Interview With A Mall Santa: Real Santas Talk About Their Time In The Chair

It is tough to be a “Mall Santa.” With many of America’s great indoor shopping malls being closed and in decline thanks to competition from online retail, I am afraid that this tradition may not last another generation. In the near future, how are kids going to go sit on Santa’s lap to tell him what they want? Is an Amazon drone going to swing by and pick them up for a “sleigh ride” to the North Pole?

 

The art of the Mall Santa will be something we tell our kids about “When I was your age we went to a shopping mall and sat on a stranger’s lap and told him all the things we wanted for Christmas.”

So before the mall Santas pack their sack one last time let this be a testament to the men who sat and let your kids smear all their hopes, dreams and boogers on them.  

 

In addition to the mall gigs the holiday season is a busy time for chubby older men with white beards to get steady work. Fascinatingly, much like any actor, musician or performance artist, there are actual Santa Claus “agencies” that pimp out old Saint Nicolas to hire him by the hour or by the night.

This brings up a bunch of questions!

  • What is the worst thing a child has ever gotten on a mall Santa? A Reddit user who says his buddy worked as a mall Santa for just one day before quitting says: “He enjoyed two kids punching him in the balls, one baby vomiting on his chest, and one kid pissing his pants while sitting in his lap. It soaked through and he felt it, warm and wet on his thigh. But he did get to say "fuck this shit, I quit!" while wearing a Santa suit. So it wasn't a total loss.”

 

  • So if you are a mall Santa, does the mall provide the outfit? How about a bottle of aspirin for your tired out lap? It helps to have your own suit for the freelance Christmas party gigs, but many big malls and department stores will spring for a fresh red suit. We assume that the dry-cleaning comes with that after a long day of toddlers saying and spraying their Christmas list.
  • Kids say the weirdest things, so what is the oddest thing a kid has ever asked for? One long time mall Santa recalls a request that would make 2015 Marty McFly proud; “About a 1/2 dozen kids asked for fax machines. This was in 1989. I'm pretty sure they had no idea what they were. I had no idea what they were. I thought it was a version of Big Wheel, or something.”
  • Santa’s elves hear some pretty weird requests too  ….like a request from a potential future serial killer: “I worked as an elf when I was 15. One kid asked for a new liver. Apparently he was healthy, just wanted one "to play with and stuff".
  • What is the most heartbreaking thing a Santa has ever heard? Here are a few requests from Santa that may have you asking for a box of tissues this Christmas. One Santa says;  “I'm Santa at parties and wandering around the neighborhood. The toughest was having a little girl wanted her father home from prison. That was awkward and I had to promise her that although some presents take several years to get, they are the most worth it when it happens. Added the usual assurance that her daddy missed her and loved her. It's a lot easier when they want Barbies.”

Another Santa had a little girl ask “to bring her dad home from Afghanistan. I told her Santa doesn't get to make those kinds of decisions, but that when I was making my flight around the world I would stop and check on him. She seemed very satisfied with that answer.”

Another Santa says: “Not mall but big box store. I did it once and never again. Some of the things still haunt me. One little girl was the sweetest most well spoken girl and asked that her parents would love each other again so they could get back together and they could be a family again, the pain in her voice still hurts my heart almost a decade later. Another boy wanted his dad to come back from Iraq. Another little boy wanted his dad back and told me he died in Afghanistan. One asked for his parents to get jobs, because they both lost them. A few others just ran to me and gave me the biggest and most loving hugs and though those aren't really sad but they really struck a nerve with me, just such genuine love from complete strangers. I am not an emotional person normally, but even typing this brought me to tears. Kids should not be worrying about some of these things. I would never do it again, you expect toys and gadgets but things like these I never expected and they will be things that break my heart for the rest of my life.”

  • Has anyone tried to pull the beard off a Santa? For those Santas with a natural beard this can just plain be painful. However it is worse when someone yanks off Santa’s beard in front of the children. One commenter revealed how Christmas was ruined for a group of mall Santa visitors; “My brother brought his puppy to a mall Santa last year (he wanted it to be his Christmas card). The dog peed on Santa and tried to pull his beard off, which caused several kids in line to scream and cry. This really just seems like the worst job of all time.”

 

  • Has anyone ever recognized Santa out of the suit or away from Santa’s village? Some Santas can have an awkward moment even away from the chair! This one says; “I was taking a break, sitting on a bench with my head in my hands, and a 7-9 year old girl came over, grabbed me by the ears and kissed me full on the mouth. I had time to say "uhhh". Her parents grabbed her and dragged her away. Before they left I heard the girl say "He just looked sad."

 

  • Has playing Santa ever helped a Santa get lucky? One commenter shares the story of how a department store Santa is the reason he exists: “My dad was a department store Santa in the 50's when he was in high school. A group of giggling teenaged girlfriends came in and were pressuring the redhead to sit on Santa's lap first and tell him what she wanted. She didn't want to, and finally one of the girls just said something like "Junie wants a date with Santa for Christmas!" They all laughed, and he finally agreed meet her for lunch. What had happened was, my mom (the redhead) had seen my dad working at the store before, and gushed with her friends about how she thought he was SO cute and had pretty blue eyes and dark wavy hair and so on. Well, one of her friends knew he was playing Santa, and got the gaggle of giggling girlfriends together to go to the store with the pretense of shopping. Then they all "decided" go see Santa and they were going to make mom go first. And that's how my dad met my mom!”

What are some of your weird mall Santa stories?

Follow Phil Haney on Twitter @PhilHaney