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We won’t tell you his real name, but you can call him Santa Ron. And, you’ll see him on Nov. 19 at the 2016 WRAL Raleigh Christmas Parade on Hillsborough Street. We wanted to find out what it’s like being Santa and making thousands of children smile. So we went straight to the source.
When you meet kids and they ask you if you’re the real Santa, what do you say?
What I say to them is, “Reach for this beard. Go ahead, pull. Is it real or fake?” And the youngsters will give an answer and I say, “Christmas is in your heart. Have you been good? Do you help your mother? Do you know how to hug? That’s wonderful!” And so, I usually do not directly answer the question, I let the youngsters come to their own conclusions.
When someone asks why are there Santas at every mall, do you answer differently?
No, I tell them the same thing, although I have to say to the youngsters I have what is called an “associate Santa.” These are Santas in training, and they help provide information that’s sent to the North Pole. But there is, in fact, only one real Santa. And I’m going to be in Raleigh on Saturday, November 19 for the Raleigh Christmas Parade. And I am there with Mrs. Claus, my wife. She loves to be there to wave and to see all the girls and boys.
And how long have you and Mrs. Claus been married?
Well, I usually get into trouble when I answer that question, but let me tell you that we got married on December 6. Now, the magic thing about December 6 is that it is the saint day of Saint Nicholas. In Europe, boys and girls in some countries receive gifts on [this day].
How long have you been participating in the Raleigh Christmas Parade?
Several years, and it is one of my favorites. Now this year, I’m doing something special. We are being flown the day after the Raleigh Christmas Parade to New York, and from New York to Hong Kong, and then from Hong Kong by motor ferry 65 miles south to the city of Macau, China. And I am going to be in the Galaxy Resort in Macau for the entire forty days of Christmas. I’ll be seeing many youngsters there every single day.
Do you have plans to sight see while you’re in China?
I think I might do some touring on December 26. But from the first of December ‘til the end of Christmas, my only plans are to visit with hundreds of youngsters each day. I’m trying to make it a very magical experience for each child.
Will there be a translator?
Yes, actually there’s going to be two: in Mandarin and Cantonese.
What is it like the day of the parade in Raleigh?
I am on Hillsborough Street, where the turnabout is and Hillsborough splits at Morgan Street right in front of St. Mary’s, and what I do before the parade actually begins is each of the college and high school bands come marching by. Every single one of them really loves a selfie with Santa. And not just a picture with the entire band, oh no, they each want a picture. I’ve got pictures with the trombone section, the woodwinds, the percussion section and various sections of the band. Then, during the parade, I say, ‘Ho, ho, ho,’ as I go down the street. The first time I do it, I say, ‘Ho, ho, ho.’ The second time, I look to the left and I mouth the words, and I take the microphone and I point it to the youngsters and they say, ‘Ho, ho, ho,’ and I immediately turn to the right and I mouth the words, and those youngsters on the right side also do the cheer. People have been there for at least two hours but nobody misses Santa Claus.
Do you have children?
Sure. And they too enjoy Christmas; although, when they were younger they weren’t mature enough to understand that helping other people enjoy Christmas was an important calling. Now they enjoy Christmas because they have children of their own.
How many grandkids do you have?
I have two grandchildren, but I’ve sort of adopted a whole lot more, so the family keeps growing and growing. But that’s what Santa Claus is, a jolly, happy grandpa. For La Posada, we do the Christmas festival [at Dorten Arena], and I asked if they wanted to have somebody who’s more of a native Spanish speaker, and they said, ‘No, Santa, we want to have you because the children love your sparkly, snow-white beard.’ But what I say to these youngsters is: ‘Que quieres por Navidad? What do you want for Christmas?’ in Spanish. The answer is always Xbox, Nintendo, 360, Barbie, American Girl doll.
What have been some of the most unusual present requests?
I’ve had some sad requests, asking me to bring their daddy back home from being overseas in the military. I remind them is how important it is to help their mom. And, that helps a little bit, because it makes something positive out of something that’s pretty sad. Also, we’ve had youngsters facing ill health. I go in July to both the Duke Children’s Hospital and the UNC Hospital. I go with my wife, and [we] wear Hawaiian shirts—it’s Christmas in July.
Do you get a lot of pet requests?
All the time. I have a red towel on my lap and the animals get a chance to [sit] if they want to. If their claws have not been trimmed I try and convince the parents to keep the animal in their arms. The animals are like toddlers. Toddlers do not like being in strange situations and neither do pets.
Do you have any special tricks so kids don’t cry?
They have to see that Santa Claus is not going hurt them. If we have a baby that is apprehensive, one way to have a picture of them with Santa is to have the parent hold onto the child, but hold the child so the child’s back is next to the parent’s chest and the child can only look forward. Then the parent, being a wise, sneaky person, walks backwards three or four feet, and Santa Claus stands up, I peer over the shoulder. If the child sees Santa Claus, the jig is up; they will be crying. There’s no reason to put a child through a situation where they’re going to cry; it’s just wrong. The parent is embarrassed and sort of laughs, and says to the child, ‘But you were fine around Santa Claus at home,’ and I want to say, ‘Yeah, but it was a cartoon character in a book,’ not the same thing.
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