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He's coming to town

Santa talks to the I-O about his favortie time of year

Santa Claus spent time in Polk County prior to Christmas checking flight plans for his local Christmas Eve journey.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Santa Claus spent time in Polk County prior to Christmas checking flight plans for his local Christmas Eve journey.

December 23, 2013

POLK?COUNTY — Sitting across from St. Nicholas — Santa Claus, the big man himself — is more comfortable than you might imagine. You may think you know a lot about him from books and movies, but some things might surprise you.

We at the Itemizer-Observer had an opportunity to meet with Santa, in spite of his busy schedule this time of year, and ask him a few questions in advance of his big night.

Santa Claus grew up at the North Pole and inherited the position from his father. He and his family took vacations after Christmas Day. He wouldn't pick a favorite vacation destination.

"Dad would come home in the wee hours of Christmas morning, and he would nap for about a week," Claus said. "So, in the New Year, then we would go someplace warm."

It was on one of those vacations that he met Mrs. Jessica Mary Claus.

"I met Mrs. Claus while I was in college," he said. "We actually got married before we finished college. The difficult part was knowing when to tell her."

Santa said he was a bit nervous about how she'd take the news that his dad was Santa, and that he intended to take over the position.

"Fortunately, she loved the idea, too."

Santa declined to say which college he attended.

"I don't want any of the other schools upset with me, or their students," he said. "But over the years, I've grown ever fond of this one right here, Western Oregon. In fact, I have a football jersey that has 'St. Nick' on the back, and it's No. 25."

Santa enjoyed growing up with elves.

"Because they're small, they move quickly and they talk quickly," he said. "Sometimes we have to remind them to slow down a little for us, so we can understand what they're excited about."

Santa's elves help in more ways than just making toys.

Few people know what a talented musician Santa Claus really is -- and he plays more than just traditional carols. From classical to jazz, Santa plays it all.

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Few people know what a talented musician Santa Claus really is -- and he plays more than just traditional carols. From classical to jazz, Santa plays it all.

"It was in the early 1930s," Santa recalled. "We started getting so many requests for me to be places and meet kids that we just couldn't handle them all, so we started finding gentlemen in cities who would portray me. We always have one of my elves hiding out there so that all the information he collects gets back to the North Pole."

Elves also help Santa with his "Naughty and Nice" list.

"Because they're quick, they can be in and out of places without being seen," Santa explained. "I can't give you exact details because Santa needs to keep some of his secrets secret."

He said he cuts children a little slack this time of year.

"I think it's funny, when I ask kids if they've been good, so many of them hesitate," Santa said. "And you go, 'god bless their hearts.' They are trying so hard to be honest, and they won't say they've been good if they think there's something they've done that wasn't."

Most children will agree they've been "mostly good," Santa added.

"I tell them that's pretty much all we can expect from anybody," he said. "None of us are perfect, so, even at our best, we're only mostly good."

Santa said there are millions of nice kids in the world, he can't be too bothered with the naughty ones.

Santa won

Photo by Emily Mentzer

Santa won't admit to a favorite beverage, though he is partial to hot cocoa.

"It's kind of up to their families and them to find a way to grow out of that," he said.

He takes a similar attitude toward nonbelievers, saying there are plenty of them.

"I've had kids who didn't want to believe," Santa recalled. "They thought maybe they were too sophisticated, or they might get made fun of if they told their friends they still believed. And then have them decide it was OK. If they got teased about it, they could handle it."

Santa wouldn't say if he had a favorite reindeer, just that "each one has special traits and characteristics" that he loves.

"It would be naughty of me to have a favorite," he added.

He did reveal his favorite cookie: oatmeal raisin.

"Depending on where I go in the world, cookies are made from different things," he added. "In the Middle East, they like to use more wild rice and sweeten it with dates."

Once a Japanese middle school student asked if he delivered toys to Asia, Santa said. His answer was he delivers presents to anybody who believes in Jesus.

"Because it's his birthday we're celebrating, and we give gifts because he was given gifts when he was born," Santa explained.

The jolly 'ol elf still relies heavily on old fashioned mail to know what kids want for Christmas, in addition to the hundreds of thousands of children he visits with each year.

Even still, sometimes mistakes happen and someone doesn't get what he or she asked for. When that happens, Santa says, "I'm heartsick. Once in a while something goes wrong. We're only human; we're only elfish."

Santa said he wants to give kids any positive encouragement that he can, especially in a time when they are bombarded with negative images and information.

"I want to let them know they're doing a good job, and that we don't expect perfection," he said. "I think a lot of them feel pressure to be probably better than it's possible for them to be."

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