First of all, let’s just agree that the guy sitting on the throne of lies at the mall is not the real Santa Claus. But that doesn’t make the fake Santa a bad guy. We shouldn’t try and pick a fight with him simply because he smells like beef and cheese. The Santas at the malls are Santa’s helpers. They’re just regular guys who dress up as Santa and give kids someone to talk to in the weeks leading to Christmas.It makes sense, doesn’t it? Santa Claus can’t just jot down from the North Pole to visit every mall in America during that month or so before Christmas. It’s his busiest time of the year. He’s got a lot to get ready for. He’s got reindeer to feed. He’s got lists he’s gotta check. He’s got toys that need their final touches, and you know he likes to do some of that on his own, rather than relying on elves. He’s got lists he’s gotta check.
But I’m curious about what it takes to be a mall Santa. What goes into it? Are they looking for actors? Counselors? Toy enthusiasts? Whatever the case, Santa needs to be someone who can think on his feet easily. He has to be someone who’s ready with an answer to anything that comes out of a child’s mouth, and I’m sure they’ve heard it all and then some.
Given the right conditions, I feel like anyone could be a mall Santa. You don’t necessarily need to be able to grow a fluffy white beard or walk around with a substantial gut. They have costumes for all of that if you don’t have it naturally. Maybe saying “anyone” could be a mall Santa is a stretch. I would hope the mall Santas have to pass some sort of background checks. I mean, they are expected to have small children sit on their laps. It would be comforting to know that Santa doesn’t have a criminal background while he’s talking to a 7-year-old about that PlayStation he wants for Christmas.
What about the emotional toll that the job takes on the average mall Santa? I’m a pretty cynical guy, so there’s a good chance I would walk away from the job disillusioned with a diminished faith in the future of humanity after hearing about all the materialistic desires of the next generation. Hopefully the majority of our Santas wouldn’t come away with that disappointment.
I don’t think I could do it. In my day job, sure, I come across a lot of heartbreaking situations that children find themselves in. But, as a counselor, I tell myself that I’m able to help in some small way. What can a mall Santa do when a little girl tells him that all she wants for Christmas is for her daddy to be alive again? What can Santa do when a boy just wants his parents to live together again? How does the mall Santa respond to that?
It’s easy to tell a kid who’s asking for a Kindle Fire to be a good little boy or girl and Santa will see what he can do. What do you say to a kid whose heart is so broken?
I don’t think I meant to end this blog post on a sad note like this. But, maybe this is how it should end. For a lot of people, Christmas is a joyous time when we’re able to spend time with family and friends and eat too much and enjoy giving and receiving gifts we don’t really need. For others, it’s a sad reminder of what and whom they’ve lost. If you find yourself as one of the former, take some time to think about the latter. And if you’re one of those in the latter, remember that this, too, shall pass, and that there are those out there who are praying you through this season.