An independent Claus
She likes to reminisce about the year Santa mugged her. Minding her own business, my sister strolled too closely past the life-size statue while shopping. Suddenly, the motion activated figure broke out in a loud greeting, gyrating its head and arms, and prompting a sudden need on Joan’s part for Depends.
For the most part, human Santas act a bit more predictable. In fact, they’re far more likely to suffer abuse than to inflict it. Interviewed for Reader’s Digest, a practicing Santa said, “I’ve been kicked in the shins, hit in the groin, scratched, bitten, and peed on.”
And that’s not all. Their sweltering Santa suits cause many St. Nicks to overheat. They also get sneezed on up to 10 times a day, according to a survey reported by MSNBC.
Despite the drawbacks, I always wished I could play the jolly old elf, but my size and gender proved a serious deterrent. So I enjoyed reading about John St. Augustine’s lengthy tenure as Mr. Claus in his book, “Every Moment Matters”.
While in the Coast Guard, John accidentally volunteered to play Kris Kringle and was issued a rather lame costume. “The beard, in particular, was nasty,” he wrote. “I could just imagine some old snuffchewing salt spitting through the acrylic hair.”
Eventually he invested in a topof the-line suit and served as Santa for 15 years before hanging up his red hat in the mid-90s.
No doubt the rules have changed since then. Rumor has it that Santas are advised not to say “Ho ho ho” any more, or face allegations of being politically incorrect.
There are, in fact, universities that teach the finer points of how to be St. Nick. One such institute, the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School, offers a 3-day class in early October each year. Washington Post calls it the School of Yule.
According to the syllabus, students learn the history of Santa, proper dress and use of make-up, Santa sign language, reindeer habits, and flight lessons. Though graduates are not guaranteed a job, they leave with the memory of some very peculiar classes.
And those who decide to pursue a Kris Kringle career can sign up with the SantaForHire.com Talent Agency. Kind of a high-tech forum for a symbol that’s older than time.
Or they can strike out on their own. And be an independent Claus.