by Michael P. Coleman
“It’s the love that we show to each other that really counts. Gifts are great, but the greatest gift we can give to anyone is the giving of ourselves.” -Santa Claus
After watching Miracle On 34th Street recently, I set out to land the Yuletide interview to end all Yuletide interviews: an exclusive chat with the man himself, Santa Claus. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t get an answer at Kringle’s North Pole headquarters. I couldn’t find him on Twitter or Facebook, either, so I reached out to friends at Sacramento’s Arden Fair Mall for help in contacting him.
With Santa’s schedule being so hectic this month, I was thrilled when I got the green light for a pre-holiday face-to-face chat. I found myself nervous about finally talking with someone that I’ve been trying to catch since I was a kid.
Kringle and I sat down at Arden Fair Mall, where he has a beautiful winter home right in center court. I found Santa to be very friendly – a right jolly old elf, in fact – and as honest and forthright as he wants us all to be.
Although his belly still shakes when he laughs (like a bowlful of jelly), he’s made some significant changes since his “chocolate chip cookies and milk” heyday, and he was full of other surprises. For example, I learned that contrary to Coca-Cola’s perennial advertising campaign, Santa’s a Dr. Pepper man! I also learned that Rudolph’s nose pulls double duty on Christmas Eve, and you will not believe what Santa’s favorite Christmas song is!
First of all, Santa, you look great. You haven‘t aged a day since I was a kid.
Thanks for the compliment. That’s what happens with Christmas magic. I’m the oldest elf at the North Pole, you know.
I did not know that! How old are you?
Oh, let’s see…my birthday was about…hmmm…six hundred and forty three years ago, if I remember correctly…
You must take great care of yourself. Are milk and cookies still your favorite snack?
They are! As you can see [patting his belly], I like just about all cookies! Over the years I’ve loved chocolate chip, but my tastes have changed a little bit. My favorite this year is that peanut butter cookie with that Hershey Kiss right there in the middle of it.
That‘s my favorite, too! Is there a correlation between the quality or quantity of snacks left out for you and the gifts you leave behind?
No, not really. What really matters most to me – much more than any cookies I might be getting – are the children and their willingness to be good, the character that the children have. The better their character, the more I try to do for them.
A lot of actors have played you in the movies and on TV. What‘s your favorite Christmas movie?
My favorite is It‘s A Wonderful Life. I know that’s a very old one! But I love the feeling that that movie gives you.
I have one of the largest private collections of Christmas music in existence. What‘s your favorite Christmas song?
[Laughs…and YES it was THAT LAUGH!] I love most any Christmas carol, but my favorite is “Santa Baby”. [Laughs]
Really? Does Mrs. Clause ever sing it to you?
She DOES. All the time, in fact. When she really wants my attention, she’ll start singing it, and she’s got my attention from that moment on!
Speaking of songs, I‘ve wondered for years whether “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer” was based on a true story.
No, not at all. A lot of people have that misconception. My reindeer fly much too high for Grandma to have to worry about that.
I always wondered how you manage to get into homes that don’t have chimneys, like the one I grew up in.
[LAUGHS] Well, I have two ways: I DO have a special, magic key that I can use to get into every home, but I don’t use it much any more. Most of the time I call Mom or Dad and let them know that I’m coming, and they’ll usually leave a door unlocked for me so I can get in.
Rudolph is my favorite of your reindeer. Do you take him with you every year, or only if there‘s going to be bad weather?
Rudolph goes with me every year. His red nose is great for the bad weather, but while most people may not know this, his nose is the best GPS that there ever was. I don’t have to know where anybody lives ahead of time – I just grab my bag with all of the toys in it, let Rudolph lead my sleigh, and all I have to do is kick back and let him take where I need to be.
You mentioned Mrs. Clause…do the two of you have a vacation lined up after the big day?
Actually, as soon as we’re done with Christmas, Mrs. Claus and I have a tradition: on Christmas morning after I get back, we usually have breakfast together. It’s a nice quiet breakfast, because the elves are usually sleeping – they’re exhausted by then, you know. Then, Mrs. Claus and I will leave for a nice little trip to the ocean, and just watch the waves for awhile. I love the beach. We are usually there for about a week.
Why not longer? You will have earned a longer break by December 26th.
That’s about all I can spare. At that point, it’s time to start gearing up for the next year. It takes a long time to get everything ready.
So you and the elves get right back at it?
Oh no, no…I usually give the elves a whole month, because they really work hard and they need the extra time to rest. That also gives Mrs. Claus and I a few weeks to get everything all set up so that as soon as the elves get back, we can start back at it again.
Thinking about the kid who wants you to stop by this Christmas but who may have been on the “naughty” list more often that not this year, do you have any last-minute tips? Is it too late at this point?
The best thing they can do is start showing their family just how much they love them and how much they care. Start doing a few special things for Mom or for Dad perhaps, without being asked. Maybe making their bed or giving a hand with the dishes…things like that impress me far more than anything else.
So it‘s never too late to turn things around?
Absolutely not. It’s never to late to make a change.
Well that’s good news! With that being said, can you tell me, as of this very second, whether or not “Michael Patrick Coleman” is on the “nice” list this year?
[THAT BIG “HO HO HO” LAUGH AGAIN] Well, Mrs. Claus keeps a very close eye on my lists, and the way she talks, it was kind of shaky for you for awhile there this year…
Tell me about it…
…but now she’s impressed, and from what she’s telling me, you’re going to make the “nice” list without too much trouble.
I know how busy you are this time of year, so I appreciate you taking a few minutes to give us a peek into your life. As we WRAP up, is there anything else you‘d like to share?
The big thing I’d like to share is the realization that Christmas is, yes, the 25th of December, but the Christmas spirit and the Christmas magic go on all year. And…it’s the love that we show to each other that really counts. It’s the caring that we show, it’s the making of a new friend – that’s what Christmas is. Gifts are great, gifts are fun, but the greatest gift we can give to anyone around us is the giving of ourselves. That’s what Christmas is really all about.
Can I presume that I‘ve met a new friend in Santa Claus?
Absolutely! I never have enough friends. But if you’re gonna be my friend, you’ve got to give me a hug!
You can give Santa Clause a hug yourself right at center court at Arden Fair Mall in Sacramento, daily through 5pm on Christmas Eve. You may get lucky and find a short line, but be prepared to wait a little bit – Santa’s the most popular guy at the mall this time of year!
Michael P. Coleman is a Sacramento-based freelance writer. After he‘s finished making his bed and doing the dishes, you can connect with him at michaelpcoleman.com, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter: @ColemanMichaelP
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