Read I wore the Red Suit Online
Authors: Jack Pulliam
I Wore the
Marion J. Pulliam
It is the time of the year more fitting for a polar bear than man. The landscape has a white blanket of snow and ice as the earth is enveloped in a cleansing cold. Every exhaled breath is visible in the icy cold air to show you are alive and breathing. A man’s back creaks as his shovel digs into another six inches of packed snow. As much time as it takes clearing a path, the process feels more like moving snowflake by snowflake. Thank God, the white stuff sticks together, or else the shoveling job would never end. Another spade full of snow is moved out of the path and another half-foot of progress down the driveway. As the progress is forward so is the snow as it covers the path behind the man, that was clear a few minutes ago. A short break as the man leans on the shovel and stares into the cold night sky. The warm air escaping the bearded mouth as thin wisps of exhaled air rises and disappears into the dark. A fallen snowflake that for one brief moment blurs the eye turns from crystal beauty to a warm tear. An almost inaudible sound rumbles from a large barrel chest, as the silent summons deep within him calls once again. It is a spiritual appeal that arrives every year at this time. It is twelve days before Christmas, and the man is about to become Santa Claus once again.
Because the time of the Christmas season is so close, it is not just putting on the red suit, but it is acting the part. To immerse oneself into the whole being of a myth come alive. To end another year with the spirit of giving and granting as many wishes as possible. In this country, you can find Santa Claus or one of his many helpers standing on almost every corner, collecting coins for the needy during Christmas.
Large department stores display scenes from Santa's workshop with animated figures of Santa and his elves. Most every good size mall has a Santa posing for pictures and listening to children’s wishes for Christmas. In that spirit of Christmas gift giving, and good will toward our fellow man I have modeled my life and my personal portrayal of Santa Claus. All children hold a special place in my heart. Therefore, every child that sees me either in Santa costume or street clothes; I play the role. I have seen thousands of children while playing Santa.
The following pages are a collection of short true-life stories as a small indication of what it is like being Santa Claus. To feel that character, one must don the red suit and walk the path as so many others to carry the legend forward.
Webster's defines "myth" as follows. a traditional story of unknown authorship, sensibly with a historical basis, but serving usually to explain some phenomenon of nature, the origin of man, or the customs, institutions, religious rites, etc. of a people.
“Ho! Ho! Ho! And what do you want for Christmas,” Santa asked the child sitting on his knee. Those words from the jolly man in the red suit and long white beard will bring a smile to anyone’s face. For those of us who have moved on from childhood, much older now, but no less a child inside. Our thoughts were full with the times as children waiting for Christmas. Can you remember trying to stay awake? Those long hours sitting at the top of the stairs or looking out the window. A blanket wrapped around us while hoping to see Santa fly over to our house and leave toys under the tree. “If only I could get a glimpse of him before he rushed off to the next house.” No matter how hard we tried to stay awake, we would always fall asleep just before morning, with the jingling of sleigh bells at the back of our dreams. Even the smell of Santa's pipe seemed to linger long after he left. The faint fragrance smelled like apples and cinnamon. I would not be surprised that the Sandman and Santa were working together on this. I could never stay awake. Nevertheless, he always came and went without a sound.
It is Christmas magic that Santa could be seen several places at almost the same time. You could not go to a shopping mall or large department store during the Christmas season without seeing him sitting there, with long lines of smiling kids waiting patiently for their turn. Many parents can be seen tuning up cameras for that precious keepsake picture while they wait patiently. It is remarkable that Santa can visit with children all over the world before Christmas, but still has the energy for his yearly, one-night deliveries. I remember having to explain to my children why Santa was at one mall, and fifteen minutes later at another store several miles down the road. “
Santa is a kindly, magical, symbol of Christmas,” I tell them. “He is everywhere, and because many children believe in him, he is real; believing makes him even more real. There is also the fact, that
Santa has many helpers I told my boys.” Little did I know that one day, soon, I would join those ranks of costumed helpers.
Can you imagine what it is like to be Santa Claus? When so many people have seen him, can you dispute his existence? It is an art to maintaining toy schedules and working with Elves. Do not forget reindeer flight training. Do you ever wonder what it must feel like to play Santa Claus? The joy of listening to children's requests, smiling for a picture, and helping parents cope with the busiest holiday of the year. During the Christmas month, most of us hope it does not snow until Christmas Eve, so we can get to work or run our errands and shop. Santa prays that it snows so he can work. That heavy sleigh does not work well on ground without snow. After all, the reindeer needs a good running start to get themselves and that toy-laden sleigh airborne.
To most, Santa Claus is a jolly bearded old man who visits on Christmas Eve and gives presents to those who have been good all year. He is always portrayed as fat and jolly, red fur trimmed suit, flowing white beard, and a cherry nose. Santa Claus is known the world over, not only by what he stands for but his treatment of humankind. He is called by many different names depending where in the world you happen to be. He is Sinter
in Germany. For the Scandinavian countries like, Denmark, Sweden, Norway he is Father Christmas. Spanish speaking counties he is Papa Noël'. Moreover, in France Peres Nole'.
I started my Santa Claus role in 1985 at Crosby Elementary school, a small rural school in Kingston New York, near the Catskill Mountains where my friend Rip Van Winkle lives.
The children have been waiting all week to see the jolly old elf. At the last minute, the man who was to play Santa for the kids could not make it. My wife turned to me, stroked my long gray beard, and asked would I do it?
I donned a red and white suit borrowed from a local Fire Department. After putting several coats of polish on an old pair of motorcycle boots and a few practiced Ho Ho's, I was ready, or I hoped to carry this off. The day went well, and the children were many. Seeing those kid’s faces and hearing their laughter transformed me into Kris Kringle within a few short hours. I thought that I would have trouble, as I had not done this before. Trouble never came my way, as it felt like I was born for this role. My life would never be as it was. Something inside of me had changed, and the kids could see and feel it whenever I was around.
From that day forward, children would walk up to me all year and say, “hi Santa!” They would ask for toys because they have been extra good. It is not because my beard and hair are white, but because my attitude and actions say I am Santa. I gave each one a candy cane. Thinking how great this was and not wanting to end that first day, I convinced my wife that we should go out to visit our friends and relatives.
While my wife was carting me around to our brothers and sisters and their kids, we would visit the children in the neighborhood. We pulled into a small strip mall in Kingston to buy more candy canes. Loaded with candy we got back in the car and started to drive away. A car with a man and three little girls pulled up to the front of the store. The girls waved from the back seat, and I waved back. As my wife swung the car around, I watched the kids get out of their car and stand there in the rain. Of course, it had to be a rainy day. My wife asked if we should go back.