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Ho Ho Ho and all that jazz...

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Interview with Larry Peter

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

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Private Screening of They Wore The Red Suit

If you ever have the opportunity to visit my home town, you may notice a few things around here with the name RIELLY on it. On the east side of town there is a tree lined street with a street sign that reads: RIELLY LANE. Downtown, near the docks, where the Prudence Ferry arrives to shuttle passengers to and from the local islands is a beautiful park. Under one of the park's trees is an unassuming bench with an engraving that reads: JIM RIELLY’S BENCH. Hanging near the entrance of our Town Hall is a large portrait of an elderly gentleman. The senior citizen in the oil painting is my grandfather, James D. (Jim) Rielly. Jim Rielly was well known throughout our town and much of New England. He was known for his kindness, generosity, and countless charitable acts; but most notably, Jim Rielly was known as Rhode Island’s Most Famous Santa Claus for 62 years. Throughout his Santa Claus career, my grandfather took no money for his appearances. As Santa Claus, Jim Rielly made more appearances in one day than most do today in an entire season; making visits to 20 to 30 homes in one day. He was featured in hundreds of newspapers, magazines, and on national television shows and received letters from celebrities, dignitaries, Presidents, and His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. In 1979, his name was recorded in the United States Senate Congressional Record as “James D. Rielly, A Truly Remarkable Santa Claus from Rhode Island.” In December 2010, James D. Rielly was honored as one of the original inaugural inductees into the prestigious International Santa Claus Hall of Fame in Santa Claus, Indiana. My grandfather and I are featured in an upcoming documentary titled: They Wore The Red Suit. As a tribute to my grandfather, I am hosting three private screenings of the documentary in my town as a fundraiser for the film to be entered into Film Festivals in 2013. The event will include a discussion with director Larry Peter, on the making of the film and a discussion of Jim Rielly’s life and Santa Claus career. If you are in the area and would like to attend any of the screenings, you can purchase tickets online here: http://www.brownpape...om/event/318965 Seating is limited so be sure to purchase tickets early. You can also contact me directly for tickets. DATE: Saturday, March 9, 2013, 1:00 pm Saturday, March 9, 2013, 7:00 pm Sunday, March 10, 2013, 2:00 pm PLACE: 240 High Street Bristol, RI TICKETS: $15.00 $20.00 at the door depending on availability If you are unable to attend, but would like to donate to our event, please visit: http://www.indiegogo...ening/x/2019963 I am personally funding this particular event so ANY amount -- even $1 -- would be greatly appreciated! Thank you very much for your consideration!

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

I'll Take The Compliment

Yesterday on New Year's Day, my Mrs. Claus and I went out to do a little shopping. There is a very cool country store the next town over. The store is always beautifully decorated but especially at Christmastime. The owners of this store contacted me in December wanting to know if I was available for a photo shoots. Unfortunately I was completely booked so they said that they would just wait and do something in November. Anyway, Mrs. Claus and I went into the store to see if we could pick up a few after Christmas bargains. I asked the person behind the counter if he was the person that contacted me. He looked at my kind of funny as said "Yes. Who are you?" I said, "I'm Mike Rielly." "Were you the same Santa that did the speech in St. Mary's Church on Christmas Eve?", he asked. "That was me", I replied. Now even more confused he asks "Did you shave?" I already know where this is going so I played along. "I did this morning", I said. "Well will you have a beard by November? Because we were thinking you could come in sometime before Thanksgiving for the photo shoot." I explained to him that my beard would look exactly as it did on Christmas Eve. "It grows that fast?" he said. "No", I replied. "But I can glue it on in about an hour." Now you may think you know where I am going with this but you would be wrong. It wasn't the "beard" that they were fooled by. It was the performance. Yes they thought "Mike Rielly" was a real bearded Santa -- but what they were most impressed with was the performance. Based on my talk at the Church on Christmas Eve they thought that I was a much older man. The way I spoke, moved, and interacted with everyone they thought I was in my 60s or 70s! My point is this: It's not the beard. It's the entire performance.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

You are not the real Santa Claus

Normally I don't pay much attention to any of the Santa Facebook groups. Wading through all the egos, tantrums, and prima donnas is nothing less than exhausting. There is so much chest thumping going on over there it won’t be long before one Santa climbs to the top of the Empire State Building. Of course as soon as the first one starts his climb, it wouldn't be long before others joined in – all claiming to have thought of the idea first. And instead of Faye Wray, the Santas would be carrying their business cards – stuffing them in every window as they all raced to the top. But I digress. There is a Santa on Facebook, let’s call him “Santa Munchausen”, who compares what he refers to as "fake bearded Santas" to “fake hamburgers”. His logic is difficult to follow, but it seems what his trying to say is that anyone hiring a traditional bearded Santa is somehow being cheated out of the “real” experience. He compares it to someone ordering a hamburger, but is disappointed when they are served a soy-burger instead. Nice job Santa Munchausen. Not only have you managed to insult me and my fellow “fake” bearded Santas, but you’ve also managed to insult countless vegetarians who prefer veggie-burgers over hamburgers. And as if his insult to the millions of vegetarians around the world wasn't enough, he continued his rant, boasting how he could easily unseat any “fake bearded Santa” from any gig because he is a “real Santa”. Quick! Someone check the top of Empire State Building. I think we have a winner. Sorry Santa Munchausen, but portraying Santa Claus is a lot more than just hair growing on your face. Just because a guy looks like Jerry Garcia, doesn’t automatically make him Santa Claus. Any “real Santa” will tell you that. I’ve been a “fake beard” Santa for 21 years now and proud of it! Unless of course I do the creative counting like some who include all the years since first putting on a Santa Claus suit. That would be 41 years by the way. And although my beard is very realistic, I don’t rely solely on the whiskers to pull off being Santa Claus. It takes a lot more than that to convincingly portray Santa Claus. Any real Santa will tell you that too. As a “fake bearded Santa”, I’d say I'm in pretty good company: Jim Yellig, Charles Howard, Edmund Gwenn, Phil Wenz, Tim Allen, not to mention the entire 2010 inaugural class of the Santa Claus Hall of Fame. I would like to see you pull a gig away from any of them. My grandfather was Santa Claus for sixty two consecutive years. And we’re not talking about 62 years of one or two appearances a season. This man made appearances all year round. During the busiest times of the year he would make over 30 separate appearances in a DAY! My grandfather was a “fake bearded” Santa Claus who SHAVED his real beard to portray Santa Claus. Isn’t interesting, that in all the letters to him from United States Presidents, Members of Congress, celebrities, and even His Holiness Pope John Paul II, there is never mention of a “fake beard”; only words of praise, sacrifice, and gratitude. Maybe it’s because the “beard” only matters to those who have nothing else but a beard.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

A Milestone

Next month will be something of a milestone for me -- 40 years. No, not my birthday (I wish). It was forty years ago that I first donned the Red Suit. At age 8, I was picked to be Santa Claus in our third grade Christmas Play. I don’t remember how or why I was chosen for the role. Maybe it was just fate. I don’t even remember the title of the play or any of my lines. I do remember singing “Santa Claus Is Comin To Town” and vaguely remember that I played “Kris Kringle” and that no one knew that I was “Santa Claus” until the end. What I remember most from that day was everything happening before and after the play. I remember my grandfather showing up to help me get ready. He was there to glue whiskers to my face. I remember how itchy they felt. Once the whiskers were securely fastened, he then proceeded to spray paint my head white. I still remember the smell and the white cloud floating in the air. My Santa Claus suit consisted of a red snow suit, a black ladies belt (probably my mom’s), and my cowboy boots. I wasn’t too surprised that Papa was there to help me get into character. After all, when I was 6-years old he took me to the Rhode Island State House on St. Patrick’s Day to present the Governor with a pot of gold (chocolates). He glued a different set of whiskers to my chin that day and instead of white hairspray it was grey. After the play, I remember Miss Hallburg, my third grade teacher telling me how well I did and how proud she was of me. I remember there were a lot of people at our third grade production. There were lots of people there; people from the newspaper, relatives, and neighbors; and Papa talked to every one of them! He was like a celebrity! Of course, back then I had no idea then of my grandfather’s local fame or his secret identity. To me he was just Papa. But to everyone else he was Santa Claus. Today there is a street named after him and a bench with his name on it. The bench resides next to the dock where he would sit most days and welcome everyone offloading from the Prudence Ferry. An oil painting of my grandfather hangs near the entrance of our Town Hall as if still greeting visitors. Looking back I wish I had an opportunity to talk to Papa about being Santa Claus. It was only when he passed that I took up the role as Santa Claus full time. I like to think he is with me at my appearance or at least watching.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

From: Toy Fair 2011: The Coolest Toys

I have had the good fortune of attending a few Toy Fairs. I also live very close to Hasbro's World Headquarters. I've always thought I would love to work for a Toy company. Yeas ago, I interviewed for a marketing position with the CEO and VP of Sales of a small toy manufacturer, now owned by Hasbro. In the interview they asked me what were some of my favorite toys as a kid. Without missing a beat I listed off several of my fondest toys and went on to explain how I still have many of them to this day. The CEO stopped me mid explanation and said "Okay, you passed the test". "Test?", I asked. He said, "You would be surprised how many people want to work here, but can't answer that question." I said, well if you liked that answer, then you will love this one... and I went on to name and describe EVERY character on display in the conference room. On display where Dora, the Explorer, Boots, Swiper, SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, and at least a dozen others! They were amazed! Parents are equally amazed when I can converse with their kids about specific characters, video games, and toys. I don't just nod my head. If a child asks for a "DS", I'll ask if they want a DSi or a DS lite, what color, etc. Another example would be "iPods". Many parents and grandparents have no clue. So I always make sure the parent or grandparent knows which one we are discussing. I think it is important that as Santa we not only know these toys but also know the television shows they watch. My kids are 13 and 18, but I still know what's hot and what's not in toys, electronics, clothing, and trends. BTW, next month Nintendo will introduce the Nintendo 3DS -- available in blue and black. Can't wait! Source: Toy Fair 2011: The Coolest Toys

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

One Thousand

This week we reached a major milestone on ClausNet.com. On October 21, 2010 we welcomed our 1,000th member to our community. Now you may not think this is such a big deal, but consider the fact that unlike other online communities, I personally approve each and every request to become a registered member. When I launched ClausNet.com, I had just returned from my first time attending theCharles W. Howard Santa Claus School, in Midland Michigan. As a first time student to the school, I was struck be the comrade and the overwhelming feeling of being part of this community. I so much enjoyed my time at the school, that I felt I needed to give something back. So as a Christmas gift to the Dean and his wife, I created a new website that year for the school. But just building a new website for the school didn't seem quite enough for some reason. I wanted to give back even more. So I started researching how I could build an virtual community online, that would replicate in some way the fellowship that had I felt at while the school. At the time there were a few Yahoo and MSN group "Santa" sites where fellow Kringles could exchange emails. These sites were essentially bulk email mailing lists and I realized early on that threaded mass emails with attachments was not the way to go. A big part of the CWH school is meeting others and learning from them; exchanging ideas, and improving your Santa Claus persona. I knew early on that ClausNet would have to be much more than these group sites. It had to be a "destination"; a place that you wanted to check in often; a place where you could "meet" and discuss ideas. It had to be a community. In my career as a marketeer, I have created and managed several customer focused user groups, online forums, company blogs, and social media sites. All of these things have something in common -- people with a common interest -- and THAT is what ClausNet is -- a community of men and women dedicated to the faithful the portrayal of the legend of Santa Claus and who devote their time to bringing joy to children of all ages. Thank you all for being part of this experience!

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Yes Meghan, there is a Santa Claus

In a few weeks, my daughter will turn 12. Yet despite the fact that most, if not all of the kids in her school no longer believe in the Jolly Old Elf, my daughter Meghan still believes that there is indeed a Santa Claus. She knows that I and a few of my friends are Santa Claus Ambassadors and she knows that I run ClausNet.com. At first, you might think that she is immature for her age, but she really isn't. In may ways she is more mature than some 15 and 16 years olds. Growing up, my parents never told my brothers and I that there was no Santa Claus. In fact, I continued to receive gifts under the tree and in my stocking every Christmas right up until the year I moved out at 19 years old! When I think back of growing up in my parents house I always think of Virginia O'Hanlon's letter to New York's The Sun I didn't realize it back then, but now that I am a parent, I understand. My parents wanted to keep the spirit of Santa Claus alive in my heart -- no matter how old I was. This is a tradition that I hope to pass on to both of children and hopefully to their children. Indeed. How dreary would the world be with no Virginias or for that matter, no Meghans...

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Welcome to ClausNET

This month I launched ClausNetMedia. ClausNET now has it's very own Channel on YouTube! This video is the first of several original videos planned for the ClausNetMedia YouTube Channel. Feel free to subscribe to the ClausNetMedia Channel and check back for new videos coming out each month! ClausNET on YouTube In addition to original content, ClausNetMedia can be used for our members to promote themselves in video on YouTube, blogs, and websites. Here is an example of a Santa Claus promotional video. Look for more original content coming from ClausNET soon!

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

The Santa Claus Oath Coat of Arms

This week, Phil and I collaborated on a project for the Santa Claus Oath. We decided to create an historically accurate Coat of Arms for the Oath. One of our goals in developing the Coat of Arms was that it needed to represent the eight principles that make up the Oath. The eight elements of the Santa Claus Oath Coat of Arms are: Shield
SC Letters
Crossed Candy Canes
Traditional Symbols of Saint Nicholas
Reindeer
Grapevines
Banner
Colors
Each element represents the following: Shield The shield shape is consistent with the time of Saint Nicholas. Symbols The letters S and C represent the name of Santa Claus.
The candy canes symbolize the two legendary Santas, Charles Howard and Jim Yellig. The canes are crossed as Yellig's and Howard's paths crossed only once.
The lower part of the shield has the three acknowledged symbols of Saint Nicholas, the miter (bishop's hat) the crosier (shepherds staff) and three gold coins, representing the gold given to provide dowries to impoverished maidens.
Reindeer There are two reindeer that flank the shield. One reindeer represents designer bearded Santas and the other represents real bearded Santas. The reindeer have come together in unity to uphold the shield and uphold their pledge to the Santa Claus Oath. Grapevines At the top and bottom of the shield and reindeer there are grapevines. The grapevines are an ancient symbol for the thirst and quest of knowledge. Banner Completing the Coat of Arms is a banner with "Santa Claus Oath" on it. Colors The colors of the Santa Claus Coat of Arms are the traditional Christian colors of Christmas. Red is for the blood of Christ, green is for the Eternal life in Christ and gold is for Christ the Divine. I will seek knowledge to be well versed in the mysteries of bringing Christmas cheer and good will to all the people that I encounter in my journeys and travels. I shall be dedicated to hearing the secret dreams of both children and adults. I understand that the true and only gift I can give, as Santa, is myself. I acknowledge that some of the requests I will hear will be difficult and sad. I know in these difficulties there lies an opportunity to bring a spirit of warmth, understanding and compassion. I know the "real reason for the season" and know that I am blessed to be able to be a part of it. I realize that I belong to a brotherhood and will be supportive, honest and show fellowship to my peers. I promise to use "my" powers to create happiness, spread love and make fantasies come to life in the true and sincere tradition of the Santa Claus Legend. I pledge myself to these principles as a descendant of Saint Nicholas the gift giver of Myra.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Passing The Tradition of Santa Claus Across Generations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Passing The Tradition of Santa Claus Across Generations Santa Michael Rielly of Rhode Island takes Oath for his famous Grandfather Providence, RI (PRWEB) February 5, 2009 -- Michael Rielly, the grandson of Rhode Island's famed Santa, James D. Rielly, will take the Santa Claus Oath at Celebrate Santa on March 17 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. James D. "Jimmy" Rielly's career as Rhode Island's most recognizable Santa Claus spanned over 60 years. He began his Santa Claus career in 1927 and was featured on several national television shows including PM Magazine. Appearing primarily at charitable organizations, hospitals, orphanages, and military bases, he took no money for his appearances. Over the course of his Santa career, he received literally thousands of letters from celebrities, dignitaries, and politicians including letters from President Eisenhower and Pope John Paul II. In 1979 his name was recorded in the Senate Congressional Record as "James D. Rielly - A Truly Remarkable Santa Claus From Rhode Island". After the passing of his grandfather in 1991, grandson Michael Rielly took over the role as Santa Claus. In his grandfather's honor, Michael appears at many of the same charitable organizations and hospitals his grandfather visited. Hundreds of Santa, Mrs. Claus, and Helpers will be attending the upcoming Celebrate Santa Convention this March in Gatlinburg. Part of the opening ceremonies of the convention will be the taking of the Santa Claus Oath, which was dedicated last fall in Santa Claus, Indiana. "We are very happy to have Santas that have wonderful family legacies attending the convention." stated Joe Moore, coordinator of Celebrate Santa. "Their families' traditions are all part of our history." Celebrate Santa is an expo for Santa, Mrs. Claus, elves, and Helpers from around the world and features workshops, a parade, and an industry showcase. "I know Papa would have loved meeting everyone at Celebrate Santa!" said Michael Rielly, Director of Media and Public Relations for Celebrate Santa 2009 and the founder of ClausNET.com. "He took the role of Santa Claus very seriously and would have been proud to be associated with such a fine group of men and women." About Michael Rielly Mr. Rielly has portrayed Santa Claus for over 17 years and is a third generation Santa Claus. His grandfather James D. "Jimmy" Rielly, began his Santa Claus career in 1927 and was recognized in the US Congressional Record as "A Truly Remarkable Santa Claus From Rhode Island". When not appearing as Santa Claus, Mr. Rielly works in sales and marketing with over 20 years experience in Internet and technology related companies where he has served in various roles; founder, board member, and business development. Mr. Rielly is also the founder of ClausNET.com, the world's premier Santa Claus social network and resource for Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and Elves for the purposes of sharing stories, advice, news, and information. About The Santa Claus Oath author Phillip L. Wenz Phillip L. Wenz donned his first Santa Claus suit at the age of four. By the time he was fourteen he was in his first parade, and by the ripe old age of twenty-four, he became the year round Santa Claus for the iconic Santa's Village (www.santafromsantasvillage.webs.com) in Dundee, Illinois. An association he has now had for more than twenty years. About Celebrate Santa Celebrate Santa (www.celebratesanta.com) is an annual gathering and exposition for those who bring joy and happiness to children young and old through the portrayal of Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus. This annual event begins 2009 on the 70th anniversary of the very first official gathering of Santas in New York in 1939. The three day event includes over 30 comprehensive workshops for those who wish to learn and improve upon their personification of Santa and Mrs. Claus. The in-depth educational sessions are conducted by seasoned Santa Claus professionals. Open during the event will be Santa's Showcase - a unique exhibition open to the public featuring thousands of Christmas and Santa Claus related products and services. About ClausNET Launched in 2007, ClausNET (www.ClausNET.com) is the premier Santa Claus community for men and women dedicated to the faithful portrayal of Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, Elves, and all others who devote their time to bringing the magic of Christmas to children and adults throughout the world! ClausNET.com is the Internet's largest resource and social network for Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and Elves for the purposes of sharing stories, advice, news, and information. Most importantly, ClausNET brings people together to build friendships that help spread happiness to the true believers of Santa Claus - the child inside of us. Contact Michael J. Rielly ClausNET.com Santa Joe Moore Celebrate Santa santajoe@celebratesanta.com (865) 244-5230 ### SOURCE

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Memories of Santa Claus

My earliest Santa Claus memory was when I was 6-years old. I have always loved Lego. In fact, I still do and yes I still play with Lego. One year I asked Santa for a Lego set. Back then they didn't have kits or models like they have today. Lego sets we simply a box with some total number of standard and specialty blocks. I remember that I wanted more clear blocks so I could make windshields for my spaceships. Anyway, Christmas Day came and there was no Lego. There were lots of gifts: GI Joes, Rock Em Sock Em Robots, Tonka Trucks, but no Lego. I was really disappointed. I asked Santa for Lego in my letter and even in person. Santa came to my house a few days before Christmas and I told him then. How could he have forgotten? The next day, December 26, my younger brother and I got up early and decided to go into the living room and pretend it was Christmas Day again. Since all out toys were still spread out all over the room, it would be just like Christmas morning. My brother (left) and I (right) Christmas morning When we went into the living room, there on the hearth of the fireplace was a box of Lego. At first I though that maybe I just didn't see it the day before. Maybe it was lost in all the other toys we got. But there on the box was a note. It was a letter from Santa! I wish I still had the letter, but I don't need it to remember exactly what it said. Dear Michael, I found this in the bottom of my sleigh when I got back to the North Pole. It was so foggy last night that I didn't see it fall out of my bag. See you next year! Love, Santa My brother and I ran into my parents bedroom to show them the letter from Santa. My father growled at us, "Get back to bed!" and my mother simply told us to go back into the living room and to play quietly. I don't remember what happened to that letter. But I remember reading it over and over again. The letter and that box of Lego is a Christmas memory I will always remember.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Daddy, are you Santa Claus?

Well, it was bound to happen. Christmas 2008 will be the year I remember as the year I told my daughter that I was Santa Claus – or rather, to be exact, one of Santa Claus’s Ambassadors. I guess I should be thankful I got this far. After all, Meghan is almost 11. My son made it to 12! He only found out it was me after reading a newspaper article that mentioned my name. Back in 2006 she was wavering. I decided to see if I couldn’t get at least another year out of her. So I appeared in Meghan’s bedroom at midnight. I woke her up and handed her an American Girl Doll that she really wanted. I told her she had been doing really well in school lately and I wanted to give her something extra special for working so hard. She really wanted that particular doll and they were sold out everywhere, so handing her the doll made me feel especially like Santa Claus. I sat next to her on the bed for a while and we talked about school and her friends. After a few minutes I said that I had better be getting on my way and told her to go back to sleep. I wished her Merry Christmas and told her that I loved her. Meghan said good night and told me that she loved me too. The whole visit lasted maybe 10 minutes. But those 10 minutes got me another 2 years. Fast forward to Christmas 2008 - a few days before Christmas my daughter was looking at a few pictures. Meghan noticed that Santa Claus’s eyes are the same blue as Dad’s and that Santa Claus has a tiny birthmark on his cheek – also just like Dad. She then decides to interview (more like interrogate) everyone in the family. With a pen and notepad she starts jotting down her “clues” and after a thorough investigation, she comes to the conclusion that I must be Santa Claus. Although she cannot explain how I go from whiskers to clean shaven and back again, Meghan was convinced that I was Santa Claus. But Christmas Eve was the clincher. During the Homily at the Christmas Vigil Mass at our Church, Santa Claus made an appearance. Santa came out and greeted Father and wished all the Parishioners a Very Merry Christmas. He went on to discuss the true meaning of Christmas. Meghan and her brother were Altar Servers for the Mass. They sat only a few feet from where Santa delivered his Christmas Eve message. Later at the end of Mass after Meghan changed back into her street clothes, she and her brother met me at the back of the Church. As parishioners exited, a few of them would wink at me or thank me as they exited the Church. At one point my daughter was standing beside me when one of the Parishioners said to me “nice job”. Meghan immediately gave me a look and said; “I know why she said that!” I was caught. But I had a backup plan. Later in the evening, Meghan put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and lichen for the reindeer. She also wrote a very sweet note to Santa. In the note she invited Santa take a little break cookies and milk break and to please give the carrots and lichen to the reindeer. In the note she also mentioned that she thought that her Dad looked like him and left a little area for a reply. Her note to Santa was very cute and Santa’s reply was perfect! I’ll have to post that next time. Christmas morning came and Meghan ran down from upstairs. The cookies and milk were half eaten and the carrots and lichen were gone. She read the reply to her note that Santa had left on the coffee table next to empty plate of cookies. From there she went over to her stocking. As she reached for the stocking, she noticed something near the hearth of the fireplace. It was a heavy gold button with “SC” in the center and “North Pole” over the top. Attached to the button was some red thread. She reached down and picked it up. She recognized it immediately. "It must be one of Santa's buttons!; she said, “It must have gotten caught on the fireplace! I'm going to take it to school and show it to my friends that don't believe in Santa!” As you can imagine, at this point, I am thinking that I may have just gotten past another Christmas. But by December 26, the little wheels in her head started turning again. She decides to re-open her “investigation”. After several attempts to get me and her brother to admit that I am Santa Claus, she starts to get upset that we won’t tell her what she knows must be true. I can tell she is getting frustrated. So I decide to tell her the truth – that I am one of Santa’s Ambassadors. I tell Meghan that I have something very important to tell her. But before I tell her I make her promise that she cannot tell any of her friends and especially not her younger cousins and that this is our secret. She agrees. I hand her the letter to me from Santa Claus. I tell her to open it and to be careful because it is very old. As we roll it out her eyes widen. It smells old. It looks old. Clearly this was written a very long time ago. It’s dated December 24, 1971. It’s practically a relic! After she reads the letter, I explain to her how Santa Claus has a few men stand in for him when he can’t be there in person and that it is our job to spread joy and happiness to children. I told her that now that she knows, she could come along with me as one of my Elves. She loves the idea! I asked her what she thought. She told me that it was “cool” that I was Santa Claus. She asked me if I had my own sleigh or if I had to borrow Santa’s. She also asked me if I get to go to the North Pole every once in a while to see Santa. Apparently she thought that, that’s where I was going on all these business trips. That one caught me off guard a bit. After telling this story to my boss at work, he said to me; “So you got another year out of her, huh?” When I was a boy, I only knew one Santa Claus – my grandfather. My parents never took me to see Santa at the mall or to a party where Santa was appearing. Every year, Santa would visit me and my brothers a few days before Christmas. We always felt honored that Santa would make a special visit to our house. After all, he always arrived with a police car and fire engine escort. Lights flashing and sirens blaring, Santa was usually accompanied by a policeman and my Dad (also a policeman). Santa sat with us for no more than 15 minutes and he was whisked off to another appointment. To this day, my parents never sat down with me and said, “ya know there is no such thing Santa Claus.” In fact, when I moved out of my parent’s house at 19, there were still gifts under the tree and presents in my stocking from Santa Claus. No one ever told us there was no Santa Claus.   "No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Little Marissa

I worked the Polar Express last weekend. If any of you have worked a Polar Express you know that there is very little time to get through the entire train by the time you get back into the station. So the amount of time you can spend with each family is limited. Well on Sunday, I asked this one little girl named Marissa if there was anything special she wanted for Christmas. She thought about it for a minute or tow but just couldn't think of anything. So I told her I would surprise her with something nice. She nodded and then I told her that Santa Claus loves her and went on to the next table. When we pull into the station, Santa has to disappear. So I hide in the caboose until all the passengers get off the train and get into their cars. Only then can I come out of caboose. Just as I was getting ready to leave, one of the hot chocolate waitresses entered the caboose and asked if I could speak with someone. I open the door of the caboose and there is Marissa in her father's arms. She was crying with her face buried in her dad's chest. The waitress told me that she was upset because she had finally remembered what she wanted to ask Santa Claus for and now Santa was gone. I quietly snuck up to her and whispered in her ear; 'Hello Marissa. Did you remember what you wanted to as for Christmas?" Marissa turned and a smile that lit up the entire room appeared on her face. She told me what she wanted; some American Girl Doll accessories and a Holiday Barbie. I looked at her dad and he gave me a nod. I turned back to Marissa and said; "Don't worry Marissa, you'll get it. Merry Christmas sweetheart." Marissa's dad shook may hand and thanked me; "Thank you so much Santa." This what I love about being Santa Claus.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Community

I was thinking about this, this morning on my drive into work. Only a few months ago, ClausNET was less than 30 members. In a year we grew to over 400! What makes ClausNET different from other Santa and Mrs. Claus groups? What is it that makes folks come here and keep coming back? There are other 'Santa Claus' groups online. Why is ClausNET different than other groups? Is it the software you are reading this with? Is it the graphics? Is it the Arcade or the Live Chat? And then it struck me. It's not about the software or the graphics. It's because ClausNET isn't just an email group or an internet forum. It's a community. Every day I look forward to visiting the site, reading posts and chatting with everyone. I look forward to catching up on what everyone is doing. This is a place to hang out. It's a place where we can catch up with friends and meet new ones. Thanks for making ClausNET what it is -- a community of friends and family!

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Syracuse.com: My kids are starting to doubt Santa Claus

I read the following in the Syracuse.com website: My kids are starting to doubt Santa Claus When my daughter turned 9, she began to have doubts. Most of the kids in her class don't believe. So, on Christmas Eve of that year I entered her bedroom at midnight with a prized American Girl doll in hand. I woke my daughter and presented the gift to her. I sat on her bedside for a little while and told her how good she was doing in school and how she deserved this American Girl doll. At the end of our conversation, I kissed her on the forehead, wished her Merry Christmas and told her to go back to sleep. She held the doll tight in her arms, pulled her covers up to her chin, and said 'Merry Christmas Santa'. That 15 minute conversation got me another 2 years! She will be 11 this February and still firmly believes in Santa Claus despite her naysayer classmates. After all, how can you argue with the fact that Santa Claus was in her bedroom! Ha! I know she will find out I am one of Santa Claus entrusted servants soon, but until then, Santa Claus just happens to have Daddy's eyes.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Live from Peru, IL!

Hi all! I am here in Peru, IL for the Midwest Santa's The Santa and Mrs. Claus Christmas Workshop. So I thought I would provide a day-by-day account. I arrived in Chicago O'Hare around 11:00AM and the drive to Peru was about 2 hours. After a stop by the local Starbucs, I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing my presentations. I'll post my presentations here next week. Later, I met Phil Wenz and his wife for dinner. We had a wonderful time! Pizza and beer. Good combination! I'm looking forward to tomorrow's presentations!

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Keeping Your Santa Secret

I have a 10-year old daughter who still very much believes. My son, who is 15 now, did not know that I was Santa until he was 12! I managed to keep my secret identity hidden quite easily up until last year. That's when I started ClausNET. As you can imagine I am on the site often. This has been a challenge recently as my daughter, who is very much Daddy's girl lately loves to hang on my shoulder while I am working on the computer. More than a few times, I've had to quickly collapse my browser or open a window to hide what I am working. She has caught me on ClausNET a few times and each time I've managed to successfully change the subject. Once she saw my avatar that reads "Santa RIELLY". I convinced her that it was a "joke" picture I was sending to someone. She knows that I LOVE Christmas so I think she just assumes Daddy likes to visit websites to read about Christmas and Santa Claus. As for keeping the suit and accessories hidden, that's been difficult as well. I keep my Santa suits safely tucked away in the back of my closet hidden in a garment bag. As for the boots, belts, and other accessories, I keep those in a large roller suit case that I use when I go on gigs. The more difficult part for me has been coming up with excuses as to why Dad can't be there while they visit Santa. It's a lot like Clark Kent in a way. As Lois Lane would always ponder; "How come every time Superman shows up, Clark Kent is never around?" My 15-year old is now in on the secret. Sometimes he will come along to help out so long as there is no possibility of anyone recognizing him and possibly making the connection to me. This December he will be 16 and I doubt very much that he will want to hang around me this season. But you never know. I think my daughter will make a great Elf. She, like her Dad, loves Christmas and passing out presents. She is very outgoing and engaging and laughs a lot. A perfect assistant for Santa Claus. Of course this could all change when she becomes a teenager.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Santas Behaving Badly

There used to be a show on British television years ago called Men Behaving Badly. As the title of the sitcom suggests, the basic premise of the show revolved around men who frequently engaged in childish pranks and behaving immaturely and selfishly. Today's article in the Wall Street Journal by Jim Carlton entitled: "These Santas Are Keeping a List, And Not All Have Been Nice" reminds me of that show. As I am not a member of AORBS, FORBS, or FIRBS I cannot really comment on the matter. Although through ClausNET and the CWH Santa School, I have met many a Santa and Mrs. Claus on both sides of this riff in the Santa Claus Universe -- or the "Santa Civil War" as one Santa I know puts it. There are threats of violence against fellow Santas... And the amassing of followers on both sides of the issue... Although I found the WSJ article to be on the whole fair and balanced to both sides of the issue, my fear is that the main stream media will pick up on this story. If so, we could see this story around for a few weeks. The main stream media seems to revel in anything that casts Santa Claus or CHRISTmas in a negative light. I only hope that this story will not tarnish the reputation of the hundreds of others who faithfully portray Santa and Mrs. Claus. Let's all stay positive while keeping the spirit of Christmas in our hearts and never forget the reason why we do this.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

New Suit for Santa Rielly

Here's an update on my new suit. First off the girl making the suit decided to get engaged! That of course put my new suit on hold. As you might expect she has decided to make her own wedding gown. Thankfully she already has the pattern laid out for my suit. We are still looking at fabrics and still need a good source for fur. I will be using Santa Craig's buttons for the suit and have decided to nix the fur down the front. I think it might be too much. The most difficult part will be the custom embroidery on the sleeves, shoulder and along the bottom hem of the coat. Hopefully this week I will get to go in for another fitting.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

I'm headed to Michigan next week and one of my first stops will of course be Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland! Sadly, Wally Bronner passed away this year. I had the distinct pleasure to meet Mr. Bronner this past October and I was honored when I was invited to the Silent Night Chapel where we sang Silent Night in the Chapel together.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Grow your own Christmas Tree!

There are only 209 days until Christmas, but you only need 12 hours to grow your very own Christmas Tree! I am not sure how it works exactly, but it looks pretty cool! The Magic Christmas Tree comes with a string of red beads, sparkles, and a gold star. Set the tree's trunk into the base, decorate, add the magic water and in 12 hours - viola! - a beautiful Christmas Tree! The same company makes a Magic Snowman too! Like the Magic Christmas Tree, growing the Magic Snowman is just as easy! I will have to get one of these for next year!

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Batphone or Santaphone?

I posted this on my personal site a few days ago. Jeff reminded me that this would look great on Santa's desk too! I think he is right! Anyone old enough to remember when you had to get your phone from the telephone company? I was thinking about that last night when I stumbled across a site that sells old phones. A few of the phones reminded me of the Batphone Adam West used. So then I started wondering if it would be possible to build you own Batphone. A quick search came up with this site with step-by-step instructions for building your very own Batphone! Complete with the glass dome and base! Build Your Own Batphone

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Back to work!

Well after a short stint of unemployment, I am now back to work. Actually my first day with my new company was the second week of March. But I have been so busy since then, that I havn't had much time to post or blog. Hopefully the travel will subside a bit soon.

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

 

Will work for cookies...

On January 2, my company informed us that they made a 'strategic' decision to move the business unit that I manage to another division within the company. Unfortunately, there was no room at the new division for most of the team including me. The company was nice enough to provide me with a decent severance package though. I only hope it is enough to get me through to securing a new position. So I am home now. I guess I will use my spare time to paint a few rooms in the house. Oh and I can finally get to reorganizing the file cabinet! And my CD collection is woefully in need of being alphabetized too. I stayed home with the kids today. They had the day off for MLK Day. I told them this morning that I lost my job and would be able to spend more time with them for a while. I've been sending out resumes and applying for jobs all morning. This afternoon I had a very cute conversation with my daughter. Dad? Yes? Did you find it yet? Find what? Your job. You said you lost it. Did you find it yet? Not yet. Oh. Then can I use the computer? Yep. Finally I can get a few things done around here! I wonder what color I should paint the hall?

Michael Rielly

Michael Rielly

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