This past weekend, I took my kids for their official Santa Claus visit. I say “official” because they’d already encountered Santa or his helpers several times. Some talked to the kids while others merely handed them a candy cane. Santa and/or his helpers have had many accents, skin tones and beard styles. It’s been a challenge to explain why there are so many Santas, but I finally told my children that any one could be the real Santa, so they have to treat each as if they were. It’s his way of making sure they’re nice.
This is just one of many explanations I’ve had to add to the Santa mystique. When my kids were born some 6 ½ years ago, I never knew there would be so many twists, turns and variations to the basic philosophy of Kris Kringle. Luckily, some of the Christmas specials explain much of the Santa Legend. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Polar Express” are probably two of the best at explaining flying reindeer and treks down the chimney, but two years ago, I ran into a situation that no Rankin/Bass animated special could explain.
We had completed our “Official” Santa visit about 30 minutes before his final shift ended. After the big event, we grabbed a bite to eat in the mall. Towards the end of our meal, who to our wandering eyes should appear walking across the Food Court with coat thrown over his arm, but Santa, himself. He tossed a smile, waved back at the kids and walked out the door. The kids watched his trail through the window, hoping to see eight tiny reindeer (or possibly nine) launching into the night sky. Instead, they spotted the red capped gentleman stepping into a red 1983 Ford Pinto and driving away. Confusion set into their tiny faces.
My wife and I stared in horror. After all, we’d convinced the kids that this was indeed the REAL Santa. We glanced at one another and I could tell we were both thinking “Maybe they didn’t notice.” Then I felt the tug and looked at my son’s quizzical look.
“Daddy, where are the reindeer?” My mind quickly filed through the previous years’ explanations of all things Santa…trying to confirm that what I was about to say didn’t conflict with previously stated “fact.”
And then I responded, “At a farm…the mall is no place to keep reindeer with all the cars and such. And there’s no food on the roof of the mall to keep them fed ALL day. So they keep the reindeer at a farm.” We got up, tossed our scraps and headed for the parking lot in pondering silence. Another tug.
“But why is he driving a beat-up old car like that?”
“Well, if he drove a fancy car, he’d attract a lot of attention and everyone would follow him around. If people followed him, they’d find out where the reindeer are and maybe feed them some bad food or something.”
“Like in the movie ‘The Santa Clause 2?’”
Ah…a holiday classic once again came to safe the day! “Yes, remember Comet got sick on candy? The same thing could happen if people fed them the wrong food.” We got into our car and buckled the children in. My wife and I climbed in and we drove towards our home. The ride was silent except for holiday music serenading us from the radio.
“I’m glad we saw Santa tonight and told him what we wanted. But next year, I’m going to wish for Santa a better car.”
Merry Christmas everyone.