I take issue with this article. (Yes, I know I wrote it but my point still stands.) Namely, this article that I researched and wrote seems to suggest that Mall Santas are not the real deal which, as we all know, is a ludicrous thing to suggest. If Santa can travel around the world in a single night, surely it would not be that hard for him to be in every mall at once.
Come on! Use your brain for once, people!
Sometimes it is great to have a backup. Sometimes it isn't.
A duck is the greatest give you could give.
I wasn’t a Santa but I helped organise a Christmas Party for special needs children for three years running as part of a charity group.
The guy we picked to be Santa was this really well built, tall, skinhead guy from Kent, called Paul. He was a really nice chap though. Popular with the ladies, the gift of the gab and a cockney accent. So he stood out a lot in Belfast where he lived. Anyway, he was picked to be the Santa for the party. He had his doubts but we were convinced his well built frame and height would be convincing. All we had to do was give him a bit of a belly and a costume and he put on this deep booming voice that completely masked the cockney!
The day of the party went really well. We had jugglers, magicians, a mini disco, games, food and of course a Santa’s grotto. We had the Santa’s sack prop against a false wall which had a hole in it that would let us plant toys in the sack without any of the children seeing it. As it was all special needs schools we had their names and a teacher hid behind the wall and she identified the child coming in.
We had hand picked each toy to the child depending on their disability or special need. Reached that toy into the sack, whispered the name to Paul (Santa) via an in ear headphone we had hidden on him under the hair and beard. That way when the child entered he could seem all knowing and the children were in amazement at this. It added to the magic.
Anyway, to the point. One child came in who was around 7 or 8 but his disability made him very small in stature so he looked about 4 years old and he had an oxygen tube under his nose. He also had poor eyesight and his glasses gave him these giant sad looking eyes that melted everyone’s heart. He came into the grotto:
Santa: “Why hello Patrick! Nice to see you again!” His eyes lit up and he exclaimed: Patrick: “You know my name! You’re the real one!?”
Santa: “Indeed I am! I came here to make sure you are being a good boy! Have you decided what you want for Christmas?”
Patrick: “Yes, but it’s not a present…I…I just want to be at home this year for Christmas!”
I am not afraid to admit, my eyes grew very damp. The girls who volunteered that year immediately broke down but Paul held it together remarkably well. He explained that he couldn’t get in the way of doctors and that they knew best and he wanted Patrick to be better so he could visit him on Christmas Eve no matter where he was.
Paul then reached into the bag and lifted out a cuddly toy duck. The child ran around with that duck the rest of the day tucked into his jumper. Stroking its head and kissing it now and again, he beamed a massive smile for the rest of the day.
Paul, a 6ft 2in, muscle bound skinhead, east-ender from London, was found crying in the charity office when he left to get changed.
EDIT: Spelling and formatting
EDIT 2 – For people asking, in N.Ireland sometimes the term Skinhead is used as a generic term for anyone who may have a shaved head and is one scary looking guy. Paul was very well built and had a shaved head but was NOT a white supremacist. Sorry for any confusion, I should be more careful using N.I. slang.
He is real! See?
I’m not a mall Santa, but I’ve taken my kids to see one before. Last year, my son kind of flustered a Santa (who was clearly a young guy in a fat suit, poor kid.)
My youngest has a lot of complicated medical issues. The first year of her life she was completely blind (she had hyrdrocephalus at birth, caused some brain damage.) So last year when my oldest hopped on Santa’s lap the first thing he asked him was “Hi Santa, can you help my sister see her presents? Her eyes don’t work.”
I tried to shush him, but the damage was done. The poor Santa got red in the face and kind of stammered for a second. Finally he was able to say “uh, little guy? Santa will try, okay? But please don’t be angry if it doesn’t work. Santa’s specialty is toys, not eyeballs.” My son seemed cool with that response, and went on to say “that’s okay, you can bring me Ninja Turtles instead if Katherine’s eyes can’t get fixed.”
Poor Santa. But the neat thing is, a month or so after Christmas my daughter’s vision DID start working. Every once in a while, my son will see her playing with a toy and say “Santa helped her! He remembered to help her eyes!”
Not all Santas are heroes.
When I was little, I got lost in the mall. The mall security called my dad over the PA system and when he picked me up, I was crying because I asked Santa for help and he wouldn’t help me.
Why would a Mall Santa be hanging out with Sultans and the Queen of England?
I never played Santa, but I have always had this one memory of Santa from when I was 7.
For about a year, there was this small, frail boy in my school. When you’re young, you don’t always understand the suffering of others. But I did know that Fred came to school, every day, in the same shorts, his hair a mess, and the kids liked to make fun of him. I thought he was so cool though, he had moved so many places, like me, and would tell me amazing stories about meeting sultans, and the Queen of England, and how his dad was off on some quest to bring something home.
As Christmas came near, I asked Fred what his family was doing. He said something about his dad off on a quest again, and that gremlins had stolen their Christmas decorations. I remember, walking home, he looked so sad. He said “Santa can’t always find us, because we move around a lot.”
The next day, my family went to see Santa. I sat down on his knee, and when he asked me what I wanted, I pulled out a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and a few Christmas tree balls from my backpack.
I told him “My friend Fred said you couldn’t find him sometimes, and something stole his decorations. Can you give this to him?”
What I didn’t know, until later when my mother told me, was that Fred’s father had taken the role of mall Santa to make some extra money. I remember Santa starting to cry, at first he wouldn’t take what I was trying to give, but my mom came and talked to Santa. He came over to me and hugged me, telling me that “No gift I can give is as good as the gift of a true friend, I will make sure he gets these.”
I was so ecstatic when Fred came to school after break with my Christmas ball attached to his backpack, like a bauble. He excitedly told me that “Santa came!”
My mother, later on, told me the truth of the situation. In hindsight, I hope he is that happy every Christmas.
Moms love Santa
When I was 17 I worked for a K-Mart and volunteered to be the store’s Santa. Mostly because it meant I could spend a majority of my Saturday shift sitting in a chair as opposed to pushing shopping carts.
We would offer free photos inside a little pre-made K-Mart Christmas card. The kids were easy. Ask what they want for Christmas, snap a photo, and done. Every once and while you would get the kids screaming bloody murder while their parents force them to take a picture with Santa. But I was that screaming kid once so it never really bothered me.
Adults was where it got a little creepy. Since the photos were free the mothers would get in on it as well. Some would just openly hit on me “Can I have you for Christmas?” The worst was an older woman who looked me in the eyes an said “I just want the pain to go away, Santa.” Me being 17 years old had no fucking idea what to say. “Uhhh, okay!”
Nick Jr. should have his own movie franchise
A few years back I filled in for Santa at a locally owned toy store – as I don’t QUITE look old enough to be Santa (and I have a full lush gingery lumberjack beard) I was billed as “Nick Jr” and the story was that my dad was Santa and I was in training to be the next Santa – he was having me go and fill in for him at some of the usual stops as part of my training in getting to talk to the little kids.
Oh man, the kids loved that. There was a rocking chair that I was “supposed” to sit in, but I sat on the floor with the kids and chatted and it was friggin’ AWESOME. The kids really connected with this idea of a “trainee Santa”
The most heart-wenching story was a little girl, about 7 or so, who was staying with her dad and stepmom because her mommy was deathly ill in the hospital. She came and saw me every day that I was there and she just wanted to talk to someone she KNEW could really understand where she was coming from in her fear. She hoped that she could come visit the North Pole, but understood if it wasn’t possible.
My last day of the gig she brought me a handwritten-in-crayon note thanking me for everything, saying she was glad to have met me and hoping that I grew up to be the best Santa ever. Lemme tell ya, all the feels. I am going to keep that damned note forever.
She's great at charades
Heart-wrenching with a twist: I worked as a mall santa in high school and likely experienced every crazy story you could imagine, but one in particular stands out most vividly in my mind.
A young boy waited quietly with his mother in line until it was his turn to sit in my lap and have his picture taken. As his mother started to follow him up towards my chair, he turned around and yelled, “No! Mommm you have to stay back thereee!” I watched the mom look at him pleadingly and she reluctantly agreed to keep her distance. As I tried to make sense of the situation, I invited him up to my chair.
He looked to be 8 or 9, which was older than most (~75%) of the kids in line. When I got around to asking him what he wanted for Christmas, his eyes locked onto mine and it happened: “If you’re real, then aren’t you supposed to know?”
As I fumbled around with my words, it dawned on me. Here he was, on the cusp of becoming a non-believer, and his plan was to make sure his mother couldn’t whisper to me the gift he had been hoping for. I tried to play it cool, and come up with an explanation on the fly, when suddenly the mother dropped her bags and started jumping, punching, and kicking the air. Furiously! Shoppers stopped dead in their tracks, staring at her (we were at the main intersection of a two-story indoor mall).
I said something along the lines of “well you can’t expect me to bring you those Power Rangers if you aren’t a good boy and listen to your mother!” He melted, instantly. His eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped. Before I could react he buried his head into my foam padded chest and gave me the best hug all Christmas season.
The mother couldn’t believe it herself, and tried to gather herself as her overjoyed son turned to run and explain to her how Santa really is real, and that he had proven it (at least for another year). Worth it.
Well, did you?
I am not a Mall Santa, just a nurse on peds ICU. Me being one of the few males it was my turn to be Santa for the kids in children’s hospital. I also like to dress up, mainly as a super-hero but thats not the point here.
We are used to some really hard and tough requests kids make, but the one I’ll remember for the rest of my life is a kid with few months to live and who knows it… he asked from Santa to promise him he’ll take care of the family and animals, which is not the first time a kid has asked something like that, but he was very precise and knew exactly what each and every one of them would like and enjoy. He was four years old.
What is the opposite of a Christmas Miracle?
Ok…I know I am super late to this, but it still haunts me as I drive by the house occasionally. Usually, I will drive out of my way to miss it.
It was Christmas eve 2004 and the father of a family with little kids, who were losing their belief in Santa, decided to rent a suit, climb up on the roof, make a bunch of noise and have jingle bells jingling so the kids will hear, run outside and see Santa with their own eyes….
We had a busy day on the engine (Firefighter) including a child air lifted to hospital from a really bad MVA, a house fire that destroyed a house, then this call.
Well, Santa was on the roof, making noise, kids run outside, 6, 8, 11, and Santa is lying on the ground. The family calls 911, we show up, Santa is having aganol respirations, and his heart was in V-Fib. We ended up doinf CPR on him, including airway and multiple shocks, all in front of his family.
We tried several times to remove the family to protect them, but they wouldn’t listen. tears I can’t ever remove the vision from my mind of the children’s faces, as they saw Santa being worked, then realizing Santa was their dad, then their dad had died.
You could have at least lied!
When I was a freshman in college, I got a gig as a mall santa at a smaller local mall. A little girl came up to me and sat on my lap. I asked her in the most jovial way what she wanted for Christmas. She pulls out a picture of her dead dog and says “Can you bring my dog back?” The look on her face when I said no was heartwrenching.
It helps to set the bar low.
When I was younger my family would always visit the mall Santa right before christmas. Nearly every year since I can remember I would just tell him I wanted warm sock and food. He would always give me a sad look and tell me I was so good that year that there was no way I wouldn’t get it. Looking back, I wonder I he thought I was some poor, cold, hungry child. The fact of the matter was I just REALLY liked socks and food. We grew up a fortunate family. I could have asked for gameboys and American girl dolls like the rest of my siblings but I just wasn’t into that.
When I was about 8 or so, I remember asking Santa to see my best friend Brian again. I was a pediatric cancer survivor and he was an 17 year old kid that was in the same hospital as me. He liked to read books to me, color with me, eat meals with me, and we played N64 together almost every time we saw each other in the hospital. A few years after I finished treatment he relapsed and passed away. I feel terrible now for making that poor Santa have to hear those words come out of a kids mouth, but it’s still a wish that I hope would come true. I wish he could see me now that I’m in college and have goals of getting into med school. I wish I could have developed a real relationship with him. I really hope I make him proud.
Maybe the idea Santa does set up unrealistic expectations
I wasn’t Santa, but I was playing the elf role. There was one instance where a little girl came in with her father. She must have been 4 or 5. She sat on Santa’s lap and he asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Timidly, she whispered something. Santa couldn’t hear her so he asked her again. She said, a little louder “I want my mommy for Christmas.” The girl started crying and the dad immediately rushed up and grabbed her. He was rubbing her back and saying “We talked about this honey, mommy’s gone to heaven.” And she was sobbing and sobbing and the dad started to cry and he ran with her out of the mall.
It was the most depressing thing I had ever experienced. I saw at least 5 or 6 mothers in line silently shedding tears watching the spectacle.
Man, these have really taken a depressing turn.
Not a mall Santa, but along those lines.
I used to work overnight shifts at a home for children with autism, brain injuries, and physical brain deformities.
We had a lot of different homes, and I always volunteered to work on Christmas and Christmas Eve, because I didn’t have any kids.
There were 5 kids in the home I volunteered to work at this one year, and they had written to Santa and left him milk and cookies. They were worried that Santa wouldn’t come because I wasn’t going to be asleep. I told them that I had talked to him, and he knew this was a special case.
This group home didn’t have much funding for decorations or gifts because of other bullshit that had happened earlier that year. I knew that I was going to be working there early enough that I made a plan. My one buddy came over and we decorated and wrapped gifts. He was scrawny thin, but he wore all red (not a Santa suit, just red).
We worked for 7 out of the 10 hours of my shift on this, and it looked as good as it could.
All the persons served were ecstatic to see the decorations and the gifts. Then we waited for their families to arrive. None of them wanted to open gifts until their families got there, and all of the families said they’d be coming to visit. Naturally, I waited around so I could see the rest of it, off the clock. And we waited.
These “kids” were really autistic, they had the bodies of teenagers, but the mental capacity of 5-10 year olds. It was great to see them light up when they first came downstairs.
And it crushed my heart when we waited for 3 hours before the first phone call came in. Every single one of the parents that promised their child (for weeks) to see them on Christmas had an excuse not to come that day.
These people still make me feel physically I’ll every time I relive that day.
The parents of the kids at this home never saw their kids, but would raise holy hell if anything went physically wrong with them. None of the kids were related, and none of them had family that cared.
I guess the moral of this one is: please make sure you see that lonely relative on Christmas, you may not get another chance.
One of the kids ended up committing suicide that year (as much as we try, we can’t see them 24/7). His parents tried to sue the company, but dropped the suit when they were handed the suicide note. It was poorly spelled, but basically said “mom and dad don’t love me, why stay here?”
I no longer work there, because for every kid that restored my faith in humanity, there were two adults that shattered it.
Santa's are doing God's work
I have been doing the Santa for a few years now and work at a tree farm with a cabin in it. The most heart-wrenching story I have is not mine, but from the other Santa that I work with.
There was an older woman (mid-twenties) that was mentally handicapped and when she sat on this Santa’s lap she got really quiet and it took him asking her what she wanted for Christmas several times before she spoke up. She said, “Santa, my mommy is dying and I need one more year with mommy, Santa, please give mommy one more year.” Before he could say anything she threw her arms around him and gave him a hug while she started crying. Her care taker (possibly father) then lead her away.
The next Christmas she came back to the farm and was very excited to see Santa, you see her mother had lived for another year and she sat on Santa knee and asked Santa for another year, that she knew and believed in him and that she had been very good the whole year through. She had been careful to be good and came to Santa again because she wanted her mommy to live for another year, just like last year. “Santa, just one more year, please Santa, just one more year.” Again, before he could say anything, she was giving him a near strangling hug and then was led away by her care taker.
The next year she was back, but she was obviously very upset. She sat again on Santa’s knee and looked at him and started to sob. She said she knew Santa had tried his hardest, that he did the best he could, that she should have asked for ten years the first time instead of just the one. She apologized for being so angry at Santa for letting her mommy die.
This Santa looked at her and gave her a long hug and he said to her, “My child, your mommy has passed away, but she will live forever in your heart as long you remember her.” She got really quiet and stopped crying and looked at him. She whispered to him, “I love you mommy. I love you Santa.” She hugged him very tightly and then was led away by her care taker.
She has not been back since, but my co-Santa said to me that it was moments and people like her that make being Santa so important to him and why he will never quit.
Santa is nothing if not logical
I was a mall Santa once in college. I’m from the Northeast US and college was in the deep South. My elves were girls from a local business school who were running the mall Santa thing as a senior project.
The best thing that happened was when a bunch of the elves’ friends showed up and whispered some very unladylike things in Santa’s ears, just to see how red they could make Santa’s cheeks.
The funniest was one little kid who, after I had been chatting with him for a while, looked at me wide-eyed and said, “Santa, you sound like a Yankee!” After a few seconds of frantic desperation, I simply told him, “Well, that’s because I live at the NORTH Pole.” He found the logic inescapable, plus me promising him a football helped.
Did it work?
My family played along with the santa thing when we were really young (brother and I) but by the time I was 6 I had figured out my father was Santa. It actually made the whole idea much more meaningful to me cause we didn’t have a lot of money. One year my mother took us to the mall to see Santa. I let my brother go first because he still believed in Santa. As my brother silently told him what he wanted Santa laughed heartily. When I got up I asked him why he was laughing and what my brother had asked him. My brother asked Santa to make me believe in him again.
Santa really dropped the ball here
Santa related story: I was in third grade and we sort of lived way on the outskirts of town, it was the year my parents went through a very bad divorce. Our teacher has us write letters to Santa, I asked for my mom and stepdad to get back together, or to bring me a big fluffy stuffed bunny. Christmas Day, my stepdad who was there brought me into a room sat on the bed and while crying apologized and said Santa couldn’t bring them back together, and that they didn’t have big fluffy bunnies that time of year, but he pulled out an even better toy bunny for me instead. Even though I was young I understood it was a very special moment and felt so the rest of the day. I still have the rabbit to this day.
Teenagers like to sit on your lap and try to ‘shock’ you (which probably works with many Santas but I was pretty young when I did the job). One evening this rocker girl came in with her friends and sat on my lap and when I asked her what she wanted for xmas, she said, “Kurt Cobain’s body.”
So I put on this guilty act and replied, “Oh, I still feel really bad about that ’cause I gave him the gun.”
Album is worth checking out
I wasn’t Santa for a mall, but I did dress up as Santa for our guerrilla improv group one year…
We went to the Mall of America in the Twin Cities of Minnesota as part of our stunt…
Santa was going to ride all of the rides at the mall and just have a good time.
From the moment I walked in the doors, I was mobbed by children of all ages.
I had little kids, some teenagers, and even adults talking to me as if I were Santa…
Mall of America had an official Santa that kids could come up to and ask for stuff for Christmas… But if you wanted your photo taken, it was a twenty dollar charge.
Before I went on the Flume log ride, I was sitting on a park bench with several children around… I had one little girl who was upset that she couldn’t take a picture with Santa. Her mom and I talked a bit, and she had asked if I would mind posing for a picture, since they didn’t have the money for the other Santa…
Our photographer snapped the picture, and we got their email address from them.
I enjoyed the whole evening, especially the “Ho Ho Holy Shit” part where the ride made a vertical drop and then went up into a barrel roll…
I do have pics somewhere. I’ll have to find them again. Edit:
Album loaded… http://imgur.com/a/dSkbk
When my wife worked with high functioning developmentally disabled adults she asked me to be santa at the xmas party, I thought “this should be fun”.
While most of them asked for the usual stuff one resident who was in his twenties told me he didn’t want to be retarded anymore and he wanted to get married and have kids. What the hell do you say after that?
These gifts are like the same thing.
I used to volunteer as an elf for Santa where we would visit underprivileged children. I was probably about 13 at the time. There were lots of heartbreaking things – kids asking for school supplies, cheap toys I had plenty of, etc. Once Santa said he would see what he could do about their gift, I would hand them a little toy, and say “Merry Christmas!”
And then a little boy came up, probably no older than 6. Santa asked him what he wanted. He paused, and quietly responded, “A family.” Santa didn’t know what to say. My heart dropped. It was the first time I realized how much I took the love from my family for granted.
Santa somehow managed to ask the kid again, getting him to spit out a skateboard as his answer. I hope that kid got more than just his skateboard.
Never ask questions
I was a Santa for a company that organized Christmas parties for shops and businesses.
My dad hopped along on some parties. I told him before he went on his first not to ask kids what they wanted, but to tell them he had received their letters and the elves were working on it.
Called dad after the event. He was shaken. I asked him why.
He told me: “I asked the kids what they wanted for Christmas. This little guy sitting on my lap looked at his mom and said “I want mommy and daddy to get back together and love each other again…” I had a tough time finishing the afternoon…”
Conner sounds like a jerk.
Wasn’t a santa but I volunteered at a Christmas fair at a stall where kids could write their wishes and I’d put them up on the tree for them. Most of the kids wished for toys, one wished to be like his older brother.
Then I asked one little boy of about 5/6 what his wish was and told me ‘I wish Connor would be my friend’. His poor mum had a completely defeated look on her face and said ‘Yeah, I wish that too.’
Seems like it is worth the hassle
Not a Santa, but I worked at an after school program for kids in a very rough area. We had an event one afternoon in which businesses in our area donated Christmas gifts and toys for the kids.
After unwrapping them, the coordinator told us to cut off the tags and take all of the toys out of the boxes and throw the packaging away. It was a bit of a hassle, and made it tougher to pack the stuff up for them to take home.
I asked the coordinator why we did that, and she said it’s because the parents will take all of the gifts back to a store and exchange them for cash and pocket the cash (likely spend it on frivolous things or drugs/booze).
One of the kids asked me why I was crying…
I hope your brother grew out of this.
When we were little my mom took my older brother and I (we’re about 18 months apart) to the mall to see Santa. They had a black one and a white one. My brother cried because he got put on black Santa’s lap. He didn’t stop until white Santa came along.
What a tease...
Not a Santa, nor is this story disturbing. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my mother had taken me to the mall to go see Santa. Unbeknownst to me while I was in line, they were giving tiny little boxes of cereal to every kid who went to see Santa. When it was my turn, I hopped on his lap and after handing me my box of cereal, he asked, “So little boy, what would you like for Christmas?” I looked at him, then to the box in my hand, then back to him and said, “Milk.” Santa, my mom, and all the other parents in line thought it was the most hilariously cute thing ever. Fuckers.
Yeah. I don't blame you.
I was sick in hospital while Christmas was coming up when I was 14. It was a children’s hospital and so I was with a group of kids making little Christmas treats when a younger child asked me if I was gonna see Santa the next day. I told her I couldn’t because I had to get a xray, but asked her what she was gonna ask for. I already knew it would be heartbreaking, but I asked anyways.
She asked for her mommy to stop crying because the doctors said they would make it easier for her. The girl had a terminal cancer according to the nurse I asked later, so I was only able to infer that the doctor’s were going to try and make it less painful for the little girl.
When my dad came back to my room later (with Hawaiian pizza that he had to go all over town to find for me) I bawled.
You sound plenty brave to me.
I used to be a big sister for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and around the holidays they ask all the volunteers to pitch in to throw several free holiday parties for the kids.
Somehow I ended up being Santa at one of these shindigs despite the fact that I was: (1)A woman (2)blonde (3)17 years old (4)5’5 and normal weight. You get the idea, I was a shitty Santa but basically all we had.
An ton of big sibs and little sibs showed up at this thing and by the 80th kid on my lap I had fallen into a steady rhythm. Say some Christmas-y stuff, tease the kid about being a nice not naughty, get the present request, take a picture, whisper present request to big sib so Christmas miracles really would happen that year.
That is until this little boy with the biggest brown eyes in the world sat on my lap and whispered in my ear, “Santa just tell Daddy we all miss him. But I’m being a brave boy and taking care of Mommy like he said.” I was stunned, I sat there speechless until he said, “Mommy told me even you can’t bring him back, but tell him I love him Santa” and he patted my pillow belly and hopped down.
I wish I could say I did something heroic or life altering for this kid but the truth is I had no idea what to say to make that better. No promises of trucks or footballs was going to make him feel better. Thinking about it still gives me chills.