Sometimes you experience things that you never would have expected.
I never thought I would be living above the Arctic Circle in Old Crow dressed as Santa while
sitting in a sleigh with mush dogs towing me down the street.
Indeed, it wasn’t some bizarre dream; this year I was Saint Nick at the Parents and Tot’s Christmas party extravaganza. I got the job through my wife, who at the last get-together, took it upon herself to become my agent, and signed me up for the role. I also happened to be the only man in the room, so I accepted by default.
A gig is a gig after all. Check one off the bucket list.
I played Santa once before, in 2007, before we moved to the Yukon from Quebec. My sister worked at a seniors residence and enlisted me to bring goodwill and joy to the folks living there.
“What do you want me to do”? I asked her right before greeting everybody.
“I don’t know.” She said. “Be Santa.”
Easy enough. I mustered up as much joy and belly laugh as I could, walked out to the group and Ho Ho Ho’ed my butt off. Except the room was silent, half the residents looked like they were sleeping and the other half were staring at their feet.
The coup de gras was when I was escorted into a room to give a gift to a sweet old lady who was sleeping. She woke up just as I approached her bed with this scared, confused look of fear — like I was the grim reaper looming over her. It was an extremely awkward moment in my Saint Nick career.
But here in Old Crow I performed to a bunch of little ones who wholeheartedly believed in Santa. I came loaded with a bag of gifts and happily greeted the kids with handshakes and ringing bells.
My Santa-style is all-or-nothing. I think not putting enough oomph into your role is worse than feeling embarrassed about “going too big”. If I’m to portray an iconic legend then dammit, I’m going to go big or get out!
My Santa is magical, hip, and is not afraid to crack a joke or two about Mrs. Claus, unruly elves, and reindeer flatulence.
My Santa is jovial, and takes the time to listen to the children with respect and earnestness. After all, Santa would be out of business if it wasn’t for the magical hearts of little children.
When my elf helper, Paul, dropped me off with his dogs at the community centre and all the initial hand shaking was done, I wandered around the hall talking-it-up and goofing around before I made my way to Santa’s throne where my other elf helper, Tammy, coordinated children on the “nice list” to come up for the traditional photo-op and gift from the big red bag.
Everyone was in great spirits and enjoyed a stacked turkey dinner. Nobody pulled my beard, stomped my foot, or called me fake. My daughter didn’t recognise me, which was a huge bonus. My only hiccup came when I ate a small piece of fruitcake and choked on my beard in front of everybody, forcing me to make a quick bathroom exit to pull beard hair out of my throat. I stayed in character and laughed it off.
After all, Santa’s only human.