real Santa Claus would have wanted. It’s the antithesis of St. Nicholas, for whom Santa is mostly based.
More and more, I see the ego of man rearing its ugly head in the Claus community. And this comes from one of the vainest individuals you would ever loath to meet. My mother, rest her soul, would chuckle and get all sorts of entertainment over my time in front of the mirror as a youth. As my hair fell out and turned grey and I stated portraying Santa, it became less of an issue of ego and more of an asset to putting forward the best portrayal I know how. And yet attention to Felix Estridge is the last thing I want. Last year, I was elected as President and Executive Director of the Board for Lone Star Santas Charities, Inc.® I tried to refuse but the Board felt it was best moving forward with the group as the current President & Executive Director was retiring from guiding the organization. I still felt awkward in that it might bring me some kind of recognition that I did not ultimately want. But, for the good of the organization and at their begging, I accepted. When asked for my name after having had news footage or news photos shot of me as Santa, I tell them “Kris Kringle” and wait for the response. I will never give my real name unless I am forced to do so, and, even then, I have been known to refuse. I always tell them that the magic for people remains in the mystery of the legend of Santa Claus. They then understand.
And all who portray him should strive to keep that magic alive.
As I recently defended, I am no one’s arbiter, police, or any authoritarian on portraying Santa. I merely offer this perspective as a personal opinion from simple observation over time. I am less learned than many, many others. I just happen to be passionate about this issue. I will never give up trying to protect the legend.
Do no harm to the legend.
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This will be my 11th year portraying Santa Claus with any real determination and focus. In that time, I have grown (figuratively and literally!) to not only respect the opportunity that I have in the suit, but to cherish the time I have in the suit.
We have all heard it said, "you never really can understand until you are in the suit" and I can attest to that. It's an amazing rollercoaster and you never can expect what's around the corner as I, like most, have been thrown a few curveballs here and there.
This season is almost 100% booked and while it's not only going to be busy, I am adding a new wardrobe, new belt and buckle, new boots, new items for my Santa show, new giveaways, and a new custom ornament based on my mailbox design for special visits. Not replacements, just additions. Will all of these new things make me a better Santa? The obvious answer is, "NO."
When I was in high school, I was hired by a family friend to work as a roofer. I would learn to spot repairs that were needed, reroof a house, and treat wood shake. One thing that I was not prepared for was the experiences and lessons I would learn from this trusted father figure in my life. He has now since passed away but recently I heard his words ringing in my head and I thought I would share...
Mr. Brown had one of the biggest roofing companies in our area with one major competitor, a newer business that seemed to be everywhere. While our company had two older tiny little pickups and modest equipment, the competitor was seen around town with a full size truck fleet, brand new equipment, and trailers with their logos everywhere. I remeber one afternoon while on a roof with him, one of those shiny big trucks drove by and the driver honked and waived. As they drove off, I made a comment about how we should get a truck like that. His response was, "Why?" He explained,
"Can we not do everything our job entails and to the best quality standard? His company has been around for five years and in that time, would you like to know how many customers have come to us because they were not happy? While they were out buying stuff in their first year of business, in my first year, I was walking door to door, and doing the best possible job I could do, treating every customer like they were my first but that they could be my last. "I have never seen a need for the shiny and new because what I have gets the job done and leaves my customers happy."
It was a year or two after that conversation that the competitor filed for bankruptcy and was gone. Mr. Brown kept going until he decided to sell the business and retire.
I found myself, while I sent off another payment for something new and shiny, Mr. Brown's word enter my mind. Now, what's the point of the story? I'm not going to tell you to stop buying things because, let's face it, new and shiny is pretty fun sometimes, but...time, effort, and training will always come out as the victor in our Santa portrayal. I am fortunate to not be in an area that is saturated by Santas. I have more than enough work in my area and I'm certainly not competing with other Santas. Time and effort is always spent on the "stuff" for the coming season but are we taking time to prepare our minds and hearts?
May each of us not forget or lose sight of the fact that our inner Santa, our knowlege, our heart, our experience, must ALWAYS come first in our seasonal preparations...each and every child needs this to be our focus. The new shiny buckle, suit, or boots will NOT make you a better Santa. What is on the outside is not what makes you Santa. We have an amazing opportunity coming soon. We will put on a suit and create lasting memories for those we visit. Be your best, study, read, ponder how to be your best. That's my focus for this season. Finding ways I can be better.
Thank you Santas! I am grateful for this community and for the sharing that takes place here. I cannot imagine portraying Santa isolated, not being able to share or learn from each others experiences. I am grateful for you and I can certainly say there are some giants and mentors here that I respect immensely...keep sharing!
When I was a little boy I thought (as many little boys do) that my Dad had the greatest job in the world. He was the sergeant of police for a little town in West Virginia called Nitro. My Dad would drive down our street and would turn on the sirens for my friends and I who ran out to wave at him as he passed - such an Opie-like thing to do. But at Christmas my Dad had a very important job to perform. He was the chauffer of an international celebrity. When things were calm in Nitro my Dad would drive Santa Claus all over town to visit as many as 30 families an evening. At the end of the evening it never failed that Santa Claus would stop at our house to rest before Dad would drive him to a little field outside of town where he had landed the sleigh and tied the reindeer.
Of course, I now know Santa was none other than Santa Claus Hall of Famer Jay Long. As I look back I can only imagine that he was hot and uncomfortable. But Jay (MY Santa to this day) would sit in the floor of my living room with me and play with my toys and talk with me. He would laugh and have fun with me just as if I was the first child of those 30 visits. He always seemed just as happy to see me as I was to see him. Despite the discomfort and heat, despite the family that was waiting for him at home, and despite not having his dinner Santa Claus took time to play with a little boy and truly give him a memory that sticks with him to this present day. I have learned quite a lot from Jay. He is my number 1 mentor. But that scene goes with me everywhere. I learned from Santa what it truly means to give of yourself to a child who believes. And that is what I strive to do.
As I look back on those visits I am reminded of the thousands of men (and women) who have visited so many little boys and girls in towns across this whole wide world. I think of how they went out, often in the snow and cold, to see each child. I think of the discomfort, the warm houses and even warmer suits. I think of how they missed meals and their own Christmas festivities with their families. I wonder why they did it. Then I realize that it was for that smile of a child. I realize that they sacrificed for that one precious thing. A child's hopes and dreams meant something. You know what? They still do. More than silver, gold, sacrifice, or anything else you can imagine.
Many of these folks we will never know. Each had a life, dreams, hopes, and beliefs as all people do. Because of fate, they will remain nameless citizens of the past who, outside the red suit, are lost to time save for being Santa to a child one Christmas long ago. Their face might be recalled as someone finds an old picture album or something of the sort and they are pointed out. Perhaps a department store archive holds their names and old addresses. But to the world at large they are Santa and Santa alone. But they were linked in their belief of making glad the heart of childhood. They truly were servants of childhood.
I guess I am a horse and buggy in a jet age. I am truly sorry, but the more I strive to be a simple "Hometown Santa" I find that I am not up to the standards of the "new generation." I could care less about being a year-round Santa millionaire and star. Santa isn't the star of Christmas, never has been. He is a herald to the Reason. But not the way it is seen today. It seems to me that folks are too busy getting all of the bells and whistles without the propulsion system that drives a Santa Claus. Why, in a recent search and examination of websites belonging to Santas I found more posts about a beard than I did about how important it is to the Santa to bring joy to a child. Real or not, with a good picture on the page and public knowledge of what he looks like, Santa doesn't have to advertise that he has a beard. That is vanity. While viewing a video posted I read the title was something like "Thanks from Santa." It saddened me that the word "children" was never really mentioned - it was a pitch for more and bigger business along with a five minute speech on where he had performed. I read posts both for and against children seeing multiple Santas in one place. I hear "I, I, I," and "Me, Me, Me." "I am Santa here." "They should hire ME for that instead of the Santa they have." Product after product touts that "I am the REAL Santa." Social media has created a monster in that all of these things are celebrated in group after group. Read some of the daily posts. Folks are too busy worrying about the physical appearance and about getting the other Santa's gig. Instant stardom is the unachieved fashion of the community. Not sure why, as everyone seems to truly be an expert. Education in any field is a good thing. But every teacher SHOULD NOT have his or her own school! I find it all so EGO centered and so contrary to the pattern set down by not only those Santas who have gone before but also St. Nicholas. Would he even recognize us as carrying on his legacy? In my studies of his character and life I have to logically conclude that he would not. If we have departed that much from the model, then I am saddened and afraid for what the future holds!
In all of this nonsense, we are forgetting what it means to be a Santa. We are forgetting the belief and standard that was given to us - the joy of giving of one's self and the bringing of magic and wonder to children. Not to mention the spreading of the Message of Christmas. We need to stop and reevaluate this thing. I am afraid that the iceberg is ahead. I am trying to post a picture with this blog of a Santa and children from a New Orleans department store circa 1955. Look at the faces of the children, particularly the eyes. Trust and full belief. Then look at Santa. There is a sense of duty and compassion, wrapped in love. Please, evaluate why you put on that suit. Are you in it for the paycheck or fame? Or are you in it to serve? Now more than ever, these little ones need a role model to look up to. It is time that we stop all of the foolish fads and ego trips and get to work!
Well it was eight months ago I hung up the badge after 35 years and began retirement. No more call outs in the middle of the night, no meetings no court appearances or out of state travel for training . Finally all the projects that were often planned for Saturdays that never got done are now in progress or completed. I miss the people I worked with but many of my friends who worked with me or in other law enforcement agencies have retired as well. I don't miss the crazy hours or the administrative drama. I have had more time to devote to my hobbies and working on the beards and wigs. What used to take days to complete a wig set I can now do in a day or two now that I have time. I have experimented with some thirty year old sets I had in storage and have refurbished them. If anyone has some old sets that they want to give a second life to contact me. I am looking forward to spring so I can finally get back into the garden and work on the koi ponds. May brings the Santa gathering on Cape Cod which I am looking forward to. I plan to attend more Santa events I never had the time to in the coming years.
Given the snow this past winter it was great to be retired and not have to venture out in the storms. Spring can't come soon enough!
This week I sat down with Larry Peter, the director and producer of the upcoming Santa Claus documentary, They Wore The Red Suit. There is a lot going on with the film. Read on to learn more.
ClausNet: So Larry, what is the latest with the film?
Larry: The big news is we’re in our first film festival with, hopefully, many more to come. The Indianapolis International Film Festival is featuring the film in a prime screening on Sunday, July 14 at 4:30 PM in the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s grand Toby Theater.
There’s also a second screening Wednesday the 17th at 6:15 PM at the museum. Thanks to all of our supporters for helping us get this film completed and in front of theater audiences.
ClausNet: You have had a few private screenings of the film already. What has been the response to the film so far?
Larry: It feels very rewarding to see the responses we’re getting from our screening audiences. I couldn't get people to grasp this film’s importance while I was trying to get it made. Everyone expected a comedy, or some sort of “Bad Santa” clone.
The usual response was, "You’re doing a serious documentary on Santa Claus?" and "It’s an hour and a half long?"
I got no grant money, no investors, and my son and I finished the film driving around the country in a wrecked 2001 Sable. Now, it has the highest buzz rating of any documentary in the festival – and second highest buzz of all films combined.
ClausNet: Why was this movie so important to you?
Larry: Because my Santa, Jim Yellig, was very important to me; and I think Santa Claus is important to humanity. The more time I spent around Santas, the deeper I looked at why they have the effect they do.
And to get philosophical, I think Santa plays a very important spiritual role for mankind – and perhaps not in the way most people think of. As far back as you go in human history, you’ll always find a member of society – a king, a high priest, a medicine man – who, on special occasions, will take on aspects of the divine. Some people in modern Western society may take that kind of talk as blasphemy, but I feel humans have a basic need for a tangible representation of divine attributes. And every civilization has provided one.
The village shaman puts on the cloak of feathers and he is no longer the shaman. To everyone watching, adults and children, he’s now Father Sky. Virtually every society had an individual who would occasionally take on the role of a magical being who could hear requests from far away, watch over you, and reward the good with gifts. These customs strengthened their society’s spirituality – and that’s the reason I cringe when I hear certain groups claim that Santa is anti-religious. When he dons the Red Suit, he provides a tangible representation of the highest qualities we all wish to connect with.
ClausNet: What do I want viewers to take away from the film?
Larry: Mainly, I’d like them to understand the impact on society that Santas can have. Whether they’re “professional”, paid Santas or “community” Santas, like your grandfather, James Rielly, they have the ability to affect the lives of adults and children alike. And I’d like all the members of the Santa community to know this, as well. Whether you’re primarily taking photos in a mall, working a private party, or visiting hospitals, those few moments you spend in a visit can be moments that affect a life. As Phil Wenz points out in the film, Santa is virtually the only untarnished role model society has left.
Second, I’d like to see adults help their children make the transition from childhood belief in a healthier manner. Don’t tell your kids Santa isn't real. He’s just real in a different way, now.
ClausNet: Are there DVDs available?
Larry: That’s a tricky situation right now. While we’re in the film festivals, and trying to get distribution, we can’t offer our final product for sale. But rumor has it that at least one individual has several DVDs of our Bristol, RI pre-screener that he may be willing to part with. It’s not our “official” release, but has some extra info on James Rielly and a few other historic Santas, that isn’t in our final cut.
ClausNet: Ha! Thanks! My wife told me I need to get rid of this box of DVDs. If anyone reading this wants a copy, please contact me!
ClausNet: When will the film be available?
Larry: I can’t give a definite answer to that. We want to have the film seen in as many festivals as possible, and the next one we hope to be part of is an Oscar-qualifying event. A lot of film distributors and broadcasters will be paying attention. We have already received serious offers for distribution, even before this first festival screening, but I need to see how far we can take this. Not only do I want it available to the widest possible audience, but we have a lot of personal investment – as well as borrowed money – in this film that we have to try to recoup.
ClausNet: What can Santas do to help?
Larry: At this moment, if you can make it to the Indianapolis International Film Festival, please do. Tickets for the screenings are just $10, and a large group of Santas would just make the event more magical. And tell all your non-Santa friends about it as well. Events like these can show networks and film distributors that this film has appeal to a broad audience.
ClausNet: What’s next?
Larry: I don’t think I’ll ever be involved in another project that will bring me as much joy as the last two years have. My crew would complain at the end of a day of shooting that their faces hurt from smiling so much. My personal life goal is to use my passion for film making to raise the consciousness of the planet. I want to Educate, Entertain and Enlighten. I only hope I can find more projects that match my goal as well as this film did. I have such admiration for Santa’s work. Keep it up. We all need it.
ClausNet: Thank you Larry!
To learn more about They Wore The Red Suit, please visit www.thesantamovie.com
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I'm getting old.
Yes, I know it's almost a prerequisite of portraying a convincing Santa Claus, but it has disadvantages.
As I type this blog post, I sit at my computer with aching feet and sore back. The last few hours have been spent climbing up and down stairs, taking measurements, and cutting laminate flooring to fit that last little bit of a floor project I've been working on, only to find when I return upstairs that I cut the wrong end of the board as often as not. My fit bit tells me I've climbed 15 flights of stairs so far, and I did a similar amount yesterday. Not quite done yet... I still have a strip about 3" wide and 7 or 8 feet long that includes a door opening. Should get it done after a short rest, and that's it for today! The baseboards can wait a weekend or two!
A few weeks ago, my wife finally concluded that we needed to go on a diet. She decided on one of the low carb diets, which I had dabbled with before, but couldn't follow through on because she was a fan of Spagghetti, and similar foods. Now, with her buy in we've managed to stick to the plan (as much as I like spuds, rice, bread, and pasta too!), and I'm down 12 or 14 pounds so far. Since there's no reason to expect that this trend won't continue, I broke down and ordered a slightly smaller belt (I noticed the last one was on it's last notch already, and a little loose).
What else has been happening? Ordered a Santa bag from HALCO. Nice material, if plain. I've got it into an embroidery shop right now to have it decorated, and I bought one of Eileen's Santa name tags (thanks Eileen!). Along with all the other gear I've been accumulating, or making, I should be good to go when the season rolls around.
Yes, it's my first season (outside of sitting as SC for my HOA last year). But it's looking promising. My partner, Lou Shelton, and I have already arranged for 8 gigs, which in the grand scheme of things isn't that many, but I figure that this year is pure learning. I've been studying the subject with Steve Gillham and his group, and Ron Campbell has been advising several of us new Santa's. I figure that it pays to listen to old pros like that.
So yes, I'm getting old. However, when I look at some of the great Santa Claus's that I have as role models, maybe that isn't such a bad thing.
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" One word only. What's one word you could give a new Santa or Mrs. Claus that is starting out that sums it all up? "
I found this an interesting thought project! My answer was "Build". My one word of advice, "Build".
But what did I mean? What do you "Build"? (Another word for "Build" would be "Develop") and so the the source for this particular blog. Lets begin at the start, shall we? When you first decided to portray "Santa" you needed to put together the look you will present as Santa Suits look pretty much the same all over with slight differences in detail, material used in construction of it and the items you accessorize the basic Suit with such as Belt, Buckle, Boots, pins, buttons, Beard, hat, Bag and bells. That is about it except.... clientele, presentation, advertising and building your business.
Build your appearance by taking care with the selection of your Suit and materials making it. continue to build your appearance with Grooming your Hair, Beard and health. Since all of these are in a constant state of repair or maintenance Look in the Tool box and see what tools you have to work with here. Do you sew? Do you have some one that does? Hair care, do you understand how the chemicals you would be using on your head and face! Finally do you have qualified contractors on hand near by that can do that job for you charging a reasonable price for the service? That should cover the "Building" part, yes? No!
Build your presentation. Build your "Act" as "Santa" that you will present to the Audience you perform for. Private Family visit, Corporate Employee Christmas Party. Corporate Customer Promotion party, Strolling Santa in a Store or Mall, Sitting in a Chair in a Mall as the subject focus in a "Three and Done!" photo opportunity or televisiting in a Children's Hospital or visiting an Adult Assisted care for Memory challenged (along with many more various situations). Better get out that tool box and see what tools you have to work with.and remember, if all you have is a hammer, your approach to every problem will be to pound them. Look to stock your tool chest with tools that will finesse the project rather than beat it to death with your "Mighty Ho, Ho, HO!" hammer. Having a Story telling Flat head Screw driver combined with a Carol singing Phillips head screw driver combined with an adjustable wrench stock of all purpose answers ready for those questions that seem to come every year. Don't forget to store a quantity of Nails, Screws and fasteners of various size and color as the best Hammer still needs a nail to pound to make something. Otherwise all you can do is tear down/beat down/Break down instead of build.
All done?? NOOooooo! Not yet!
Build your Clientele and Contacts! This takes different tools to build those circuits and maintain that transmission of information flowing. This is going to take a different type of tools but building this is very important as well to any growing Business. First you will need to have some Advertising "Brushes" to "Paint" your business with. Small brushes like Business cards well designed work here. Wider brushes would be press releases, Flyers, and developing a social media presence. From there you could look into an "Area Sprayer" to cover larger areas such as a well designed web page, mining your Email accounts, Wrapping your vehicle with contact information and pictures of your presentation then using (judiciously) constant contact to notify clients about your product. So the kind of tools you would use for this part of your Building project would be in the form of Pliers to hold the attention of your clientele while you connect them to your products. You will also need a supply of connectors and a few Splicing tools as well.
So keep in mind when you go out to portray Santa for the Public, you want to build a beautiful modern Home and Office to work from. Try to be a step up from a rustic outhouse lacking running water, electricity and wifi. So pick up that tool box, look inside to see what you might need to add to it and then look at the project you have built with an eye to what and where you can add to make it better.
Finally once you have your own house in order with tight doors and tight roof with a dry basement, You are ready to look around and offer help to others still working on their "Building" and stocking their tool box. This is called Mentoring.
May your season be Joyous!
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As you begin your bookings for the season I would like to offer some suggestions when finding yourself unable to accept a request.
As a reminder, when declining a prospective clients request be sure to do the following:
1. Express your thankfulness for their request.
2. Tell them you are honored that they requested you.
3. If it's a residential request, express being humbled that they have offered to open their home to you.
4. Include your regrets that you will not be able to be a part of their Christmas celebrations this season.
5. Tell them why you must decline.
6. Don't be cocky or flippant in your communications. Be polite.
I am sure you can tailor these suggestions to fit your own personality. But don't discourage them from seeking your SANTA presence in the future.
Declining, is also part of your marketing.
Just my thoughts
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When I first started out and began dreaming about great places for Santa to visit, I thought it would be great to visit a senior care facility. I figured the gray-haired kids needed a visit from Santa as much as any other children.
The goal got put on the back burner until last year, when I began working at a great senior care place that offers quality living arrangements for seniors--from assisted living, to skilled nursing, to memory care. I only got to do a couple of visits last year, which was fine, since getting acclimated to the new job took most of my energy.
This year the activities coordinator asked me to do 4 appearances, including the Family Christmas Dinner, and the end-of-the-year parties celebrating the programs that bring schoolchildren over to volunteer. I got to hold a 2-month-old girl while her mom snapped a few shots, I gave out candy canes to kindergarten and grade school kids, and I got to tell the older folks that they'd been on Santa's good list for many, many years, while their adult children took pictures of me with them.
So this year I got to visit with kids "from 1 to 92" and it was a fantastic experience! Since it's a Christian care center, I had the opportunity to bring the Reason for the Season into my visits, which made it even better. In addition to singing "Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer" we also sang the first verse of "Away in a Manger." At the end of the visits, I encouraged the children to "respect your teachers, listen to your parents, help those who need it, be kind to everyone, and remember that before there was Christmas, there was Christ." The capstone event was Christmas Eve morning, when Santa came to read "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" to the gray-haired children who had come with some of their great and great-great grandchildren.
All in all, Christmas 2014 goes down as one of the best ever.
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This past weekend my husband and I had the pleasure of being Santa and Mrs. Claus at Pick Wick once again. My husband has been Santa for them since they began Pick Wick in the park 10 years ago. We have always had such a wonderful time and have been so blessed to participate in this event. Jason (Savannah Santa) has always taken his job as Santa very seriously, always looking for ways to become better. To me he is the perfect Santa.
Every year things have went along so smoothly, very busy, but an awesome way to spend the weekend. This year, however, there was an issue. There was a man and his wife staying at Pick Wick Inn, he was doing Santa elsewhere. On Saturday this couple checked out, but instead of leaving, he sat down in the lobby with his Santa hat on, while his wife went in the Holiday Mart and bought him a Santa Apron. He put the apron on and began being Santa, in the same area where my husband was. My husband being the wonderful, awesome Santa he is moved out of the area, because he was worried about the children. I am not sure who this man is, but he did a NO NO as a representative of the Santa brothers. Never, ever are you to do what he did. We attended a Santa class several years back and that was one thing we learned, never have 2 Santa's, portraying Santa where children can see both. I do not know if this gentleman is a member of Claus Net, but I am betting he is not. If he happens to be a member I hope he reads this and realizes what he did was wrong.
Most of you who know my husband, know that he is a younger Santa than most and works so hard as a bearded red head, to prepare each season. His feelings were hurt and he second guessed himself and his look, due to the fact that the much older, already white haired man, had a real Santa look. I tried to reassure him that the children absolutely love him and many believe in him.
So whoever this man might be, Shame on You for doing such an awful thing to the children and their Santa.
We buried my brother, Denny, in August. His second heart attack in 8 days finally did what infantile hydrocephalus, 45 years of hard physical work, Lupus, inter-cranial bleeding and loss of his eyesight (in that order) couldn't do. He was 67 years old. Mom left us in the fall off '82 with a stroke. Pa went in the summer of '95, Alzheimers and prostate cancer. Norm, our neighbor growing up, died of alzheimers and old age a couple years back. Norm's brother, Merle, went the same morning as Denny. My best friend Ken, went a year ago last spring in an auto accident; Richard, a friend from high school, 10 years ago in an accident at work. And another half dozen or so...
I've reached that stage of life that Pa warned me about. I was complaining about having to put on a groomsman's monkeysuit (tux) for yet another wedding and he told me to shut up. He said, " Enjoy every single wedding you go to. The first half of your life is all weddings. The second half is all funerals." I didn't REALLY get it then. I do now.
Denny was, technically speaking, our half-brother; as Mom had been married and widowed before she married our dad. Denny was 17 when Mom and he came to the ranch. And in less than 4 years, he had 3 half brothers. And God blessed us with him. He fed us, changed our diapers, drove us to school functions, laughed when we did and cried when we did. Denny loved us, unconditionally. Every family should be so lucky as to have a Denny.
There's so much I could say; so much I want to say, but I'm not sure how. I could talk about Denny's huge heart and how he'd give you the shirt off his back. I could talk about his reliability, as rock solid as the eastern sunrise. I could talk about his love of country music or his being developmentally challenged. I could talk about his sunny disposition and the way neighbors lit up smiling when he'd walk in; or the profane teasing we all engaged in back and forth the way blue-collar boys and men do. And Denny certainly gave as good as he got in that department.
We got to spend some quality time with him that last week. And for that I'm very grateful. But it made the funeral that much rougher to get through. There was a good turnout for the sevice. Seems we wern't the only ones that loved ol' Denny. But then, most of these funerals have had pretty good turnouts. Which is logical, since funerals aren't really for the departed. They're thrown in the guest of honors name; but they're for us, the ones left here, trying to make sense of things.
And so, I'm sitting here tonight, going over the too long to-do list before the Santa season, and remembering, and laughing some and crying some; and ruminating; trying to make sense of things. Which will just drive you batty, I know. Because there's a lot of things I'll never figure out. But I do know one thing and that's that Denny loved me. He loved all of us. And we loved him. His love in our family wasn't a raging river, or a wild thunderstorm kind of love. It was the big boulder, the sign post, the landmark; that when you passed it you knew you were home. Because that landmark is always there and it always means that same thing. You're home. You're safe.
When I hold a little one on my knee, that's what I hope s/he feels. That feeling that Denny gave us...gave me. Home and safety. Santa's here with solid, boulder, landmark love for you. Here, at least, you're safe. Denny's gone now, but that love remains, It's part of me, the way it was part of him. He gave it to me. His first, best gift-that he ever gave me. And now it's my turn to give it to my grandkids. And to every kid who sits on my knee at Christmas.
Denny can die. I can die. But Santa can't die. And that kind of love...it never dies.
I'm hoping your upcoming season, and all your sesons yet to come, are full of that kind of love. Have a blessed Christmas.
Last month I got another new belly button. I was in the hospital. For 17 consecutive days, I was tortured, strangled, bled, beaten, starved, hobbled, weighed like cattle, sleep deprived, and connected to more machinery than the Large Hadron Collider. My bowels were monitored like the CIA monitors Putin. Yes, and I was given yet another new belly-button. I don't know why.
What the heck? Although the exact date of my injury is not certain, officially, I suffered from a hernia and bowel obstruction. So how on earth did this happen? I don't know. I am blaming a gardening accident. Why not? I was gardening in the world's tiniest garden.
Here's what I remember. At the beginning of June I'm not feeling well and I (a) call my daughter, and (b go to the hospital and I say "I have horrible heartburn symptoms similar to a heart attack I once had," and the hospital says, "take some antacids and pay this bill for $3,545 and go pay your primary physician another $350. " Okay. I take the antacids, and that doesn't work, so I (a) call my daughter, and (b go back to the hospital and say "I think I'm having a heart attack." And the hospital says, "doesn't look like it, but pay this bill for $7,322, and go pay your cardiologist some more money." And then the third time I (a) call my daughter, and (b I go to the hospital and I say "I think I have a hernia?" and they say "Well you DO have a hernia and we are performing EMERGENCY SURGERY TONIGHT and then we will keep you in the hospital for a month in the cardiac unit and the bill will be about as much as the national debt." Ready, set, go.
Dear Santas. I can tell by reading your blogs and entries on Facebook that an awful lot of you have health problems - - a lot of them major. Of course, many of you suffer from diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and other day to day ailments of the aging populace who may not be taking as good of care of themselves as possible.
Personally, I've had breast cancer (twice) mastectomies, reconstruction surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, bone disease, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and just general after effects of being a human medical test subject, or as we like to say in super med-code, participating in free "clinical trials." Don't you want to try the latest drug unapproved by anyone? Don't you want to help humanity? Uhm, no.
I tell you my friends, beware of sepia toned illustrative booklets called "Reconstruction and your Femininity" or "This is your Heart." Please run if your surgeon pulls out a black Sharpie and starts drawing on your skin! Your belly button is in danger.
Going to the hospital is not for pansies. Common sense goes out the window at the hospital parking lot. The things we know absolutely without argument that are good for us - - a good night's sleep (or other rest), fresh air (the windows are sealed), good food (Oh, let me go on!), a warm shower, privacy in the bathroom . . . these are things that will be denied to you the entire time you are in residence at the hospital. Even standard nursing care is not what it once was. My nurses spent so much time trying to keep my major i.v. pole ( which I named T-Rex because of it's large and unruly size) from making loud alarm noises and trying to unwrap medication while wearing plastic gloves, they didn't have time to give me enough cord to get out of my chair to pee.
I'm worried what the bill will be - - because the price of wrapping a Pepcid A-C in 17 layers of plastic wrap is expensive - - and then there's the labeling, tracking, scanning, unwrapping, and serving it in an individual paper/plastic mini cup …
Yes, there is one good thing - - I have a morphine pump. When it runs out, (and after a loud alarm sounds for fifteen minutes) it takes three RNs and a special key to change it out to make sure that no nurse has access to any of it. It even has a "suck proof" plastic tube that runs the entire 19" from the machine to my arm. Apparently, tube-sucking hospital workers are a giant threat in the medical world.
I also have a heart monitor with a plastic thingy that goes on my finger. There are certain things I cannot do with a plastic thingy on my finger, and so I occasionally take it off. This causes the heart monitor commandos to storm my room and demand that I reattach the plastic finger thingy immediately. I cannot lock them out of the bathroom because the door doesn't close. I can still hit, though.
The hospital has provided me with an adjustable bed, and an adjustable chair. After a couple of days of being forced into a fetal position in the middle of the jack-knifed bed, I move to the semi comfortable adjustable chair. If I pile the pillows in a certain way, I can make a sort of nest/pallet on which to try to doze from time to time in between being tortured. This is usually between 2-4 in the afternoon when the floor lights are dimmed and everyone watches General Hospital on T.V. It is much more interesting than the real hospital.
If I complain loudly enough, I am allowed to get halfway into the shower while holding T-Rex outside the stall. Do not allow the CNA to "come back in a few minutes" to do this. They will never come back. It is like them saying "manana." For those of you who do not speak Spanish, manana does not mean "tomorrow" - - it means "not today." My shower requires several layers of saran wrap and water proof tape. Make sure to put a sign on the door, or the cleaning staff will think it is a superb time to disinfect the clock on your wall. (They will not empty the bucket of bile by your bed, because they do not have the right color uniform.) If you insist, someone may bring you "towels" - - a 4x4 loofa cloth to dab yourself dry.
On day 15 I was allowed to eat broth. Nurses say: If you want to EAT anything, we will give you another shot after you eat, so be sure to buzz us if you see any FOOD so we can do this HURT shot some more, okay?"
If you stay in the hospital day after day and night after sleepless night, you begin to learn certain things. The food people are not allowed to remove your food tray from your teeny-tiny room. The food people can only BRING you the tray. You should know that, you idiot.
The CNAs are allowed to take out the food trays IF they have time (this could be manana). They wear a different colored uniform from the RNs. Be sure to find out what the different colored uniforms mean, they are: White lab coat with optional stethoscope - probable doctor; dark blue - Registered Nurse; burgundy - Certified Nurse Assistant; Black pants and vest - food bringer; white uniform - visiting nurse (unable to help); khaki pants and white shirt - cleaning staff; Cleric's collar - holy person. You do not, generally, want to see the holy person - - it could mean "the end is near." Also, while colors may vary from hospital to hospital, the cleric collar is pretty standard.
I begged the nurses to dispose of the dialog they wished to accompany each and every shot that was administered day or night, whether or not I was awake or asleep "WAKE UP! Now, I'm going to be giving you a very stingy SHOT in your STOMACH (because there is not enough room in the 25 I.V.s you have running in both your arms). This will only HURT a little, and I am going to rub your stomach with alcohol and squeeze and bruise it so it doesn't HURT so much, and let me know - - where do you want me to give you this HURTY stingy shot?"
Silently, the nurse will muse "I will be sure to unwrap and display this shot right in front of your eyes, even if you do not want me to tell you about it. Look at the drippy medicine coming off the sharp needle. It HURTS."
I am a lady. I do not like to talk about poop. Not how it comes about. Not how we dispose of it. Not what it looks like, or smells like, or it's color, texture or size and shape. When I have to examine another's poop I gag. Whether the poop belongs to a small person in a diaper or a large dog, I gag. This is the only reason I do not own a dog. I love dogs. Dog Poop makes me gag - wretch - vomit. Also, my mom did a really good job. I can't poop unless it is in a safe, secure bathroom. Preferably, my own. Preferably with aroma therapy candles. The door must be locked and the acoustics silent to the outside. I do not camp, because I cannot poop in the woods. Therefore, after three days at a scenic lake side, I am uncomfortable, irritable, and likely to harm you with camping equipment. Does a Nana Bear poop in the woods? No.
Unfortunately, the entire dependence of my GOING HOME from the hospital, became linked to my poop. If I did not poop a certain amount, during a certain time period, under certain specifications, I would not be allowed to go home, and the torturing would continue. This was difficult for me to do, as stated above.
Finally, day 17 - - I poop. A bat signal goes out to the universe. Heraldry announces: The Queen has Pooped - - Long Live the Queen! Staples and i.v.s are removed. Bluebirds alight on my shoulders.
The emergency surgeon had promised me a tiny 1" incision on my abdomen. It turned into a 4" incision and a new belly button. That's okay. My old belly button (post 2nd mastectomy) was about two inches beneath my previous left breast. Now, it's lower and to the right. I still have no idea why anyone thinks I need one. I have never been consulted on this. This could make for a good sepia-toned illustration - - or perhaps a graphic novel. Travels of the Mystic Belly Button
I am not going to post a picture of my new belly button. I was tempted to post a picture of my stapled scar, and the tubes running in and out of me, and the giant equipment pole I called "T-Rex" - - but I have stopped myself. It is a rule I have about posting pictures from the hospital - - although I did finally break down on day 11 and announce on Facebook I was in the hospital. I needed sympathy and support.
Thanks to all that gave it! That's the other thing everyone needs to recover. Sympathy and support. Oh, and sushi - - but that's another story.
Be good, for goodness sake!
Holy week (or Passion Week) has always been especially meaningful to me. In my family, Lent was a time to reflect and renew. During this time of reflection, I am often brought to tears of humbleness thinking about the sacrifice that was made for me. The last week of Christ's life, as told in the Bible, is filled with amazing accounts, leading to the gut wrenching account of betrayal, denial and crucifixion. Then ending in the great crescendo of Christ's resurrection.
This week I attended yet another family funeral; number 4 in about 10 weeks. First two wonderful elderly Aunts, then my sister and now a cousin (younger than I). As I sat in the church, observing the draped crucifix, I noticed a realistic looking rooster high in a window, perched on a red draped small bale of straw. A vivid reminder to all of us, how we all fall short of our good intentions and promises. As I looked at all of this, I thought of all that has transformed these past few weeks on ClausNet. We argue and discuss, like a dysfunctional family reunion. All having the healthy need to agree and disagree in order to grow. One theme always comes out. Jesus is the reason for the season. But there is an added truth. The one factor that makes Christians different from any other religion is THIS season. All great philosophers are born and they die. All have followers who idolize their teachings. But only Christians have a living savior. He is risen. He lives. Not only does he live, but He took our place. We are the reason, for this Season. He died for us. Without this, celebrating His birth makes us no different from any other religion.
Bill had a beard long before he became an Ambassador for Santa Claus. Most of the time, he's just plain, old Bill who happens to have a white beard. But looking around this sanctuary I realized , at least i think I understood a bit better, that if we tried to make him be Santa all year long, we were only reminding people of Christ's birth, or Christmas. That is only half the story. The real story is in His Resurrection.
These are the musing of an old woman working through her grief in the loss of a sister, whose fate lies solely in the hands of God, not mine. I do not mean to impose my beliefs on anyone. Nor do we plan on having Bill shave his beard. But I am hoping that maybe this blog, poorly written as it may be, will be of comfort to others who chance upon it.
David Meece wrote a wonderful song that seems to fit so well into our life ( Bills and Mine). I hope it will be a Blessing to anyone who reads this. God Bless you. Judi
Well, this is the year. Our off-the-rack Halco suits will be our "work-horse" suits, our go to suits for Breakfast with Santa events, our Tanglewood Park appearances, Krispy Creme Doughnut store visits, and other functions where sticky fingers can play havoc with fur.
This is the year for my epitome of Santa costuming - the custom suit, Huzzah!
My Mrs. Claus and I are very excited about this process. Last year we found a seamstress who seems delighted and fascinated about doing work for Santas. We sent items to her for some minor repairs to gauge her work. She passed the test, so we are proceeding with the suits: matching Santa and Mrs. Claus outfits.
My Mrs. C and I met with her last week to begin the process. I am looking for a 3/4 length "Continental" style coat, vest, and 2 pairs of pants. One regular pair of pants, then another pair of "knickers" style pants for a different look.
My Mrs. C is going for a "Victorian" look, but one that will not clash but will coordinate with mine.
More to follow.......................
Create Your Own North Pole
Recently I run across some notes that I had taken back in October of last year that I had from a presentation by Santa Steve Gillham also known as the Triangle Santa in the Raleigh area in North Carolina. Steve done a wonderful presentation of his “sneak a peek” CHRISTmas Eve visits and told some very funny stories. But one of the biggest take away from the get together was how that even though we wear a red suit and beard whether designer or real that is where we stop being the same… We all know that the one’s that do this for the right reasons it’s all in the heart and it show’s through to the children. I realized that we all have our own ideas of what Santa would look like. We reflect that in our individual touches that we add to the suit or our Santa attire. A few of the things I picked up from the meeting was we all are story tellers in some way. When were answering questions we have our on spin on how many elves are there? Or How do you get down the chimney, how does Reindeer fly….. The ways we answer those questions help spin the tale of our own North Pole. We create our on individual North Pole that is the way we see it… If you’re fortunate enough to have some props such as glass bottles with glitter and led lights mounted under them you can even have fairy dust that you use……. Here is a couple of Q & A I took away. Obviously you each will have your own answer that will differ and that is what helps set your Santa apart. For the new Santa’s out there these are some things to think about so that your not stumped by some questions down the line……
If you have time in a home setting or party with children have a question and Answer session with them and story time. For me here are a few answers I have worked on…. Again no right or wrong answers… Always a work in process.
How many elves do you have? I have 5,457……… unless elf Caitlyn has her baby while I am gone…
How do you get down that small chimney? Christmas Dust (I carry a small pouch with artificial snow and glitter mixed together and show it to them).
How do Reindeer fly? Well the way the antlers are made they help pick the wind up and lift them… along with the special CHRISTmas moss only found at the North Pole.
What is your favorite cookie? I ask them what theirs is… what ever they answer I say “wow that’s my favorite too”.
What happens if someone catches Santa on CHRISTmas Eve? I tell them we’ll have a cookie and milk party just them and me. Then I pull out a white feather prop….. I explain to them that we’ll have a great time but when it’s time for me to leave I will drop the feather on the ground. At the exact moment the feather hits the ground they will be back asleep in their beds and will not remember anything about catching me…..(I drop the feather while I’m talking at the end of the answer and they just watch the feather mesmerized) …. If there is a parent around that is a good idea for them to pick up on…. Leave a feather near the milk and cookies that were left out and the children will think they actually caught Santa and can’t remember it now because of the story…. “Thanks Steve for that one if you’re reading this”…..
While I don’t have all the great props yet that Steve had I will be adding some background music while I’m story telling this year…. Easily downloaded to my ipad to give a different atmosphere to the story telling…
Hope you enjoyed my little tidbit of info and don’t forget to stop into the chat rooms on Saturday nights starting at 9 PM eastern to get feed back from other Santa’s on things just like this….
Santa Brian of SC
Lets remember the ones who gave there all for the free dooms we so take for granted.
To my brothers and sisters who served THANK YOU !!!
And if you know one who served or have a family member in the Armed Services give them a call or a hug and let them know YOU CARE.
From this Vietnam vet to all who served and is serving YOU MAKE ME PROUD .
And to Claus Net thank you for being such a great place to come and meet such an awesome group of folks that share love and pride to be an all American.
Your Brother : Big Jim Santa from Peoria IL.
There is no reason why Santa should be restricted to a short period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In fact, since there are so many children who are afraid of Santa, I might be able to fix them by exposing them to Santa all year long. I have some great ideas on this.
First of all, why not have Santa on New Years? I mean Santa looks like Father Time. I could tell everyone that Father Time is REALLY SANTA! I could wear a big chain with a clock around my neck and sing Auld Lang Syne. I could probably squeeze quite a few extra bucks out of the week between Christmas and New years too. Then Santa will be just another part of all the New Year’s festivities.
And then there’s Valentine’s Day. Valentine is a saint and Santa is Saint Nicholas. Valentine’s Day is all about love, and of course we all know that the business of portraying Santa is all about love too. And there’s lots of red and white in Valentine’s Day decorations. It’s a perfect fit! I could even make extra money off a kissing booth at Valentines banquets. Everyone knows how much the ladies just love to kiss old Santa. I could even charge extra for a photo! Then Santa will be just another part of all the Valentine’s Day festivities.
We’re already to Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s another one of those “Saint holidays” and leprechauns are really just elves wearing green suits with flat topped hats instead of red suits with pointy hats. And leprechauns are very giving just like Santa because they give away pots of gold. Wait a minute! Saint Nicholas gave away gold too! That makes it a perfect fit! Then Santa will be just another part of all the Saint Patrick’s Day festivities.
Now Easter is next. This might be tough because I’m going to have to compete with that stupid Easter Bunny. Wait, I have it! The Easter Bunny has white fur and Santa has white fur. They both come secretly at night and leave gifts for children. So, I could tell them that the Easter Bunny is really just a pagan version of the Christian Santa, and I am simply trying to restore Santa to his rightful place in Easter. I might even be able to take over the Easter Bunny’s photo operation at the mall! Besides, everyone knows kids like Santa more than the Easter Bunny. Then Santa will be just another part of the Easter Festivities.
Next is Memorial Day. It’s a bit of a stretch but I think I can do it. They always have parades on Memorial Day right? We all know that Santa must be in every parade. Who among us can pass up the ego trip of riding down Main street on a huge float and waving to thousands of our adoring fans? Of course it is Memorial Day and not Christmas, so Santa won’t be the big finale of the parade. But that’s OK. He’ll just be another float somewhere in the middle. Maybe they can put Santa right after those little Shriner cars and just before the local beauty queen. Then Santa will be just another part of the Memorial Day festivities.
Gosh, I’ve made it half way thru the year. I’ll probably need some vacation time in June because July is gonna be my second biggest paycheck of the year. Man, I can see all those big fat juicy “Christmas in July” BOOKING$$$$ just waiting to be picked! And since you can’t have a real “Christmas in July” event without a Santa, I can really stick to ‘em with the fees. Maybe I can make even more money in July by doing the count down to the fireworks shoot off on the Fourth. It’s really just the same as a countdown for a tree lighting ceremony. Then Santa will be just another part of the Fourth of July festivities.
Now in August I’ll have to take some more vacation from all that activity in July. Plus, I’ll need time TO COUNT ALL MY MONEY!!!
Next comes Labor Day in September. Now this might be a little tricky because Santa is management and the North Pole is a non-union shop. But I think I have an angle on it. Everybody has picnics on Labor Day right? They always eat lots of high fat and high carb foods at those picnics. Bingo! Santa loves to eat all that junk. That’s why he’s so fat! I can get booked to appear at all those picnics wearing my Santa casual shorts and Santa Hawaiian shirts and my red Crocs. It will be a blast! I’ll get all that FREE FOOD and GET PAID TO EAT IT! Then Santa will be just another part of the Labor Day festivities.
Now Halloween is easy. We have already established the fact that many children are afraid of Santa and love candy. Halloween is all about fear and candy! It’s a natural fit for Santa. I could change up the tired old red and white suit for an orange one with black fur. I could get booked at Halloween parties and scare those precious little ones just like I do at Christmas time! Instead of reciting The Night Before Christmas I could tell ghost stories and give away orange and black candy canes. And since everyone has to buy Halloween candy, I could make EVEN MORE MONEY by purchasing large wholesale quantities of orange and black candy canes and selling them to the parents. Then Santa will be just another part of the Halloween festivities.
Well, I finally made it! It was tough, but I got all the way to Thanksgiving with all its parades and lights-on ceremonies and the BIG BUCK$ of the Christmas season! And just think, not only did I make tons of money in the off season, I was also able to help so many little children not be afraid of Santa, since they got to him so often (well maybe not on Halloween, but I digress.)
So you see, Thomas Nast was an idiot. He had the stupid idea that Santa should live at the North Pole because it was a mysterious and far off place at the top of the world. Since nobody in his time could ever travel there it was a perfect explanation of why nobody ever saw Santa. Wait a minute, NOBODY EVER SAW SANTA?!?! If nobody ever sees Santa then how am I supposed to get money out of this deal? What was Nast smoking in that pipe of his?
Heck, since I’m gonna spread my Christmas spirit all year long, why draw the line at a few holidays? I might as well let ‘em see Santa 365 days a year! I mean you can’t really have too much of a good thing right?
And then, when they’ve had so much Santa, that Santa is just another part of everyday life and no longer special, and all the bookings have dried up, I won’t have to worry because I’ll already be RICH off this Santa racket. And when I’ve blown all of my ill gotten gains on wine women and song I can go back to being…a magician and a clown.
I am super excited to announce that I just booked my flight from Miami to Hatii. I will be leaving Denver on the 4th of November and arriving in Hatii early on the 5th. I got clearence from my cardiologist on Wednesday and sent my passport renewal forms in that same day. I am scheduled to start my immunizations on Monday. We will be working with a group called Chances for Children at their orphanage in the moutains about 2 hrs from Port au Prince. I do not have any idea what God has planned for me but I am remaining open to whatever it is. I do know that I will have an opportunity to show love to a lot children. Please keep our team in your prayers and thoughts. This will be a great way to kick off the 2012 Santa season
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ok, i heard about a need in my communtiy today that i thought maybe that my kringle family could help out with. There is a lady by the name of betty neilsen that is the founder of freedom quilters. she started this project after 9/11 and her and her groupd of deicated ladies haev made quilts since for the families of the victims of 9/11 and soliders that have proudly served out country. the family is never charged for the wonderful quilt that they recieve. this project is 100 non profitt and is in need of alittl help. Ithought maybe all fo you could check her and her project out. maybe help spread that word that would in turn help betty and her group recieve the funds that they so desperatly need. I know that they have tried doing events in the past athat people in our area have not taken to, i dont know why. so please spread the word of that wonderful workt that these ladies do. i was told that they do have a facebook page, and also a website (i think) i dont have the time or resources to help them develop a way to reach out to the larger communtiy to raise funds. but i hope that maybe someone will tellt eh right person with a huge heart and myabe a little money to spare so that these ladies can continue their wonderful work with out worring about money.
remeber : freedom quilters in Varina Iowa
thak you so much
God bless America!!!!
Source: Freedom Quilters need help
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Last week I gave an interview to a regional publication for their upcoming December issue about being a real fulltime Santa Claus. It was the typical type interview discussing my life growing up as Santa and being able to make it a fulltime career. I do know that very few have had the opportunities and the good fortune that has been unfolding in my life ever since I was 4 years old.
During the conversation with the reporter, he asked what I plan on doing when I retire. The question really threw me. Unlike 99% of other Santas who become the character while working a different job and made it a hobby/part time thing or a guy who retires from years of work someplace to grow a real beard and then Santa becomes his retirement hobby/job, I have only been a professional year round Santa.
The question of retiring from Santa was a good one. I am a little over a year from turning 50 years old and the Santa business has been very good to me. DeAnn and I have made some good investments, so planning for that part of our future is secure. Like most everyone else there is always some sort of health issues that can or could pop up. But that is under control too.
So the question goes back to what the reporter asked… “What are you going to do when you retire?” Well, as odd as it seems to some, I don’t want to be Santa forever. In fifteen to seventeen years when I am in my mid 60s I do plan on retiring from the professional world of Santa.
Most folks retire from being a labor, lawyer, teacher, accountant or such but does someone really retire from being Santa? When I retire that is preciously what I will be doing. DeAnn and I look forward to just traveling and enjoying not doing anything at all. I’ll let my hair and beard grow out and then go fishing.
And as for Santa, well I look forward to having him go back to being what he was to me before I became him…a magical and inspirational elf that brings the message of love, hope, and peace in a sometime dreary world. And I think that I will appreciate Santa more by not being him.
At one time I thought 50 years old was a long way away. But it is sneaking up on me. Retirement is a while away, at least for now, but with all aspects of life you have to plan ahead.
Question: Which of the Macy’s Santas, who work in the NYC Macy’s Santaland, get to ride on Santa’s float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Answer: They all do, or at least invited to. But not as Santa Claus. One of the many costumed or uncostumed characters who ride on, or accompany, the World’s Most Famous Parade Float.
Changes in the Wind
This was to be my fourth year returning as a Macy’s Santa in the Downtown Pittsburgh Store. It was late October and I still wasn’t contacted about schedules or shifts. When I finally was contacted, I was surprised to find a whole lot of changes had occurred.
Gone was the photographer who had done it in this store with his family for over thirty years. Gone were the old Halco Majestic suits that had been worn. And gone was Santaland
This year, a company called Freeze Frame had taken over the business of Santa Claus for Macy’s. Freeze Frame is mostly known for shooting photographs of people as they ride thrill rides in various American amusement parks, usually caught in some terrifying pose as the roller coaster is about to descend in it’s death-defying drop.
Freeze Frame, a Florida company, made an offer that Macy’s couldn’t refuse. Freeze Frame would now completely control the Santaland photo operation in Macy’s stores in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Next year they will expand to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.
The idea was to brand the “Macy’s Santa” image. You could go to any Macy’s in any part of the country and see the exact same Santa that appears in the infamous Herald Square store. Truth is, I don’t think any child (or average adult) sees the difference between a Macy’s Santa, Coca-Cola Santa or any other Santa. Santa wears a red suit with a fur trim and that’s that.
Freeze Frame was scrambling to get everything ready in time. Creative Costumes in NYC was contracted to manufacture Santa suits based on the Macy’s in-store Santa Suit. Real leather boots were ordered from Italy. Beard and wigsets, made of genuine yak, were ordered from Atelier-Bassi of Switzerland.
A” Macy’s Santa School” was quickly thrown together and presented to myself and the three other returning Santas. This was a 45 minute video shown on a laptop. School consisted of, 1) Taking care of the Macy’s Santa Beard and Wig, 2) Taking care of the Macy’s Santa Suit. And 3) Make-up. Oh yeah, and a quick how-to about getting kids on your lap, take the picture and get them off your lap in 45 seconds or less. This part of the video was absurdly demonstrated with Santa and an adult and I’ve never seen a Santa visit go that fast in my life. It became clear that this year was going to be less about a good customer experience and more about profit.
The Legendary Suit
The Macy’s Suit was made of wool and unlined. It consisted of a white, poet-style shirt, and wool overhauls with the straps sewn on that fastened on the front with buttons. This was made as a “one-size fits all” that the front buttons adjusted the length of the pants. The wool coat was comfortable and cool, but where the fur attached to the suit was exposed stitching and looked as if it were made in a hurry. The leather belt/harness was very loose-fitting. The tops of the straps were held onto the coat shoulders by the military-style espadrilles that had a snap button to hold things in place. A belly pad was optional; I didn’t need one. Leather wrist straps finished off the coat.
The worst thing about wearing this suit was the hat. It had four bells around the fur trim and the way that the hat sat, there was a bell directly above my left and right ear. Every time my head moved the bells would ring right in my ears. It made it difficult to hear what the kids were saying and the constant ringing in my ears gave me a headache. By the end of my shift, I could still hear those bells ringing long after I went home. I complained about it and nothing was done. After the third night, not being able to take it anymore, I got a screwdriver and when no one was looking, removed the ball bearing out of the two bells above my ears. No one noticed and nothing was ever said about it.
The fact that I had a real beard created a problem. I was asked to wear the yak beard over my own and I refused. Nothing against it, but there was no way that I could comfortably attach that beard and remove it without damaging my own beard that had been carefully colored and styled for the season. They had to send pictures of me with my beard to Macy’s officials to get approval. Macy’s approved and I was able to move forward. A long-standing good reputation surely helped. I was told that I had the only real beard in the system.
Now the Fun Begins...
Freeze Frame may know a lot about taking pictures but they didn’t know much about Santa. They viewed Santa as sort of a fixture to take pictures with. You could put anybody in that red suit (even a mannequin) as long as they got the picture (and the money). I was told more than once that I was taking too long with the kids and had to get the picture immediately.
A funny thing was happening. People were bringing their kids to see Santa and not buying the picture that was taken. What could be going wrong? After all, this was the famous Macy’s Santa, the same one who appears in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and who starred in the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street”. Advertised locally as being the one and only, real Santa Claus. They were scratching their heads, puzzled in amazement. Now was the time for Freeze Frame to learn a little bit about what Santa is all about.
Basic Santa 101
The main reason that parents take their children to see Santa Claus is to give the kids a good, Santa experience. If I’m doing my job right, those parents will relive their own childhood when they see that their kids having a good time, and they have that special glow in their eyes. When a good experience is created, a picture is naturally wanted. People bring their children to Macy’s expecting the best possible experience.
If I rush a little girl onto my lap who is even a tiny bit afraid of Santa, she will cry. If I spend a little bit of time, coupled with a little Santa magic, the child will willingly sit on my lap and smile. Also, parents will not buy a picture if their kids don’t look their best. It doesn’t matter how good Santa looks, the parents are only looking at their own child. Freeze Frame did not understand that.
Has Anyone Seen Santaland?
The fun of Santaland was gone, too. The old Santaland was on the 7th floor. There were reindeer, polar bears and other woodland creatures to look at while you were waiting in line. Santa’s throne room looked like a living room with his chair, other furniture and pictures & decorations on the wall. A nice, pleasant place, it was coupled with the Children’s Very Own Gift Shop and Macy’s Holiday Lane which was their selection of Christmas decorations.
The new “Santaland” was moved to the 1st floor. It consisted of Santa’s throne and one Christmas tree located between the escalator and the perfume counter. Besides the camera equipment and cash register, that was it. It had been determined that Santa on the first floor would be more visible and generate more sales. Once again money was put ahead of the customer and the only thing generated was complaints.
The season opened and the crowds were lining up to see Santa. If a typical visit to Santa is to last 45 seconds for one child, shouldn’t two children be a minute-and-a-half?
The “rush ‘em on your lap rush ‘em off” approach wasn’t working. Children were crying and parents weren’t buying pictures. What could be wrong?
Freeze Frame finally decided to listen to the Santas and the helpers who had been doing the job for years.
Return of “Miracle”
It’s true, there are some kids that will go through in 45 seconds without a hitch. I try to give each child a “good” visit with Santa. That means a little fun, a little laughter, and a smile on every face. Memories are being made. The children that are scared take a little more time. But when I see a scared face turn into a happy one I know I’ve done my job. Happy kids = happy parents and sales go with that. Also, my elves like to take a little time and make sure that hair is in place, dresses are straightened and hands are placed nicely on the lap before the picture is taken. All this makes for a “good” visit with Santa and people are happy.
“We’ll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store,... the store that places public service ahead of profits. And, consequently, we’ll make more profits than ever before.” -R.H. Macy from “Miracle on 34th Street”
This idea holds true today. Service sells. We even had a came up with a place where customers could put their coats and packages. Parents began buying pictures again, and Macy’s reputation for providing quality and service was intact.
I was glad when Freeze Frame decided to listen. It was like when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. Pittsburgh became the store with the highest amount of sales per customer visit in the country, and I started to like working for Freeze Frame after all.
I work a lot of private parties and events throughout the season, but I always have a soft spot in my heart for Macy’s and I keep coming back. It’s long hours and low pay and I use it mainly for the nights that I don’t have anything else planned. Since I became hooked on the original “Miracle on 34th Street”, I’ve always wanted to be Santa Claus for Macy’s.
With me, I’m proud to wear the Macy’s suit and enjoy the magic that comes with it.
Getting the Job
Freeze Frame now hires all of the Santas, Elves, Helpers and Photographers for the Macy’s stores across the country that have Santa Claus in them, including New York City. These stores are mostly old, downtown department stores that Macy’s have taken over the past few years and want to keep the local traditions intact. They typically advertise in the Help Wanted section of your local Craig’s List starting around October. They have called back a lot of people who have worked in previous years but always have an eye open for new possibilities.
They hire all races and ages but you must pass a drug test and a background check, which is done at their expense. In New York City, I’m told, they hire a lot of out-of-work actors looking for work for the season.
The pay is lower than what a mall Santa makes and it is preferred that you don’t have a real beard. There is no bonus for making quota. The schedule is very flexible and the job is usually shared between several Santas. It can be very demanding at times, but still can be fun. You will experience many different types of people, both children and adults, and you’ll form memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
If you have Santa in your heart and like making children happy, you’ll find the joy of working at Macy’s. I know I did.
I had something happen today that is way past just strange. A father whose family I investigated, and found that he was molesting his children and abusing his wife, walked up to me and said that he would never again be with his family because of it. He said his wife is divorcing him and she is soon to regain custody of the children, in large part because she has excluded him from her life. He was not belligerent or threatening, just filled with hate, I suppose, and wanted me to know how I had ruined his life. This is the very sort of man that is the only sort for which I find nothing in myself but enmity. I so wanted to offer to escort him outside for a "tune up". As these thoughts raced through my mind, I was locked in to his eyes. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to give him back some taste of the pain he has put into the world. Then I saw it. Not fear. Genuine anguish, he was anguished over the consequences of his actions. Suddenly, my straining to not act out in violent retribution, had turned into a teachable moment. I had him at an instant of time wherein he was vulnerable. I told him the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus saying to her, "Go thy way and sin no more." I pointed out that Jesus didn't say to her to right all her wrongs. He said "Sin no more." I told him that his first priority is to resolve never to touch another child, another woman, never to put a hand ever again to anyone to use them without regard for them first and foremost. Then to execute that resolve, every day with every one. Only that is repentance. I told him that in repentance is forgiveness. If he repents of his sin, he is forgiven, even by himself. I told him that whether he is a Christian or not, the principle is the same. Take it out of religion and it is just the idea that to be truly sorry, is not simply to wish it didn't happen, because you can't change the past. To be truly sorry is to make sure it never happens again. If you make sure it never happens again, one day you will realize you are not the same man that did those horrible things, you have made yourself over into someone else. Someone, not any longer guilty, but rather someone forgiven his past. Maybe not by your ex-wife or your children, but forgiven none the less.
I suppose I should blog more often. Anyway, Christmas is fast approaching and it will be here before we know it.
I, like many of my fellow Santa and Mrs.Claus' are preparing for the season.
I've already started getting promotional materials together and planning on how I can get more business this year. Even though I've been Santa for almost seven seasons ( mostly for family) I still feel like I'm new at this and I have a whole lot to learn. I expect to have more opportunities this year, at least I hope so. Maybe some that will pay.
This last year I got a new suit, made my own boots and got a new yak wig set. Just recently I acquired a new human hair beard so I'm going to give it a try and see what happens, I really like the look.
I still need to get some professional pics because I would eventually like to have a website or at least a web presence of some kind. We'll see, the website will probably be next year.
Anyway, this Santa is going to be very busy between now and Christmas for sure. Wish me well.
I wish everyone well in their preparations too.