COLLINGWOOD – Every Santa has a beginning
© Christopher Goooding file photo
There’s an undeniable magic that takes place when Santa Claus lends his ear to a child’s hopes for Christmas and the story of how one local Father Christmas came to be is full of equal wonder.
Whether it’s British folklore, Germanic, from the Netherlands or even a nod to 19th century North American, there’s a story behind how Santa became Santa.
For one Artful character, who hasn’t ruled out Brown as a favourite colour, the backstory of how he became Santa began with learning at a very young age what some grown ups might think true about behind the scenes to the season.
“It goes back to when I was young and asked, and was told it wasn’t a person, it was the spirit of giving. When I had that ripped out of me, I wasn’t going to tell anybody.”
Instead, as each December approached, he became a defender of Santa Claus, braving his peers to preserve innocence.
“I was literally pretty well in fistfights with friends of mine who were trying to tell a little guy Santa didn’t exist and I’d be arguing there was. That was when I was in school.”
In his adult years, admittedly, there were times he didn’t look forward to the season and wished he could skip over it. But as he got older things were getting better. Then, as he grew closer to retirement, his coworkers started taking notice he was beginning to look like Santa Claus. Maybe holiday magic was being channeled through him as a reward for his young oath to protect the preciousness of Santa Claus for the children. Maybe it was just age and his genetics. Regardless, something was happening that was sending him towards a destination he had not considered, but it was inevitable some one would ask if he would, indeed, be Santa.
“The first time I was asked, it was for the Legion in Springhill to go to the schools. And then they said, “Geez. You’re so far ahead of what we had. You talked to every kid and still got us out in time.
“After I did the schools I thought maybe I should do this. And if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it right.”
He went to work creating his suit. A proper Santa suit is not only a comfortable uniform that helps him stand out in a crowd, it’s sometimes his first-line of defense in presenting and protecting the magic of Santa Claus. It only takes a few words – especially “not” and “real” – to shatter a magical feeling in a little one and automatically land the bearer of bad intentions on the naughty list. A strong brass buckle on his homemade leather belt, proper foot wear and the right shade of red with white trim goes a long way to harness a fleeting feeling and bring it back to a child.
‘A person is a kid for only a short time. Let them have it.’ Santa Claus
“I’ve turned a lot of them around. Sometimes it’s just my way of coming across. Sometimes it can even be asking ‘Are you sure? I have to know, because when I take you off my list I don’t put you back on and you’ll never get another gift from me.’ And they get looking at me and see that I’m serious and they get thinking.”
When they look and see his beard is in fact white, they start to question their doubts. When he removes his cap and reveals his locks are naturally white, it’s another step towards dissuading doubt and Santa certainly enjoys the role.
“A person is a kid for only a short time. Let them have it. If they can make it to 12 years old, marvelous. If they can make it to 13, even better.”
Outside of the holidays, the man we know as Santa Claus has to take extra steps to keep his identity a secret. While he can pass comfortably amongst the adults of the world often unnoticed, he can’t fool a child.
“If I’m walking through a mall or a grocery store there are people looking, and I know they’re looking, and the kids are talking and you can hear them under their breath ‘It’s him.’ Sometimes, depending on the situation, if there were a group of grown ups sitting with a child and the child noticed, on the way out I would come by and say ‘Excuse me. I can fool the adults but I can’t fool the kids,’ and put my card down.”
That’s right. A genuine Santa Claus business card, personalized with his picture on it.
It’s a pretty handy thing to have and almost as if on cue as the interview came to a close, two grown women approached with wide eyes and smiles of wonder, and a short quick question they may have not thought about since their childhood until now: “Are you the real Santa Claus?”
With a smile and a wink, he handed them a business card.