An interview with Santa Claus: His best, worst moments, unusual gift requests, what makes a good Christmas
BY BRAVETTA HASSELL World Scene Writer
Sunday, November 25, 2012
11/25/12 at 4:35 AM
It was like something out of "The Polar Express." No one was wearing Christmasy clothes or singing "Joy to The World" in unison, but the sense, the feeling, the energy of anticipation was unmistakable.
Saint Nicholas. Kris Kringle. Father Christmas. The manifestation of childhood wonderment all wrapped up in a soft red suit with white trim and a black belt named Santa Claus was on his way again.
The reporters and cameras had come. A community group made a cultural presentation. Local mascots did elastic dances, and a high school drumline almost stole the show.
Break out the fanfare - Santa Claus was coming to town.
Ahead of Santa's big debut at Tulsa Promenade, he sat down with the Tulsa World to answer some questions about, well, being Santa. About the moments he looks forward to every holiday season, what makes him smile, what surprises him and even what has broken his heart.
A little girl called Santa "Mr. Christmas" during what he said was his most tear-jerking experience.
"I heard this 'Hello Mr. Christmas!' way off," said Santa - called "Santa Pete" by Promenade staff. "And I started looking and I couldn't see anything and it got closer and closer and pretty soon I went 'Ho, Ho, Hello!' and she got closer and got up to the line, and we were talking while she was out there, and she kept calling me Mr. Christmas, and her dad took her by the arm and drug her off."
The scene broke Santa's heart.
"She was so excited to see me, and he wouldn't let her see me."
Well, what about the good days? What is the sweetest thing a child has ever told you?
Probably "I love you." Just give you a hug around the neck.
What is the most unusual gift you've been asked for?
I had a little 8-year-old girl ask for a 20-gauge shotgun to go hunting, and she came back the next year and gave me a big hug and thanked me. And she wanted a four-wheeler, so I'm looking forward to seeing if she got a four-wheeler this year.
Others, I don't know if you can call them unusual, but you can call them tear-jerking.
The kids asking for their parents to quit fighting, their mommy to quit having so many men come over, for mom and dad to get back together, and then probably the biggest one is for their dad or mom to come back home from Iraq or Afghanistan. Kids that have parents that are overseas like that usually ask for a safe return.
And some kids just ask for a good year.
Come Christmas Eve, Christmas morning, is there a certain type of cookie you love to see there waiting for you with a glass of milk?
What are you getting Mrs. Claus this Christmas?
Probably one of her favorite books she wants to read. And for me to take her on a fishing trip. She likes to fish more than I do. She actually catches 'em. I just fish, I don't care if I catch them or not.
What do you do during the spring and summer?
I've had several hobbies. I made rocking horses for a while and am still in the process of making them but just haven't made any lately. I inherited a pontoon boat, so I'm fishing a lot now.
Is there a naughty and nice list?
Santa doesn't answer this. Instead he cuts his eyes and purses his lips some.
That's my secret, he says. No. Most kids never get on the naughty list. That's just scare tactics. Parents. With Santa Claus, there's no naughty or nice.
This year, Santa arrived by helicopter, descending near El Chico's at Tulsa Promenade mall.
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and the rest of them were back in the North Pole - a befuddlement for little Brooklyn Smith of Broken Arrow. Santa, after all, comes on a sleigh, her mother Tamara explained over the rat-a-tat of the snare drums seemingly summoning Santa straight from the sky.
"But she's very excited," Tamara added with a smile.
The street entertainment continued, and clowns in minstrel hats who were easily frightening teetered over to a family with a lot of kids all seemingly under the age of 5. The littlest of them, in Velcro Smurf shoes, ran behind a woman for cover, periodically peeking at the clowns from around her legs. Would he run away from Santa, too?
What do you do when children ask if you're real?
I say "Well sure, pull my beard." Other than pulling the beard, that usually convinces them that I am real. Most don't ask. They're just so overjoyed, scared to death, one or the other.
What words do you want to leave with children you might not get to say everything to in the span of a quick Christmas picture?
I just try to get them to be more loving and more family-oriented.
And then you have kids that have never believed in Santa Claus because their parents have told them there is no Santa Claus, that they are Santa Claus. You tell them that it's the spirit of Christmas that really counts.
It's not just Santa Claus but the spirit of giving, the spirit of loving, being good, you don't worry about trying to convince them that there is a Santa Claus. I don't anyway. It's how you feel in your heart. You wanna have it all year.
A building engineer arrived a few beats after Santa said this to take him to meet his helicopter.
Having walked to the end of the mall's underground, the engineer tells us our time is up. Santa is taken through a separate exit - not to be seen again until his grand arrival.
It's Santa time.
Original Print Headline: An interview with Santa
Bravetta Hassell 918-581-8316
Santa greets Krissa Cato, 3, from Tulsa and her father, Greg Cato, while on a walking parade through Tulsa Promenade mall. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Santa arrives at Tulsa Promenade mall via a helicopter piloted by Matthew Merrell. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Santa greets fans on a walking parade through Tulsa Promenade. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World