Santa has always been big in my life. Born in early December, I convinced myself that the Christmas tree was set up specifically to celebrate my birthday— another ritual like candles and a birthday cake! So, I went to this Santa interview, older and wiser, with a sort of ‘you can’t fool me’ grin on my face. I left, after an hour and a half, tears in my eyes, a reindeer bell, and a much younger heart! Santa really does understand what the spirit of this holiday season is all about. Or any season, really.
Q: Santa, what do you find hard about your job?
Santa: If you’re talking pain, the most excruciating is when infants get their fingers stuck in my beard. Then, as their mothers try to disengage their fingers, they pull out a few hairs from my beard! Ouch! Also, keeping up with the demands of the children can really be taxing. I talk to about ten thousand children in advance to get a feeling for what they might be looking for. Even though I do a lot of research, children ask me for something—and I have no idea what they’re talking about!
On the other hand, there are some tough stories. Like when I go to visit a 16-year-old boy in the hospital—and I know that he’s not going to make it to Christmas—and I’m trying to hold it together and be upbeat; but, let’s face it, that is a really difficult part of my job. But, if I can bring one nanosecond of joy to that child, then I’ve done very well. That’s what’s kept me alive and well for so long.
Q: How many children do you visit every year, Santa?
Santa: I see well over two billion children. I have lost all count. Not all of them believe in Santa—maybe 1 in 5. But there’s a whole wave of new immigrants moving to Canada and Santa isn’t part of their belief systems. Yet, their parents encourage their children come and to talk to me. It’s very heartwarming to see them all dressed up for a visit. And of course, once the children realize there are gifts attached… well, their attitudes change! They’re going to talk to this guy!
Q: How have you managed to stay relevant for so many centuries?
Santa: I’ve had to embrace technology. I moved from written records to a computer and a keyboard. It’s faster and, as long as these old fingers work, very accurate. But, in the end, I stay relevant because I try my hardest to make children happy and I inspire them to become better people.
Q: How do you get your talented team of helpers to work with you for so many years?
Santa: I treat them fairly. I make sure they get lots of rest, lots of cookies. Every helper who works for me is doing exactly what they like to do. Most importantly, they love children. And if there is a problem, we address it right away and work on it as a team. Without my helpers, there’s no way that I would be able to manage such an efficient operation for so many years.
Q: Santa, you work so hard and put in such long hours. What do you do to relax and recoup?
Santa: I spend a lot of my time doing an awful lot of reflection. I look back at all the photos, cards and letters that parents and children have sent me over the years. I reflect on the effect these people have had in my life. Let me show you. Here’s a picture of a young mother taken with me in 2012. As you can see, she is expecting a baby. Now here she is in 2013 with her baby, all dressed up as a little elf. Here’s a picture of me with a little one, asleep on my chest; that’s about the best kind of picture I’m going to get. And here’s one of a little guy who has been going through cancer treatments. And, of course, he broke my heart, to be honest with you. And then, there are the letters…
Q: Oh, Santa. Those are beautiful letters. [This is when Istarted tearing up…so Santa distracts me with a few questions!]
Santa: Are my reindeers made up of girls or boys or a mixture of both?
A: I always thought they were all boys. No?
Santa: Rudolph and the gang are all girls! Every single one is female because, at that particular time of the year at the North Pole, all male reindeer shed their antlers! Females keep theirs until spring. They need their antlers in winter to scoop snow out of the way so their young calves have access to [lichen and reindeer mosses] buried beneath the snow. By the way, did you ever wonder how I can fly all around the world in one night?
A: Yes, I have wondered about that. How do you do it?
Santa: Think about where my home is at the North Pole. It’s a much shorter trip if all I have to do is drop down from that angle on my sleigh to all the different countries in the world. Don’t even need any fossil fuels either. Also, I have a twenty-four-hour night because when it’s daylight in one place, it’s night time in another! That’s how I get to all the children in one night! And, before I forget, here is a reindeer bell for you, Anne Marie, for being such a good girl this year! Ho, Ho, Ho!