Sorry I am late with this – I’ve been busy! Read on (flashback column from two years ago -seems even more timely now!)
I am just about to finish another season of the best job in the world: Playing Santa for our town. Martinez has a little red house they put on the square off Main Street for a most of each December, and hundreds of children come through there each winter to see Santa. I’ve lived in Martinez for about a decade and for most of that time, another gentleman was the town’s Santa, and I think he did a fine job.
Last year, however, he had a chance to make better money being Santa for a large mall, and the Martinez job opened up and it was offered to me.
Being a sturdily-built, avuncular white bearded guy for some years, I have done Santa duty for quite a while, but only on a few occasions each year, and I really like doing it. I like kids, and I have always liked the cultural myth of Santa. I think kids have a right to perceive their world in a wholly positive, supporting view, for as long as it’s possible, and Santa embodies that principle, and ties to a sense of right and wrong, or at least naughty or nice.
Going from a routine of 4 or 5 one-hour Santa gigs to 70 hours in a month was a shock. Wearing a velvet, fur-trimmed “fat suit” for 8 hours in a day and hoisting up to 200 kids a day onto my lap and coaxing them into being calm, telling me what they want to for Christmas, while smiling sweetly at a camera (and getting them to smile at a camera), is hard, physically demanding work.
But it is also very fulfilling work. The energy, innocence and sweetness of children is simply astonishing, and never fails to impress me. I would not characterize any of the 2000 or so kids that I have spoke with as “bad” or greedy. Some are absolute angels to behold, some are not inclined to express themselves much in my presence, and some are very scared to meet Santa Claus – to the point of crying and kicking at the prospect. But they all, without trying to do so, embody the very notion of love and hope, and it’s wonderful to be close to it – it’s very affecting.
To those who would say that Christmas is a hopeless commercial spectacle, or that there’s a “war on Christmas”, I would say that they have grown deaf and blind to the beauty of the Christmas season. The season and its meaning have grown beyond the religious origins of the holidays, but that doesn’t mean Christmas can’t be embraced by the devout, nor does it mean the devout can claim sole claim to what the “holiday season” now means.
We all need to be reminded on a regular basis (in this case, annually) to step back from the things in everyday life that sap our will and hope, and re-commit ourselves to contributing to common goodwill of our fellow humans. We NEED this. Getting to work everyday, paying the bills, fixing the car and roof, trying to ensure our basic needs will be met, dealing with the emotional issues that snare us all from time to time — all of this narrows our focus to minutes and days and dollars and cents and petty grudges and issues and we are better than that.