Red Suit, Rookie Season: Yes, There Is A Santa Claus

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It is Christmas morning 2019 and I can officially declare my rookie season as “A Santa” has come to a conclusion.

The road to and from the North Pole for my first holiday season representing a legendary character has provided lots of interesting observations.



This all began when I was asked to “play Santa” for a small office party in Ashland last year, shortly after I had “played Pikachu” during a festival in Grayson. 



I was immediately fascinated at the different reactions those two characters caused.



If you don’t know what a Pikachu is: A – Are you kidding? B – You are kidding, right? 

At this point, a photo of Pikachu would likely be more recognized worldwide than an image of Elvis Presley.



Pikachu is a friendly-looking, bright yellow cartoon character featured in the show Pokemon. 100 percent of all children have an unbridled love of Pikachu, and grown ups also seem to approve. 



Upset a Pikachu and it might hurl bolts of raw electricity at you, but otherwise they are inherently adorable.



Santa, by comparison, is an often-scary looking old man in a blood red suit who knows if you’ve been bad or good. 



Get on Santa’s bad side and you don’t get any toys this year.



When kids see someone in a Pikachu costume, they want to scream in delight and run with open arms to hug them. When kids see Santa they have an entirely different response.



While some children light up with love when they see Santa, a sizable percentage of them also have an instinctive “fight or flight” response. 



You have not seen the true look of terror in a child’s eyes until you have sat as Santa while being handed a horrified child with arms and legs flailing in every direction in an effort to take flight and get away.



My “rookie season” as a professional Santa began when I joked about a desire to be a male model and get paid to have photos taken at a mall. My Facebook friend Christy made that happen with a two-day shooting session in Ashland.



I used a borrowed suit for that, but my little sister, Aimee Salyer, was unhappy with my appearance and I was soon sporting a new “Father Christmas” style Santa costume. 



She had my mom assist by gluing fur to the top of a new pair of black boots, and later added a “jingle belt” to the package. The gold-trimmed outfit (complete with cape!) was a big hit everywhere it went.



The highlight of the season was surely the Greenup Christmas Parade, where I was allowed to sit on the front bumper of a fire truck, ringing a small bell and waving at everyone along the route before sitting for photos inside the old courthouse. 



Parade duty was fun, but it was all the “little moments” along the way which made the experience special. Yes, Santa had plenty of kids turn their spines into reverse arcs in order to slip away from his clutches, even more made a point to come back and hug him after their turn was done.



One of my personal favorite little-things moments was when I rattled my sister’s “jingle belt” from a few doors down from the nursery/play room in the basement at Bayless Memorial Presbyterian. An immediate hush fell down the hallway and one of them whispered, “I hear him! I hear Santa!!!”

My fancy red suit will now go into storage until 2020. 



And, while I had planned to make a spectacle of shaving my white beard for New Year’s Day, I have been convinced to instead continue to grow and groom it so I can be an even better Santa next year. 



Yes, in the past I have been known to confess a absolute and unbridled hatred of Christmas music. And, until the past couple of years, I really didn’t have much good to say about Christmas at all.



Life, however, is funny. While it has not been a Scrooge-level turnaround, I’ve surely seen a change in my own views about many things, including Christmas.



Yes, the suit has been put away. I will, however, continue to carry the “Santa” part of things with me wherever I go until Christmas time is once again upon us.



Until next year, “Ho! Ho! Ho!”



-Tim Preston

Carter County Post

Community Journalist

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