The Christmas holiday has evolved into an enchanting amalgam of European traditions, at the heart of which lies the magic of Santa Claus – a mythological fulcrum upon which are wistfully hung the hopes of children and grown-ups alike for dreams fulfilled and better days to follow. The lore of a modern-day figure, free of stress and strife, whose sole occupation is to deliver the promise of joy and relief, is captivating. The idea of Santa, and the power of faith, suffuses the music, stories, décor, and movies of the Christmas season, enjoyed by many from diverse cultures and religions. Sixty-three-year-old (nee over two-thousand-years-old) Santa Kris Kringle is devoted to keeping the magic alive. The concept of Santa being a legitimate occupation of any jolly old citizen who happens upon an unattended sleigh might seem illusory, but it’s as real as the magic he brings. Having attended one of the three professional Santa schools in the country, Santa Kris Kringle’s belief in the legend suspends the mundane and inspires wonder in those he encounters, both during the Christmas season and beyond. When the world seems bleak, Santa Kris Kringle’s trained hearty laugh, lush beard, hefty demeanor, groomed suit, and twinkling eyes aim to open hearts to the possibilities of magic.
Do you have a real name?
I go by my legendary names - Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, or, simply, Santa.
Where and when were you born?
My legend traces back to around 280 A.D. in Patara, near Myra in modern-day Turkey. I was a monk and went by the name St. Nickolas. My birthday is celebrated on December 6th, considered to be a lucky day to make large purchases or get married. I’ve evolved through the centuries and have since lived in many places and adopted many cultures. In particular, I became the British figure of Father Christmas in the 1700s and the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas in the 1800s. My garb through the ages has matched the clothing of the time.
How did you become known as the gift-giver?
As Saint Nickolas, I was revered for my piety, kindness, and generosity. When I inherited great wealth, I decided to travel the countryside helping the poor and the sick. One of my best-known stories at the time was the large dowry I gave to three poor sisters so they could get married. Their father was going to sell them into slavery or prostitution, and this saved them.
Where does the jolly red-clad figure of today make his entrance?
An Episcopal minister in 1822 named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a Christmas poem for his daughters called An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, more popularly known as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. He portrayed me as a portly figure, with the supernatural ability to fly through the air — from house to house — on Christmas Eve in “a miniature sleigh” pulled by eight reindeer to leave presents for deserving children. It was his idea I enter and exit homes through the chimney. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast depicted me as a cheerful fellow with a full white beard, elaborate red suit trimmed with white fur, black belt and boots, and holding a sack laden with toys. Nast had me move to the North Pole, set-up a workshop, hire elves, and marry Mrs. Claus.
You said eight reindeer. I thought there were nine.
The most famous reindeer of all was born over a hundred years after his eight flying counterparts. In 1939, a copywriter from Montgomery Ward clothing store named Robert May wrote a poem adding to Moore’s epic tale. It told about a young reindeer, Rudolph, who was teased by the others for his shiny red nose. One Christmas Eve, the fog was so thick that Santa worried he would not be able to deliver his load of presents. But a liability turned into an asset when Rudolph saved Christmas by leading Santa’s sleigh with his glowing red nose.
How do you manage to be Santa all year long?
I like to make people smile all the time, not just once a year. I visit hospitals, senior homes, veteran centers, birthday parties. I go where I’m needed. I have several Santa suits - the patriotic Santa, tuxedo Santa, workshop Santa…and I have Santa vests for when I’m casual. In 2013, I was selected by Time.com as one of the country’s top ten Santas.
What’s your favorite part about being Santa?
Seeing the wonder in children’s eyes, reminding us to be more tuned into the magic that happens when you believe. And the stories. A little girl asked for supplies for her school classroom. Six elves and I showed up at school, not only with a ton of paper, pencils, etc, but original hand-made wooden toys for each of the kids, and the teacher, from a non-profit organization here in Las Vegas called Toys 4 Kids Las Vegas. They’re volunteer toy makers from the heart. They survive on donations and thrive on the joy of giving.
Can you share some of the questions you get asked?
Well, a news reporter asked when it was a good time to tell children that I’m not real. I answered, “Why would we ever want to lie to children?” HoHoHo!
Santa Kris Kringle can be reached at email@example.com
Toys 4 Kids Las Vegas can be reached at https://toys4kidslasvegas.org