Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My Dad is Santa Claus

No, really! It's true...

From the MN Sun:

Santa Clauses gather at Eden Prairie home to share fellowship, stories
By Lyn Jerde\Sun Newspapers
(Created: Thursday, September 22, 2005 1:23 PM CDT)

Approximately 25 white-bearded men gathered around a backyard pool in Eden Prairie last week for the semi-annual meeting of Minnesota and Wisconsin Santa Clauses. There were no sleighs parked on the street, no reindeer grazing on the lawn. But anyone looking for the semi-annual meeting of Minnesota and Wisconsin Santa Clauses Sept. 17 in Eden Prairie knew they were in the right place by the giant candy canes lining the driveway and the sign on the house declaring "Santa Stops Here."

The approximately 25 white-bearded men gathered around the backyard pool (at least one of whom wore red velvet-like shorts) put to rest any doubt that those seeking Santa Claus had come to the right place.

So, what do Santas talk about when they get together?"

Who's been naughty and who's been nice," said one Kris Kringle.

"Where to buy red cloth," said another.

"Where to get cheap toys and candy," said another.

"The kids," said several.

Sid Fletcher of Eden Prairie (who claims Sid stands for "Santa in disguise") played host at the gathering, where most of the guests greeted each other, and identified themselves, only by Santa and a first name. They compared scrapbooks, swapped stories and shared beard-care tips.

One of the two Santa Dans at the gathering - who's from Champlin, and who works mostly at private residences - said his wife insists that he chop off his extra hair after Christmas. "She sent me to a barber the first week in January," he recalled. "So I went to the barber and I got my hair cut short, but I couldn't part with the beard." Fleming's hair and beard are naturally curly and white, but during the holiday season, the beard is curled daily with hot rollers before he assumes his throne at the Mall of America.

Santa Elmer - also known as Elmer Abbas of Buffalo - said he typically trims down his beard after Christmas, but stops shaving after Father's Day each year." If I don't trim the beard," he said, "the kids think I look like a homeless man." But there's more involved in being Santa Claus than stuffing a red suit and donning a red hat. Whether it's coaxing a smile from a tearful 2-year-old or answering a smart-aleck question from a youngster who's just old enough to wonder whether Santa is real or fake, the Santas said they have to be prepared for anything.

Santa Dan said he has a standard answer: "Christmas Eve is magic."When children ask him, "May I see your reindeer?" or "Can your reindeer fly today?", Santa Dan responds, "Ho, ho, ho! Reindeer can only fly on Christmas Eve, because it's magical. For the rest of the year, Santa has to get around the same way everybody else does."

Santa Elmer said he tries to leave open the possibilities of magic. For example, the child who wants to see reindeer might be told, "Maybe you'll see them on your way out."And, for those who wonder why every store and shopping center has a different Santa, the Santa Elmer answer is, "Sometimes Santa is in a hurry" or "Santa can change his appearance."

For the quintessential question - how can such a chubby guy get down a skinny chimney? - Santa Dan resorts his standby answer."I tell them Santa can get into all types of houses," he said. "Christmas Eve is magic, and I can get down any chimney, whether it's 2 inches or 4 feet wide."

Sometimes, there are moments that can make Santa start to cry. All the Santas said they hear requests to heal loved ones who are sick, or to bring back daddies who are no longer living at home. What a Santa can say in such situations, Santa Elmer said, depends on where he's working. Some shopping centers caution Santas against making religious references of any kind. But if he's working somewhere other than a store or mall, Santa Elmer can, and does, say, "Santa will say a prayer for you."

Not all the hard questions are sad.The Santas have heard from pre-teen girls who ask for a boyfriend, pre-teen boys who want a car, or kids who want Santa to bring them a puppy or kitten. For the latter request, Santa Dan might say, "Oh, I don't know. A little puppy might be afraid riding in my sleigh." Santa Carlucci, who's based in Bloomington and works at a lot of hospitals, said he's had some choked-up moments. Once, he saw a little girl peeking around the corner, who wouldn't respond to his invitation: "Come on over. Santa's got something for you."As he was about to leave, he saw the little girl once more, and asked her, "Why didn't you come to see me?"Leaning against the wall on one leg - the other had been amputated - she replied, "Because I haven't gotten my new leg yet."

All of the Santas at the get-together were what Fletcher calls "natural Santas" - who have the white beard and hair (and usually, but not always, the paunch) to look the part no matter what they're wearing. All the Santas looked the part, though some wore shorts and summer shirts (albeit with prints of wreathes and snowmen) and others wore T-shirts with occupational slogans.Two of the Santas wore identical T-shirts, touting the four stages of Santa: Believing in Santa, suspecting Santa is a fake, dressing like Santa and looking like Santa. Fletcher is, and has been for a long time, at the final stage. He looks so much like Santa that he and his wife, Mollie, dress as Santa and Mrs. Claus every year for their own Christmas card portraits. And, he's home for the holidays year-round, with a Santa-themed toilet seat cover in the bathroom, a red-and-green holiday-theme quilt on the bed and a lighted tree in the bedroom. Mollie Fletcher said the tree's decorations come from the kids who visit Santa at the Mall of America - kid-made ornaments on the branches, plush reindeer and snowman toys beneath the tree.When the Fletchers put up their seasonal holiday tree in December, they decorate it partly with pacifiers. Mollie Fletcher said at least five youngsters give Santa their pacifiers every year - ostensibly because they've outgrown them and want Santa to pass them on to younger children who need them. All the "natural Santas" said they experience Christmas year-round, too, whenever they go to a restaurant and some child excitedly points them out."You live being Santa Claus," Fletcher said. "When you look like this, it's 365 days a year. I'll be in a restaurant, and kids will come up to me and tell me they've been good.""Well," said Mollie Fletcher, "you guys have that glimmer in your eyes. The kids can see that it's really Santa Claus, even if the parents ignore it."

1 comment:

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