NROP: In Santa’s Lap.

Growing up, I do not remember going to the mall to get a photo taken with Santa during Christmas time. There are no photos proving otherwise, so I assume my parents simply did not feel comfortable with me sitting on a stranger’s knee. Or maybe they were too cheap to spend money on something they could arrange for at home. Or they did not have the time. More than likely, it was a combination of all of the above.

Have you seen, or heard about the photos in which the kid is crying their eyes out because they are scared of the fat, old man that they have never met before? Well, I never understood why people choose to put their kids through such an event. Are they trying to torture them on purpose? I mean, if you are walking through a shopping mall, and your kid tugs at you and asks for a photo with Santa, go for it if you want to make them smile. But otherwise, why would you want to stand in a (usually) long line and pay for a photo your kid does NOT want?

What I DO remember was meeting Santa at the mall by accident. I was there with a few of my peers, shopping for Christmas. (Oh, how we used to be so much more responsible and adult-ish as kids than the kids these days…) All of a sudden, we heard through the overhead speaker that Santa would be arriving in a few minutes.

The timeline is a little hazy, so I am not sure whether I already knew Santa was not real but was in denial, or if I still truly believed in him. However, what I did know, from my parents, was that Santa Claus could not visit each child individually in a single night. Of course, that was reasonable. Therefore, Santa often relied on elves and parents to pass on the gifts (that were still from the original Santa, made in Santa’s workshop at the North Pole). (How have I never thought of looking at the label/tag?)

Once the jolly, old fellow arrived, in his red suit, with snow-white hair and a long beard, he was introduced as Santa Claus. He looked so real. Mr. Claus was said to be from the North Pole. Some of my friends snickered. (They had been trying to enlighten me about the Santa fairy tale all day.) However, when he began to speak, all of our jaws dropped. He spoke perfect English. Oh, I forgot to mention that this took place in a country in which English was not the official language. A random man served as a translator.

At that moment, all of the clouds of doubt in my head dispersed, and I was left with a clear vision. Of course, Santa was real. He spoke ENGLISH, after all! What other language would he speak? My parents were right – he needed help to deliver gifts to kids from all over the world, but he was real. Why did I believe he was real? Because he was no one’s family member or the mall’s employee. They were not native English speakers. I know it sounds silly, but that encounter reinforced my belief in Santa. And my jaded peers were left speechless.

This past weekend, I ran into Santa again. By accident. I went out to eat at a restaurant I have never been to before and walked around for a little while afterward. (Does anyone like walking after they eat a big meal?) The area was sort of like a shop/Christmas village. What caught my attention was a statue of a sitting polar bear (with Santa’s hat on its head). It almost made me want to sit in its lap and feel the magic of winter, Coca-Cola, and Christmas. A kid was climbing all over it and his mom was snapping pictures. It looked like they enjoyed themselves. I smiled but immediately wondered about all the other kids that had touched that bear before that kid. There was no one in sight to sanitize the space.

Back to back with the polar bear was an enclosed area where Santa and his elves resided. Unlike for a photo with the bear, you needed an appointment to take a picture with Santa. There was also a fee associated with it. This year, aside from all the regular restrictions, there was another one put into place – plexiglass. A see-through barrier sat between Santa Claus and any kid that came to visit. They call it a Santatized experience. I have not seen the photos, but the glass is said to be invisible in the final photo, per elf magic!

Once I got back home, I checked how if Santa protects himself the same way across the US. Turns out – no. But, the plexiglass is very popular. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Santa Claus social distances by sitting in the back of the sleigh, leaving the front seat for the kids. The elves have more work this year – they have to assure that the kids waiting in line are six feet apart. I wonder if Santa gave them a raise this year, or if he told them that “times are tough.”

While kids are allowed to take their masks off for the photos in some places, in St. Clairsville, Ohio, they have to keep them on at all times, and so does Santa himself.

Due to COVID-19, some malls chose not to “import” their Santa’s from other states, but instead, hired a local one, which to me sounds great. Go local economy support!

Even though I will not be going to the mall to get my photo taken with Santa, I think that these pandemic changes might actually be good. Kids do not have to worry about being in close proximity with a stranger, Santas do not have to worry about anyone smelling the alcohol on their breath, and parents can finally take photos with Santa and their kid. It becomes a family affair, not just a form of torture for the kids.

There are some downsides to the pandemic, like with anything else. But, I also see the positives in an encounter with Santa. Enjoy your Santatized, socially distanced photos with the jolly man!

  • Do you have a family history of getting pictures taken with Santa?
  • Why do you think people insist on taking photos with Santa?
  • What language do you think is Santa’s native tongue?
  • Will you be taking a photo with Santa this year?

Stay golden,

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40 thoughts on “NROP: In Santa’s Lap.

Add yours

  1. I’m so glad I can climb up on Jesus’ lap and lay my head against His heart, and it won’t make me sick, On the contrary, this often heals me of whatever the problem was. ❤
    There is (was?) and excellent book called "Santa, Are You For Real?" that explains who St. Nicholas was (someone who loved Jesus!) and how the traditions involving him saturate this season all over the Western world. It explains that Jesus is what Christmas should be about without destroying the joy of playing the Santa game. I hope it's still available, but I'm afraid it might be out of print.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I wonder why the song “Santa Baby” is still allowed. It completely sexualizes and commercializes christmas.
    But since it’s a woman who sings it…. no problem.
    I wouldn’t have been comfortable to sit on Santa’s lap as a child. I would also not put my own child on there. But that’s just because I am not keen on too much physical contact.

    My dad grew up in the region where Krampus were walking down the streets 😁

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Elves are front-line workers, it seems. They probably got a one-time pay bonus, small enough to be insulting, and are now expected to live on periodic thanks and the slow delivery of PPE.

    I love the Coke polar bears. Yes, they’re an evil global empire, but their marketing department does some good work. Their Christmas game is on fleek. I have no idea what it means. I think it’s trendy. Or maybe it’s what old people think is trendy and I’m simply amplifying my advancing state. 😊

    I have an adorable picture of myself with Santa. I was about six. I took all three kids the year my son turned one. It is the worst picture of all of them, bar none. My son hated every moment of the experience. I resolved to be the parent who asks and listens about unimportant stuff (pics with Santa are unimportant) from that point on and so it was also the last. I’d get rid of it – I dislike it that much – but I feel superstitious.

    I like the sled solution, seating front and back. Plexiglass seems, while safer, harsh.

    I think Santa speaks the language of the listener. I don’t know if I’ve thought about him having a native tongue, though because of his location, I’d expect it to be some variant of a Scandinavian or Icelandic language. Or maybe Inuit?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Well said about front line elf workers.

      I like the Coke bear, too. If the kid wasn’t there, I probably would have sat in its lap for a moment. Ever since I was a kid, I remembered Coke commercials announcing the Christmas season. They ARE so good. I cannot think of another company that is so closely associated with the season.

      I’ve heard people say “on fleak,” but you’re right – the trends change so quickly. I’m not the one to keep up with it.

      Listening about unimportant things seems reasonable to me. What superstition do you have associated with throwing pictures away?

      There was a picture in one of the articles I browsed in which a kid was touching the glass on one side and Santa on the other. I think it was meant to look like they are so close and it’s cute, but I thought it was weird and it made me think of prison/ or being held captive.

      Well, in Lapland, Finiish and Swedish are official languages, so you’d think that’s what Santa would speak. BUT, English is widely spoken, so…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s not a suspicion, really. It just seems so wrong. Like getting rid of handmade gifts. It’s fully illogical, of course. And luckily, it doesn’t seem to apply to digital versions. I delete ugly there with glee 😁

        I always assumed Santa could just magically speak local. Part of his skill set ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t have any pictures with Santa 🤣🤣
    I never really believed in Santa so I never got to experience disillusionment at discovering he wasn’t real, Also we didn’t have a chimney so Santa couldn’t come to our house..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I am not entirely sure… But I think I would say a bit of both, because my siblings would later get pics with Santa and one sister had a positively motified expression standing next to a stranger (none of that sitting on stranger’s lap stuff🤣)
        The Santa Claus culture seems to have grown over the years and then dwindled somewhat.

        Santa is more like a TV character or just some guy dressed in red at a department you take pics with 🤣🤣

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Don’t believe everything you hear. Santa is real. He used to be called Scott Calvin, and here are a bunch of documentaries to prove it. The whole “look at the tags” thing is confusing, but you have to understand that it takes a lot of money to produce all of the toys and gifts for children in an area that is so far removed from global supply chains. Because Santa works out of the goodness of his heart, and delivers toys for free, he doesn’t have a reliable income stream. So a lot of really nice companies chip in to help sponsor Santa, and in exchange he lets them put their tags on his gifts.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I did not visit Santa or sit on his lap, we wrote letters to Santa to share our wish list. I do have pictures of my kids on Santa’s lap, but it was at my husband’s work party, to the mall. We do not have Santa at our malls in Windsor, Ontario this year due to Covid. It is back to the old fashioned letter writing. I love your story that it must have been the real Santa because he spoke English. That is awesome, kid thinking.


  7. I was taught that Santa was not real and that some people believed in him. I have always loved Christmas. Not for the presents but for the cheerfulness. The lights, the music, the decorations (non-Santa haha)… all that. To this day, I love it second only to Thanksgiving, my absolute favorite holiday. I still don’t do Santa, the whole thing about getting stuff (I’m a minimalist) has never really resonated with me, even as a child.

    I also have never understood the forcing of children to be okay with sitting on a strange man’s lap or talking to him. Nor do I understand asking a stranger for gifts. It’s all so weird to me.

    For fun, check out North Pole, Alaska… it’s a real town. And it’s all about that. I went to college with a guy from there and of course I visited it when I was a teenager (in the summer though). Anyway, you might like checking it out! (Stay golden! 😉😁)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have quite an interesting approach. Society primed me to expect gifts. At home, I’d get stuff from the parents, at school we would do Secret Santa. Most of the time I felt as if I got someone something awesome but received something very mediocre. I assume everyone felt that way.

      When I grew up, I was happy, thinking that I was done with the whole gift thing. And then, people at work started buying each other stuff… It looked weird that I got them nothing. So, I am back to where I started – getting people things that they might not like… But I am seriously going to rethink that next year.

      Do you believed in anything magical? I miss being a child and seeing the world through the prism of magic. The real world is too dark.

      Holy crap! I didn’t know there was a North Pole that’s so “close.” Sounds kinda interesting. During summer, of course. I could not do -65F in winter…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s so interesting! I am always the opposite, I (almost) always think that what I have received is just the best ever and what I have given isn’t good enough.

        I’ve done the secret santa thing a couple times (literally, like two times) and it was fun. I liked what I got. (Books!!)

        I have always been the odd kid (and now for much longer, adult). I have wildly unpopular opinions and ideas and I generally just don’t “get” people. I run on logic, analysis, experience, and yes even mysticism (my own type). I never understood the kids who so much believed in the tooth fairy, Santa, Easter bunny, or ghosts. None of it made sense and seemed like a logistical nightmare… how are any of those even possible????!! Suffice it to say, I have never been “popular” and quite literally often shunned or ostracized. Eh. I am who I am. Nowadays, here firmly in my 40s, I am quite at peace with all that. I believe in my own type of magic, but it isn’t the mainstream version.

        I do so enjoy your posts and conversations. Always enjoyable.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I was one of those who has vivid memories as a kid of sitting on one Santa’s lap (90s kid here) but I was never excited about it. I just wanted the free candy canes that came with the torture… I saw yesterday the news about plexiglass Santas today hahahah Santa being inside a box and kids going in front of it sounds hilarious to me. COVID sure made us less and less human nowadays…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This was hilarious to read! Given the choice between Santa and a polar bear?… I’d take the bear.
    Frankly, I have always wondered at this strange ritual too. Out of curiosity, I looked up how to become a Santa Claus, and here’s what I found:
    Shockingly, a background check is not listed as a requirement! Eeep!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to hear that you’re a bear kind of person, too.
      Like with anything these days, I see that having a brand/online presence is something that’s needed to be a successful Santa. Eh…
      Now, you made we wonder… does that mean that no fingerprints are obtained???

      Liked by 1 person

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