Of course Santa is there for the kids. He listens and visits with every kid of every size, shape and age. It’s just sometimes the kids are older than 30 and are over five feet tall. In this section I am going to talk about some of the things that I have seen and have been a part of. Some are stories about adults, the things that they have done and the conversations I have had with them. I have also thrown in a few cute stories about the kids, those less than 10.
Whenever I talk about adults, the first story I remember is the couple that came to see me while I was in California. He was 104 and she was 92. They had been married for 72 years and believe it or not they were both getting around on their own. An entourage of at least 30 family members came to see them sit on Santa’s lap. The whole session ended with them getting their picture made into 200 cards to send out for Christmas.
Ever town I have been in is totally different. Of course in Torrance, the Spanish and Mexican influence was very evident. Every Sunday definitely had an extended family atmosphere. Parents would dress the little girls in some of the most amazing dresses I have ever seen. I was told that some of these dresses came out only for pictures with Santa or very special occasions and have been handed down for generations. And with extended families came multiple family pictures, these two with this one then this and that one, next add another two others. I got dizzy just thinking about the combinations. But I can’t leave Torrance without talking about the number of twins and triplets I saw. I had 95 sets of twins and 12 sets of triplets on my lap during the season. After one day with about 6 sets of twins and some triplets, I asked if there was something in the water to cause all these births. One quick mom said that there had to be and it had them all going to fertility doctors of which I counted 3 offices in walking distance of the mall. It certainly seemed that many of the women I saw were pregnant.
Omaha was of course very Midwestern. I was brought to the mall in a fire truck and escorted in by the kids from a dance studio and then sat on a bed reading “The Night Before Christmas” while all the kids had cookies and milk. My stay there was pretty normal over all but I will remember the mom doing the chicken dance in front of me trying to get her child to smile. While I saw many international people in both Torrance and Orlando as one would expect, Omaha we distinctively different. Omaha did yield some of the most unusual requests, many which I reported about in the previous chapter. I also got lots of food treats while I was there. But there was one over riding memory from Omaha. Very early in December there was a shooting in a sister mall. A young man entered the Van Maur department store and shot it up, killing a number of people before taking his own life. The first body was less than 100 feet from the Santa set. Luckily all of this happened during his lunch break and there was no one on the set. It certainly put a damper on the season.
Orlando was very different. With so many theme parks, I saw many international visitors. In fact I was able to document visitors from 68 different countries. With so many different countries come many different traditions. Father Christmas, Sinter Klaus, Papa Noel and many others were all represented by the many different traditions I heard about. The single story I like the most came from a family from Aruba. Aruba is of Dutch heritage and the Santa of the Dutch is Sinter Klaus. The tradition is that Sinter Klaus comes twice, once at Christmas and once earlier at the beginning of December when he comes by boat from Spain and brings all of the children back he took away the previous Christmas for misbehaving. The family from Aruba had two children about five and seven, both at an age that children are not afraid of Santa, but neither would come close to me since they were afraid that I would take them away. Of course the parents were really getting into the whole scene talking about how bad they had been.
Orlando certainly had a bunch of colorful characters. The 50+ year old woman who sat on my lap to get a picture that she was going to send to her ex husband showing off the other man in her life. Another 50+ woman who brought her 80 year old mom to get pictures and bought a bunch of them because she was planning to sell them to her siblings at a premium price since mom never has her picture taken. Santa wanted his cut of the action. HO HO HO. Then there were the pirates. Actually they were actors from the local dinner theater and were promoting their Christmas??? show. Hmmm I have not quite figured that one out, pirates and Christmas. I also had a young family standing in line for a visit, young son, dad and a pregnant mom. At some point dad gets very anxious wanting the line to hurry. It seems they had come to get a picture taken of their son with Santa on the way to the hospital. Yes, mom was in labor. I think that would have been a first, Santa actually delivering a baby. I also saw my youngest child. The family was on their way home from the hospital. Santa was also visited by M & M’s everyday. The set was partially sponsored by the M & M World store, so everyday there was at least one M & M around the set. Yes a store call M & M World where they sold everything to do with the candy, including toys, ornaments, clothing and of course the candy. You could get any color and flavor of m & m’s. Orlando also gave Santa his first opportunity for surfing. There is a store that has an indoor surfing pool and Santa got to try it out one night. We had quite a crowd watching Santa get very wet.
Well these are just some of the stories that have brought a chuckle to Santa over the years. I think the next chapter will be some of those stories that will bring a tear to your eye.
Remember to keep the Spirit of Christmas alive in your heart all year long.