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Mistletoe Musings - The Sacred Nature of Santa Claus

John Johnson

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I usually wait quite a while before posting to my blog. But this subject is one that I find myself constantly thinking of these days and I feel that it is important to get my thoughts across. If they can be a provoker of thought, then please read on. I hope you leave this entry with a deeper perspective and appreciation for the subject matter.

Since the days when a man named Nicholas of Myra walked upon this Earth there has existed a sacred nature to the role of Santa Claus. That bond has been the bedrock foundation for not only the connection of Santa Claus to Christmas but also to the hearts and imaginations of children. You see, children share with Santa Claus their faith, hope, and trust wrapped up in their innermost wishes and needs. To some children, Santa represents someone who loves them and will never judge them. To some he might be the only ear that listens to them. The Santa/child bond is a precious one. Santa is not a childhood celebrity. In fact, he is a childhood servant.

Saint Nicholas had a very special bond that brought out the very best in him - a relationship with Jesus Christ. He understood the importance of the Gift that God had freely given and of what it means to be connected with that Gift. Like it or not, that bond is a part of the Santa of today as well. We cannot ignore the significance of the past. Perhaps this message does not enter in to your mind or portrayal as Santa. I use it to illustrate the roots of the character. Saint Nicholas, out of faith, sowed seeds of faith in everything he did. When we decide to take up his mantle, we declare that we are going to do the same. We agree to portray this man in a manner that respects the bond that he created, likewise sowing the seeds that he sowed of faith and hope. With his fully anonymous gift giving, Saint Nicholas truly set a standard that we need to return to today.

For 170 plus years the anonymity of the man in the red suit was preserved, becoming a standard. Over the past few decades many have come to the role that have precipitated a shift in the focus of the role. Other priorities, agendas, and philosophies have been brought in to suggest that Santa is an amalgamation of many different things. These have touted him as a mythical creation, even though historical fact proves otherwise. He is declared secular and is further distorted in image and meaning. But none of those who think this way can dispute the bond that Santa has with children, no matter how hard they try. It is emotional, it is spiritual, and thus it is sacred. It is an echo to the true vine of Saint Nicholas, the Wonderworker.

Now, I ask you, why would anyone wish to tarnish this beloved figure? Why would anyone dare to desecrate something so sacred to the hearts of children? Has it become a trend? What causes this? Money? Fame? Greed? It is all these things and a lot more. Perhaps in some ways we, the portrayers, have brought it on by making it more than a calling and simple vocation. It is not wrong to make money on Santa as a worker is worthy of his hire. But the motives behind the thing are, in the words of Shakespeare, the rub. Though we are merely actors portraying the part, we each are entrusted with the preserving of that sacred nature. When you look like Santa, when you purposely go out of your way to draw attention to that fact, you are doubly so!

As an actor, I have learned many things that have helped me to be Santa. One important lesson is that when the curtain comes down you must return to yourself. Put the character aside and be yourself. It becomes terribly troublesome to maintain a character when you are not required to perform. Charles W. Howard, our legendary educational leader, made a full distinction between self and Santa. As did Jim Yellig, who when not in the suit maintained a post as commander of the American Legion and was a tavern owner. Look at the man who spends more days in the suit than any other man living that portrays Santa Claus, Phil Wenz - he completely separates the hustle and bustle of Santa's Village to be just himself. Take off the costume (both inner and outer) until the next performance. Actors have suffered terrible mental illness for not allowing themselves to do this. That said, I have never played a part that didn't leave something with me. In portraying a character like Santa you don't have to maintain the role 24/7/365 to be enriched. I have learned that you don't need to look the part and dress the part all the time to BE Santa. To be Santa you need to give! And I think that that again speaks to the sacred nature of Santa - he continues to instruct.

Over the past many years we have seen quite a bit in our Santa community. The fact that we can still come together as a brotherhood and sisterhood is a testament to the sacred nature of Santa Claus. Would some of the things that have happened never have happened had some taken off the suit? That is for you to ponder and decide. I am in no way degrading anyone for the choices they make. But I am asking you to consider being yourself. When you make an opinion or an action that is not Santa like while you are clearly identifying yourself as Santa Claus, then you must be ready to deal with it. The eyes of children of all ages are ever upon you, as are those of the brotherhood that you represent. We all are looking at you to be your best while carrying the image of Santa Claus. But remember, an officer that wears his badge is on duty. When off duty he takes it off and goes about his life. Santa should be the same way. In both ways, the role is preserved and respected. Both have a sacred duty.

With this said, I want to encourage everyone to really think about the calling and vocation of Santa Claus. Think about your place in it. There are children that identify you as this iconic figure of Santa Claus. They share their innermost selves with you. Perhaps they see you outside of the Season in your red shirt and white beard. They immediately recognize you as you as their Santa (yes, you belong to them now). They don't know you as you, they only know Santa. You have made a sacred bond. You have become a memory that can bring joy or hurt. What will your next action bring? I hope that you will ponder this and truly will make a stand for keeping this bond of Santa Claus with the children sacred.

Food For thought. Think of what Phil always says. "There is no I or E,G, or O in the word Santa Claus. There is no room for I or EGO in Santa Claus. But there is an US, and it takes all of us to make Santa Claus."

"What Matters"

One hundred years from now, it will not matter....

What kind of beard you had, designer or real...

What kind of suit you wore, velvet or wool...

How much money you charged or if you charged at all....

Nor the events you appeared..

Or what group you belonged....

What matters is ...

That you played Santa with honesty and integrity.....

You shared with your peers to help foster fellowship..

Your conduct exhibited was worthy of Santa...

But most importantly what matters....

Knowing that you are blessed to have the opportunity....

to make the world be a little brighter and better because....

As Santa, you were important in the life of a child.

Poem Copyrighted Santa Claus Oath Foundation

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Santa TJS

Posted

None of us are Santa, we portray him.we strive to make happy memories and spread the reason for the season.you take on Santa as a role during the Christmas season or in an event or situation that is related to the Christmas theme. Beyond that you are an individual private person and should remain so.

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Guest SantaMick

Posted

Well stated.Thanks for sharing your feelings and knowledge.

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Michael Rielly

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Just reading this again. The more I think about this the more I think some people just don't get it.

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Chris Capstone

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Another A+ blog post! Great thesis and well written. This one is getting printed out and filed in my hard copy file with the other one. (You know the one I'm talking about John.)

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KKringle

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I never comment much on things in the Gazette, but this piece hit the nail on the head for me.  A few years ago, I was so submerged in my Santa Claus life that it nearly isolated me from the world and so much more.  Today, I have to separate the two. Portraying Santa is a huge part of me, but it is also the reason I choose to be traditionally bearded. I need to be Kevin and bale to make mistakes from time to time without being in the spotlight.  I have always felt that being Santa was in the heart and that it was in the example of giving..., not just in the suit or beard.  Thank You for publishing this piece.

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