Here comes Santa Claus

Santa makes his annual pre-Christmas Eve visit to Kamloops on Saturday, Nov. 24, for the annual parade in his honour. - KTW FILE PHOTO
Santa makes his annual pre-Christmas Eve visit to Kamloops on Saturday, Nov. 24, for the annual parade in his honour.
— image credit: KTW FILE PHOTO

It isn’t easy interviewing Santa Claus.

Sitting at one of the tables at Desert Gardens Community Centre — Santa was there volunteering at a seniors’ program he comes to town to help with every week — he was an obvious attention-grabber.

There was little Bronwen, who came up wide-eyed and in a mixture of shock and overwhelming delight.

She introduced Santa to her stuffed puppy and they had an oh-so-secret conversation about what might be on her Christmas list.

And, there were seniors who wanted to jingle the bell on his red hat or simply get a hug.

It’s hard to compete with that.

However, in a rare pre-Christmas Eve interview, Santa took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about, well, being Santa.

“I’ve never had a bad day,” he said of the weather he confronts not only on the big night but on those times when it’s not a hired man in a red suit sitting in the throne at the shopping mall — it’s the real thing.

“It’s my magic” he said of how he keeps the weather under control.

“Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve had cold ones, but no rain and no snow.”

For the annual parade in his honour, where he’ll bring it to the anticipated close as he rides his sleigh through downtown on Saturday, Nov. 24, he and Mrs. Claus come into Kamloops the night before.

(Santa doesn’t live in Kamloops, as we all know.)

He gets up early and is taken to Kamloops Square, where he promptly falls asleep again, waiting for the annual Wake Up Santa event that starts the day off.

“I don’t have to wait long,” Santa said.

“There are hundreds of kids there. It makes you know that everything is OK.”

When everyone heads off to find a spot to watch the parade, Santa usually just waits until it’s time to climb into the sleigh — but, not always.

“One year, it was really cold, so Mrs. Claus and I went looking for hot chocolate. We went for a little walk and people were taken aback to see us just walking hand-in-hand down the street.

“You never know when we might do that again.”

In addition to the parade, Santa takes some shifts at Sahali Mall to give his helpers a break.

“It’s a very sacred position to be in,” Santa said of that side of his job.

And, it’s not as easy as it looks.

“Kids come in sometimes and you just know they’ll get nothing or very little at Christma, but you can’t say that.

“You can’t make promises, but you can’t disappoint them either.

“So, I just tell them that I know there’s a surprise that will be there for them.”

Never lie to a child is one of the important rules, Santa said.

“Don’t ever say yes. Just tell them I’ll do the best I can.”

Then, there are the times children ask for gifts it’s not even in the power of Santa to fulfill.

“Bring my mommy or my daddy back — they died. Oh, that’s a hard one.

“So, I talk to them about the good memories they have about their mommy or daddy.”

Santa doesn’t just interact with the youngsters who come to visit, however.

One day, years ago, he spied an elderly woman who had walked by him in the mall previously, taking a quick peek.

There were no children waiting to have a chat so “with the finesse of a dance in mid-twirl —my mid-twirl, not hers — interrupted her in mid-walk. Her mid-walk, not mine,” Santa said.

“With my sweet Santa smile, I said ‘Excuse me, dear, but could you do me a big favour? Could you give me a hug? Santa really needs a hug’.”

They embraced and Santa noticed she was crying.

“Now I’ve done it,” Santa said he immediately thought. “I’ve upset her. So, I apologized.”

The woman replied she wasn’t upset at all.

“She said: ‘You made me feel happy. I’m crying because I was remembering that the last time I hugged Santa, I was six years old, oh so many, many years ago.

“‘Santa, you’ve made me so happy’.”

Santa’s had his tough cases, too.

One day, a young lad of about 12 came up and declared; “You’re not real. You’re just a big lie and I think you’re a  liar.”

Time for some North Pole diplomacy.

“Son, you are entitled to your opinion of me and I’m sure you have your reasons for your assessment, but let me say that you look to me to be quite intelligent, so I’d like to give you something to think about,” Santa recalled telling the pre-teen.

“Yes, my image is one based on a fable and my silly stories made up in my imagination but, you know what, son? They make people happy for this short season and, in a world of pain and misery for so many, I choose to think that that can’t be a bad thing and I can’t help but think you do.”

The boy listened to him, Santa said, and his stern look softened.

As he left, Santa wished him a Merry Christmas — and the boy wished Santa one, too.

There was one more non-traditional Santa story he had to share with KTW.

Again, it was of a time when he was sitting in a mall near a liquor store.

Santa saw a man who, if he wasn’t homeless was the next thing to it, go into the store day after day to buy a bottle.

One day, the man stopped and asked if he could get his photo taken with Santa.

“Well, I looked at him and I said: ‘Mikey — I knew his name because I’m Santa, of course — you’ve got a decision to make. You can go spend your money on something in a brown bag in that store or you can use it to get your picture taken with me.’

“He said he’d have the photo taken, so he paid for it and he stood beside me dressed in stained and tattered clothes. I told him to smile,” Santa said.

“He said he couldn’t because he didn’t have many teeth. I told him smile or no photo. So, he smiled.

“When the picture was given to him, I tell you, he looked at it and it wasn’t Mikey in his rags standing there. I could see the little boy Mikey had been before

his life went wrong. It was magic.”

And, with that tale told, Santa smiled, winked — and then was gone.

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