BETHLEHEM, PA - It’s the most wonderful job of the year. Christmas City Santa has been booked every weekend since Thanksgiving, spreading Christmas cheer with 4 or 5 gigs a day!
"Everyone deserves to get to talk to Santa and hopefully be heard and listened to and have a good time and believe a little bit."
It’s Santa Tom, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s first year donning his custom red velvet suit full time while the Christmas season is in full swing. And while this kind of career brings with it some of the best parts of the holiday.
"It’s so special, seeing them get excited and seeing them, interacting with them. Again, keeping it special and magic," he explains, "In today’s world, there’s not enough of that. So, I’m trying to make sure they’re having a good time with it."
But some of the toughest tag along too.
"Sometimes you get hard questions like I just want my mom back for Christmas," Santa Tom tells PBS39 News Tonight Reporter, K.C. Lopez, "The answer that I typically give is you know, Santa can’t bring them back but I can make sure that I always place them in your heart so they’ll never leave your heart."
But it’s nothing his education at Santa School didn’t prepare him for.
"I’ve done the Santa Claus Conservatory, the School for Santas. There’s a huge social network on Facebook of different Santa groups; there’s real bearded Santa groups and other Santa groups and a lot of sharing of information; just how to interact in certain ways, how not to scare little ones that may be nervous, coming in with a very loud ho ho ho maybe will freak some of them out. So. taking it slow, but it’s--sometimes it’s trial and error."
There, Santa Tom learned from the best; basics like the history of Saint Nicholas, proper dress and makeup, wig and beard application and of course, keeping the magic of Christmas alive. And for Christmas City Santa, that’s most important...
"I’ve got the Bethlehem Stars on the sleeves because technically, my business name is Christmas City Santa so I’ve made it kind of personal," says Santa Tom.
And that applies to both kids excited to see the big man in red and those too tiny to tell...
"Part of it is reading the audience too with the babies and the little ones. Knowing, are they fearful, if I can get them high fiving a little bit or get them close enough to do a picture for mom--although more parents nowadays are okay with the crying pictures; they throw them in your arms so you know."
Santa Tom tells us, the days of quick meet and greets with Santa are gone! It’s about interacting with children and speaking with them that "matters most; talking topics well beyond their wishlist.
They need to know that everything matters," he says, "They need to know that school matters. They need to know that being nice and kind matters and you know, I think that’s part of what Christmas is about; is kindness and generosity. They need to hear some of that too so."
And this Santa has some special tricks up his sleeve to help him along the way.
"Just little things to give them to say I shook the reindeer’s bells and they’re the magic bells and I’ve got this naughty and nice meter. Sometimes I’ll visit kids at home and I’ve got a naughty and nice meter--and they’re always nice, obviously. But they get to touch it and see the numbers move and everything and…it kind of, particularly the bells, it makes it a little more real for them because they’ve seen the bells on the reindeer in the movies so now they can see it here."
He’s even licensed to drive a sled!
"It’s a really test actually because you’ve got to parallel park reindeer in a sleigh which is hard to do. And if you notice the birthday, March 15th, 270...So I’m 1749 years old. I don’t think I look a day over 900."
And for any home that lacks a smokestack, this Kris Kringle’s got a special set of keys to let him inside...
"If I have to go to a house that doesn't have a chimney, I can use my magic key to get in so even kids with houses with no chimneys, Santa can deliver the presents. And then this is the key to my house at the North Pole because, you know, I need a key too to get in."
Now while everyone thinks Santa enters through the chimney, he really gets in through the heart; no matter the age. But that’s something everyone has to learn for themselves. Only by meeting Kris Kringle in person.
"If this is work, I’ll take it every time," says Santa Tom, "When they run back to mom and dad all excited that they just talked to Santa. Just seeing their smiles and seeing mom and dad happy, and families enjoying it, that’s the most fun."
Got a news tip? Email K.C. at KCLopez@WLVT.org