Every year my daughter Lisa’s school has a Christmas party, and a few years ago we adopted the idea that one of the dads would play Santa Claus. The last two years our secret Santa got busted by overzealous children recognizing that their daddy was playing Santa and pulling off the beard and doing things that kids do. Although it was funny, as parents we had to make up a myriad of excuses to preserve the Santa experience.
For the 2007 party, the task would become even harder as now Santa would be faced with an older and wiser group then the previous years. Of course knowing the risk of embarrassment would be very high, I decided to take on the task of being Santa and trying to fool my daughter Lisa, son Kent, and about 40 other kids that all knew me.
I immediately decided to go out and purchase the greatest most authentic Santa costume money could buy, but after looking at some of the prices, the old Santa costume would be my choice. Being 46 years old, sometime I think you can get things for $100 only to find out its closer to $2000. So how was I going to fool these little huckleberries? I immediately formed a game plan that I would follow to a tee.
I listed my weaknesses as a Santa. Too short, too skinny, New York accent and hasn’t said ho, ho, ho since the Heidi Fleiss trial. So I had a lot of work to do. The first thing I did was work on my voice. I stuck cotton wedges in my cheeks, like Marlon Brando did in the Godfather movie, and worked on a Burl Ives type of lingo that was very Christmassy. It was slow, and kind of Gaelic, and it sounded as if at any minute I would drift into a story about a certain reindeer.
My 4 year old son Kent and I must have watched that Rudolph video 30 times before my Santa audition, but I was definitely prepared with a new voice.
I then had to work on the way I walk. I’m one of those New Yorker’s that’s always in a rush, very hyperactive etc. What I did was, practice walking as if I weighed 365 pounds instead of my current 160. I walked more on my heels, often grasping my large imaginary tummy. I walked around practicing yelling ho, ho, ho in my new found Burl Ives voice, holding my imaginary stomach with enough cotton in my cheek to give me high cheek bones.
The only other issue was the visual of Santa. Remember from Rudolph Mrs. Claus saying. “Eat Santa eat, nobody wants a skinny Santa”. Well I’m a 5’8, 165 pound skinny Santa, so it was sofa cushion enhancement time. I had one small sofa cushion in my back and one in the front covering my stomach, and was round enough to play the role.
As my colleague read the children the “Twelve days of Christmas”. The plan was for me to sneak out the back get dressed and pick up a large bag carrying 40 or so Christmas gifts for the kids. I knew that approximately 5 of the kids would be potential problems and figured out a separate game plan for them.
After I got my cue, I entered the hall and looked upon our 100 some guests, carrying a huge white bag and shouted in my best Burl Ives impression, “Ho, ho, ho Santa has come to visit all of the wonderful children and bring them early Christmas gifts because they have been so good”. I said it loud, and with enough passion, that the kids all rushed towards me and because of the confusion none of them could really get a good look at me because I focused on one small boy and picked him up and started posing for a picture.
At this point the parents were able to get their children in an orderly circle; far enough away where they couldn’t get a good look at St. Nick.
Next, after a small greeting, it was time to give the children their gifts. I made sure I got real close and personal to all of the children who weren’t a threat of discovering me and made sure I asked all of the kids who were potential problems questions, so they had to concentrate on answering the question, and not discovering me. It worked beautifully, as after they answered the question they would turn around for a picture and sit on Santa’s lap. This prevented them from looking at Santa and pulling off the beard.
The toughest was my daughter Lisa. She is seven and stared at me as if she knew. When I started talking; she gave the funny look where I knew she wasn’t sure and wouldn’t risk being wrong. I was right as she left happily with a gift from Santa.
My toughest obstacle was near the end when one of Lisa’s best friends, Sara, had her name called. I asked her if she was a good girl that year and she started replying and forgot to really look at Santa as she was more focused on the 100 people in the audience and her daddy catching her every move with the cam-corder and her mom doing the paparazzi impersonation with her camera.
Soon Santa was leaving the party, unsure if he had really accomplished his mission but positive he had done his best. As Santa said his last good-byes and opened the door to leave, little Sara came running up full speed saying, “Santa, Santa, wait” I thought for sure that the jig was up, the news was out, they finally found me, but little Sara said, “Santa, can I come up on the roof and see the Reindeers?”
In closing, the greatest part of the party was being Santa and how the children look and respond to Santa. It was also the first time, most of these children really listened to me, and that includes my own kids. I tried to tell them to be good and Santa is watching and it was a great feeling. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.
Hi I’m Ed Ziti from MVN’s Laker Library and thanks for the opportunity to share this tale…