Q&A: Santa Claus
● By J. Chambless
If you think you've had a busy holiday season, just imagine how Santa Claus feels.
Earlier this month, we had a quick conversation with him while he was taking a quick cocoa break at his home near the North Pole. It was, he said, a chance to put his feet up and talk about how he gets ready for Christmas day each year. He couldn't remember how long he's been making his epic trips around the world, but chuckled and admitted, "It's been a mighty long time."
First of all, do you mind being called Santa, and not Mr. Claus?
Oh please, call me Santa. That's what the wife calls me. Mr. Claus makes me sound so formal. Around here, all my elves call me Mr. C., but they know I'm not really a tough boss. After all, I give them nine months of vacation every year.
Nine months? So you gear up for Christmas in about three months?
Yep, that's about right. Of course, I keep an eye on things all year long, but the really busy production season is about three months. After Christmas Eve, it's time to kick back and relax. And believe me, we need it. The lists seem to get more complicated every year!
Do you miss the days when a child's list might include just a doll, or a sled, or some candy?
Oh, yes. Things used to be much easier. People seem to have gotten the idea that Christmas is about getting much more than they can actually use. The funny thing is, children who get maybe one or two things appreciate what they have so much more. I hear from parents that their children just go blank after 10 presents or so, and sometimes they don't even play with the presents they do get, because they have so much!
That's a problem, certainly. Speaking of Christmas lists, there are lots of ways for children to get them to you. What's the best way?
I do have a lot of delivery systems. I take lots of emails these days, which is fine. But I kind of prefer the old way, when a child takes a pen and paper and thinks about each item. Some of the handwriting is hard to decipher, but I have a few helpers up here who specialize in figuring out what every child is trying to say. And spelling definitely does not count, by the way. Sincerity, does count.
So how have you and the team adapted to getting high-tech gifts delivered?
Oh, I have my connections (laughing). In the old days, we could make most of the toys right here in the shops. That's back when toys were made of wood, or simple materials. We used to have a whole factory that turned out things like dolls and train sets and sleds. But as things got more complicated, we've had to look farther afield. If we can get a gift up here, we can get it delivered on Christmas Eve. That's the magic part that nobody else can do!
Of all the movies and TV shows that have been made about you, which ones are the most accurate?
Well, I do enjoy watching those -- most of them, anyway. Some of them are, shall we say, a little silly. I do have a team of reindeer, and elves, and a sleigh that uses quite a bit of Christmas magic. But let's just say that parts of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" are purely fictional (laughing).
Your name gets used an awful lot in advertisements this time of year, and you get blamed for making kids hyper. How do you answer critics who say you've become a symbol of greed?
Hmm. What I like to say is that Santa is a symbol of giving. I'm a way for people all over the world to put a face on the spirit of Christmas. I'm much more than a gift-giving machine, you know. I represent the real gift of the season, which I think we all know about. There's a lot of talk about believing at this time of year. And that's what Christmas is about, really. Believing in me, and believing in things a little bit bigger than me. And I'm not to blame if people get a little excited about that! I get excited at Christmas time, too.
Thanks. That's a nice way of putting it. OK, some quick questions. What's your favorite snack?
I'd have to say that any kind of cookie with chocolate in it is my favorite! But if children would leave out some chips and pretzels, that would be a welcome break. I do eat an awful lot of sweets on Christmas Eve!
Do you really know if kids are sleeping?
Oh yes. We have ways of finding that out.
Do you ever give coal to naughty children?
There are no naughty children. Just some who have made some mistakes and need another chance, that's all.
How does the sleigh get around the world in one night?
That's a trade secret.
So you are the one and only Santa? What about all the Santas we see this time of year?
They're my helpers, just like the elves are my helpers. It's a big job, and Santa needs a little assistance, you know.
Do you ever do a little freelance delivering? Say, if a child doesn't get a list to you, but you still know what they want?
Yes, I can't help myself. Sometimes I do come through with a little Christmas miracle of my own. But don't tell anybody!
Do you know what I want for Christmas?
Have you told me?
Well, I'm a bit too old to make a Christmas wish list.
Listen, you are never too old to believe. That's been true for as long as I've been Santa. And long before that.
So what do I want?
Hmm. I'd say you'll get exactly what you want this year. How about that for an answer?
That's perfect. Thank you, Santa.
And thank you. I'll be seeing you on Dec. 24. But remember to be good all year, you hear?
Oh, I will. Merry Christmas, Santa.
And merry Christmas to you, too.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.