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The Santa Clause
When I was a young lad, I did what most kids did to see Santa. We took a trip to the mall on the weekend and waited in line for hours for shopping mall Santa to give us 60-seconds to ask us if we have been naughty or nice and what we wanted for the year. How gullible could I have been as a kid? Santa sitting at a mall in a Chicago suburb area from 10am-5pm 7 days a week starting Black Friday and ending on Christmas Eve? Plus, reindeer to be seen and how did one of my friend’s older sister get a job as one of Santa’s elves? I couldn’t believe I fell for it until my early teens.
Fast forward to becoming a father at the ripe age of 25. I never wanted to have my kids start to worship Bad Santa at the mall so I made a decision: Santa was going to come to our house every year and give my kids their gifts on Christmas day and they would see him every year without exception. How the heck was I going to pull that off? The only way it was going to happen was simple: I needed to play the role of Santa and my kids could not know it was me.
Plan of Attack– There were many components of this that needed to be well thought out and planned:
The Suit– I went out and bought a professional Santa suit and all the accessories I needed. Santa’s tailor cost over $500 ( a few times over the years) to look the part.
Christmas Eve Preparation– All the attention was on the little details.
- “Santa wrapping” – wrap the gifts from Santa and get them in my white Santa sack
- Santa’s snack- a plate of cookies with a few of them ½ eaten and half a glass of milk. I could not forget the carrots for the reindeer. I hated taking a bite out of the raw carrot.
- Have a camera set up downstairs on the tripod and get ready for filming Santa’s visit.
- Get the family room very dark and only use the Christmas lights on the entree to light the room.
- Kids Pregaming- get my sugar-high kids in bed by 9 pm on Christmas Eve because it would take them at least 2 hours to settle down and get to sleep.
The Wait– I need the children asleep at least 90 minutes before Santa made an appearance; I need them groggy and half asleep to see Santa. This time was when my stress level kicked in and Santa needed a stiff drink. Here is the point I started to obsess, “What if they find out it’s me? What if they blurted out, “Dad, it’s you!”. Looking back, these were the most stressful moments every year for me, going back and forth wondering if they were too old for this and questioning if it was time for me to hang up my Santa suit.
Dress and Prep -This took at least 30 minutes and I needed to get into the part. I would practice my Santa voice for weeks leading up to the night. I also needed to plan my exit and how Santa would leave the house and Dad would enter the room within 90 seconds. This took a lot of planning and creativity all the while Dad was nowhere to be found. Superman and Clark Kent were my inspiration that could do this.
The Wake Up– The scene was set. Santa would run up the stairs with his bells jingling and yelling “Ho Ho Ho, MERRY CHRISTMAS” . I would wake the children up and get them downstairs while mom was filming and taking photos. I would get them on my lap all together and do everything possible to look at them in the face for too long. They are getting their gifts and I am freaking out because this could be the year I am discovered. The visits were never more than 3-4 minutes. I asked the questions, “Were you a good boy or girl this year? Here is a little present for you to open. Remember, be good to mommy and daddy this year. I also used this time to reinforce some themes that mom and dad had been telling them all year long like “pick up your room. “Ho Ho Ho, Santa has to go. The kids of the world are waiting for me. See you next year.”
Exit stage left– Now the fun part. Out the front door and through the garage side door. Strip off the Santa suit and throw it into the trunk and Dad’s clothes were always under the suit. There was a hot cloth waiting for me to take off my makeup. I put on a winter coat and cap and would walk in with a plastic bag of groceries. The kids are asking by then, “Where is Dad.”, and I stroll in asking what’s going on. “DADDY, you missed Santa again! Where were you?” The excuse was typically Daddy had to go to the store or was on a walk and missed it.
As the older children got older, they loved planning it all for their younger siblings. One year, there were questions about why I was always out getting groceries or taking a late-night walk when Santa made his appearance and I knew that I needed to get more creative. After the exit stage.
Left, I ran around the back of the house where I had a ladder waiting to climb near the 2nd-floor master bathroom. I crawled in the window (almost falling off the ladder on the way up), pushed the ladder off the house, window and blinds closed, stripped down and put clothes into the vanity, jumped into the hot shower that had been running for 10 minutes waiting for me. By then the kids were knocking at the bathroom door calling my name. I would throw the bathrobe on and the door opened with me soaking wet saying, “Oh my God, did dad miss Santa Clause again?”
These years for me were the most special moments of my holidays with my kids that I will never forget. They are believers and I had my part to play and helped them with that.
I hung up my Santa suit in 2014 when Matthew was 8 years old. I am going into Christmas 2022 as a Grandfather for the first time. It wouldn’t take much for me to put on my Santa suit and come out of retirement for my grandchildren with only one exception: I don’t do ladders anymore.
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