‘Be prepared for the unexpected:’ Santa shares highlights of his job
If Santa Claus had to pick one word to describe what it’s like while on the job, it would be “adaptable,” he said.
“You have to be quick on your feet and have a ready answer to anything kids may say,” said Santa, in a recent interview while he was in Darien.
Santa took a walk down memory lane to Christmases of years past and recalled how much children’s requests have changed.
Forty years ago, all little girls wanted Barbie dolls and all little boys wanted erector sets and Lincoln Logs, Santa said.
Santa also experienced the Cabbage Patch kid and American Girl doll crazes.
“Now, it’s all electronics,” he said, sadly.
The youngest person Santa can remember sitting on his lap was three days old.
“They stopped by on their way home from Stamford Hospital where the baby was born,” Santa said. “The mother said ‘If I go home, there’s no chance I’m bringing this baby back out before Christmas and I want a picture of my newborn with Santa Claus.’”
The oldest person — to his knowledge — who wanted her picture taken with Santa, was a 92-year-old woman from a local nursing home.
As many as four people have sat on Santa’s lap at one time.
“About 15 years ago there was a set of quadruplets,” Santa said. “The family came each year until the kids were about 8 years old.”
He has also had three generations of family members sit on his lap.
“A grandmother told me she first sat here when she was 12,” Santa said. “When she got married and had kids, she brought her son to sit on my lap. He’s now married and has a son, and the three of them sat on my lap for a photo.”
While Santa said he has never been asked anything he couldn’t answer, there were many occasions where he had to think on his feet.
Questions he has been asked include: How old are you? How do the reindeer fly? And How did Rudolph’s nose get red?
Every once in a while, Santa said he gets a very sad request, such as to bring a loved one back from the dead.
“A little boy told him his uncle died last year and he’d really love him to come back for Christmas,” Santa said.
In response, Santa tells children when they’re opening their Christmas gifts, “they need to remember that uncle Tom is right near you, watching you,” Santa said. “He doesn’t physically have to be here to let you know that he’s sharing your happiness.”
On other occasions, Santa has found himself in the middle of a family dispute, when children tell him about their parent’s arguments.
“I tell them, ‘This is a normal part of life,” Santa said. “Mommy and daddy are still in love. An argument doesn’t change that.”
Sometimes, children ask Santa why they didn’t get what they asked him for last year.
“I tell them, ‘I was going to bring you gifts that I thought are appropriate and I just didn't think that gift was appropriate,’” he said.
“My job is to set the boundaries,” Santa added.
Santa said the outside world plays a very strong role in influencing children.
As an example, years ago, there was a highly played commercial about a family cell phone plan. At that time, a 5-year-old girl told Santa she wanted a cell phone.
Santa said to her, “You are 5 years old. What are you going to do with a cell phone?”
“Without a moment’s hesitation, the little girl said, ‘I will put it on the family plan,’” Santa said.
He added that cell phone calls interrupt a Santa visit “all the time.”
On another occasion, a 3-year-old girl sat on Santa’s lap “who had the most gorgeous blue eyes you ever saw. I asked her ‘Where did you get those beautiful blue eyes?’”
The girl told Santa, “Bloomingdales.”
Fifteen years ago, a little boy and his grandmother were waiting in line to see Santa. When it finally was their turn, the boy jumped on Santa’s lap and said that for Christmas he wanted a “Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock.”
The boy was reciting a famous line from 1983’s “A Christmas Story.”
“The grandma was appalled,” chuckled Santa, adding, “She hadn’t seen the movie.”
While Santa said he has had requests for guinea pigs, hamsters, dogs, horses, and even iguanas, occasionally, children will ask him for unusual “pets,” such as spiders.
“They are trying to get a rise out of me,” Santa said. “My job is to sit there and not get rattled.”
While he said he never had an issue with having a dog on his lap, he has had some negative experiences with cats over the years.
Most owners can control their dogs, and if they get frisky all I have to do is let go. Cats, on the other hand, will lash out with their claws,” he said. “Thankfully, I have never been seriously scratched but I have gotten my share of nicks. The biggest issue is trying not to get blood on the suit.”
When children tell Santa they don’t believe in him, he said he acknowledges their feelings.
“I tell them, ‘I can't make you believe in Santa Claus. I can tell you that there’s no magic involved in Christmas. What’s magical, though, is the feeling you get at Christmas time — it's entirely up to you if you choose not to enjoy that magical feeling.’”