Written By: Leanne Cobb
For children in Anderson and all over the world, part of the magic of Christmas is the anticipation of the arrival of Santa Claus. From writing him letters and hoping they get to the North Pole, to working hard to stay off the naughty list, to leaving cookies and milk for him to snack on while putting presents under the tree. But as much as he is associated with the magic and excitement of the season, he is still a bit of a mystery. Fortunately, we were able to sit down with Santa and uncover some of the mystery. He is a busy man, but since Anderson is his favorite stop on his Christmas Eve journey, he was happy to answer a few questions for our readers.
Q: How do you prepare for your Christmas Eve flight?
A: I let everyone else work and I sleep because I am the one who’s going to be doing the work for that 24-hour period. I’ve got elves who load the sleigh, get the reindeer fed and cleaned, and shrink wrap toys so they fit in the bag. It’s tough on all of us. Jingles is generally the head elf, but he has some temper issues. He gets tired easily and when that happens, he’s a problem, but overall, he’s a good elf. They’re not all good. Mrs. Clause spends a lot of time with the elves. If they start fussing, she makes them nap. Just like with kids.
Q: Do you ever get tired of cookies and milk? Do you eat all of them?
A: I’m not tired of them yet. My favorite is chocolate chip and as hard as I try, I cannot eat much of one in any one household because I’m in so many households. It’s mostly a bite and a swallow of milk and then I move on. If I eat all of them, it’s because they are extraordinarily great. Every once in a while, I’ll get some cookies that are really good and I want to stay at that house all year and just dine on cookies.
Q: How often do you have to have your suit altered?
A: I use a stretch, velvet blend fabric. I have an over suit that is much warmer. You would not know the difference looking at them unless you saw me in both. The really warm one is a wool and down blend. I rarely wear it in the South. But when I take toys to an igloo, I need a lot of warmth. I’ve never had any need for alterations because I have several of the same suits so I can switch them out if one gets torn.
Q: Which is your favorite reindeer and how do you keep them in shape?
A: Dasher and Dancer have always been the first two in my flight. They’re good workers. The one I depend on the most is Rudolph. We just got new batteries and an LED headlight for him. If we have bad weather, he’s going to come in handy this year. I always check the weather reports, but I go no matter what. It’s just a matter of adjusting for altitude and speed. To keep them in shape, we do a lot of running. I don’t have them flying much. They run up and down mountains and jump from one valley to another regularly, but nothing like the long flight we take on Christmas Eve. Some of them are really into building their neck muscles so they’ll put a dumbbell on their antlers and run or fly with that, so that really helps build their strength. They also have a team of veterinarians who groom them, mostly for frictional resistance so they can fly faster.
Q: Will you ever switch to an electric sleigh?
A: You have to recharge electric sleighs and to go the miles we have to cover, we’d spend more time charging than we would flying. Reindeer can eat a great deal of food before takeoff and they can make the whole trip without stopping. So no, I would not consider an electric sleigh.
Q: How long does it take the elves to pack your bag? How do the elves stay organized?
A: The bag doesn’t carry very much, so putting toys on the sleigh is an ongoing process. We use shrink wrap to wrap toys. They’re packed in numerical, chronological order and toys are matched with bar codes. Each toy has a bar code that tells me the location of the child it’s for and if they are on the naughty or nice list. When I have my list for delivery, I know where it goes and who it goes to. It’s a complicated process, so using shrink wrap to shrink the size of the toys makes it easier to get the toys on the sleigh. The elves stay organized because we have crews that have a head elf. One crew is in charge of dolls and another crew is in charge of trucks. There is a hierarchy of elves and they have an opportunity for promotion. Some elves sit in the office and work on the computer all day, but that’s critical because we have so many people and so many packages.
Q: What’s the most unusual gift ever requested?
A: A clothes basket. A little girl about 4 asked for a clothes basket. I wondered why she’d want that. Turns out she loved to play hide and seek. The clothes basket was her favorite place to hide, but she had to take all the clothes out anytime she wanted to hide in there. She figured if she had her own clothes basket, she could hide without taking clothes out.
Q: What is something people don’t know about you?
A: My house and toy factories are at the North Pole, but in the summertime, ole Santa has worked hard and needs a vacation too. That’s when I go checking on kids. I was in Anderson this summer and stayed for about 3 days, just checking on how kids are behaving. Some people looked as though they recognized me, but I have so many kids to check up on, I wouldn’t be able to if I didn’t go traveling during the year. Mrs. Clause stays at the North Pole and makes the elves behave. I’m not going to call her the mayor of the North Pole, but she pretty much runs things up there.
Q: How can kids make up for being on the naughty list and how is the nice list doing in the southern part of the country?
A: If you’re on the good side, balanced on good deeds and being a good kid, then the more of that you do, the more naughty things you can get away with. Kids who don’t push limits don’t have problems. Occasionally they make a mistake and do something naughty and have to do a lot of good stuff to make it to the nice list. It’s a pattern of doing good things consistently. The last time I looked at the computer, more than 50% of kids in the South are on the nice list. 8 or 9% are chronically on the naughty list. The “maybe” list is where we see a lot of change. The closer we get to Christmas, the more people realize they have to behave and the “maybe” list moves to the nice list. You can’t be good only on Christmas Eve and move to the good list easily. Again, you have to be consistent in being good. Looking at trends, kids become more aware of how they need to behave as we get closer. Some kids get so excited that they might misbehave a little more than normal, but that’s understandable.
Now we know a little more about the guy in the red suit who visits our homes every December 24th. Call him Santa, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or the man with the toys, but the magic and excitement he represents for kids young and old will (we hope) always stay the same.