Just got back from a lovely trip, travelling from my home in Saint Albans, West Virginia, across the state of Kentucky and to Santa Claus, Indiana. To me, this town is the cradle for most of what we as "modern" Santas do today. A good part of the protocols of being Santa began in that wonderful place.
As he has told me before in conversation, Phil Wenz reiterrated what could be referred to as "Yellig's Rules of Being Claus" to the attendees. For the sake of this entry I want to dwell on the first rule which is research. Santa Jim (as does Santa Phil now) believed in researching the character to know who you were portraying and why. You might call that mechanics. And indeed this does make sense.
Think of yourself, what do you know about yourself? Hopefully, a whole lot. You should be able to tell everyone all about yourself. Well, as we "become" Santa we should be able to do the same thing with him. In doing so we invite the children both young and old into the world of Santa, into a world that they will either believe in or will reject. I have witnessed too many Santas that have failed to bring realism to their role because of a lack of knowledge about Santa. Ultimately, as ambassadors to childhood and childlike faith we need to do the very best we can to instill belief and overall hope.
Maybe it was the atmosphere, maybe it was the presentation, or maybe it was the spirit of Santa Jim whispering in my ear the other day. The question kept coming to me, even though I have spent and continue to spend much of my free time learning about this person I become. Who is "my" Santa? How does my portrayal relate to that of Saint Nicholas? How does my portrayal relate to that of even Santa Jim or Charlie Howard? How does my portrayal connect with that of Santa Jay Long, my mentor Santa? I have thought hard about this, and I want to share with you what I have come up with so far.
The bond that connects my portrayal to theirs is first and foremost a love for others. A Santa has to first and foremost love others, children and adults. At the same time, my character portrayal is a mixture of the facts. I portray Santa in a spiritual way, honoring not only Nicholas but also Christ. I portray him as a humble toymaker, which is also something that does go back to Nicholas and other traditions. I picture and relate to him as a man who has travelled the world bringing joy and love, migrating from his home to the remote North where he can find solitude and peace. Are there really elves? Well, I like to call them helpers. What about reindeer? Not always does Santa use them. Do I know about where both of these come from? Yes, because I am Santa and I need to know. But in all things, I do my best to make him a living and breathing person for those who visit with me. And in all that I do or show, I make sure they feel the love that Santa has for them.
This is going to be a question that I truly ponder for a while. Very deeply. I think it is one that we all should ponder. Who is "your" Santa? And may we all grow and aid one another with our findings.