You really do look like Santa! It’s enough to make me believe….
When Santa Clause becomes real to those kids, that’s when it’s special. I’d always put a little rouge on my cheeks and my nose, grow my beard long, and even whiten it a little more. Of course, I always told them they could pull my beard.
What does Santa Clause represent for you?
Santa is about satisfying the children, bringing them the spirit of happiness and joy and togetherness. Christmas really is everybody’s holiday. I love Christmas and Chanukah, even though I’m closer to being an Atheist than anyone I know. Hang on—my cat just hopped up on my lap to join in the conversation.
Well, at least there’s someone who’s happy that you’re stuck at home this year!
Yes, I was in the hospital for surgery and rehab for quite a while, and now that I’m home, Buddy doesn’t leave my side.
What’s your favorite part of being Santa?
Definitely the children’s reactions, the questions they ask me, how they respond. It’s actually changed over time, though. It used to be that children came and sat on my lap, and I’d talk to them, and they’d tell me what they wanted. It was very sweet. Over the past few years, though, parents have started literally throwing the kids on my lap, taking a picture, and that was it. Take a picture and go. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the kids, and that was my favorite part.
Shame on those parents! Will you instate a new policy next year? Must talk to Santa?
I don’t have that authority—the park has to decide. I think what happened was they got so many people that they had to put a tent up and get half a dozen people to control the line, so I don’t’ know if there will ever be time to really sit and talk to them like I used to again.
Have you always really loved kids?
Tell me about the yarmulke under the Santa hat.
I don’t normally wear a yarmulke, but I put it on underneath the hat. Jewish kids would come to see me, and I would say, “Santa’s not just Catholic, he’s Jewish, too.” It was important for me to make that connection, because, from the time I was a kid and even now, there’s always been jealousy that other kids have Christmas.
Has it ever caused any sort of controversy?
Never raised any eyebrows at all.
How do you feel about having to miss it this year?
Terrible. I loved meeting the children, and it was such a happy event. I feel very sad that I physically can’t do it and wish I had the ability to be there this year. There’s emptiness in the pit of my stomach because I can’t be there for the kids. I truly miss it.
So you definitely expect to be back next year?
I certainly do! My Santa suit is waiting for me. I was hoping to go for ten straight years, but this year broke my streak. Hopefully, I’ll be able to continue on until I hit 20 years of doing it.
Maybe you won’t have to wait a whole year—have you thought about becoming an Easter/Passover bunny?
Maybe, but I’m not a good hopper.
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