Welcome to our regular weekly feature, Wonderful Wednesday. Every Wednesday, Naperville Patch will introduce you to someone doing great things in the community. Do you know someone who deserves the spotlight? Contact Local Editor Mary Ann Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week, we put the spotlight on a guy who does good all over the world: Santa Claus. Naperville Patch interviewed the Jolly Old Elf last December. Since we know he is a very busy man, we thought it best not to bother him as he readies for Christmas 2011. We hope you enjoy our Q-and-A with Kris Kringle.
Santa is very busy this time of year, but he was kind enough—as Santa is known to be—to set aside some time for a phone interview with Naperville Patch Editor Mary Ann Lopez.
Since this is Santa's busy season, it was hard to schedule a face-to-face interview. And, with his crew working overtime, Santa can't go too far yet—unless he's visiting with children at Santa House.
Santa dished on his favorite snacks, what he wears when he isn't in the middle of his official duties, and a number of other topics.
What is your proper name?
Santa Claus, because I'm in the Claus family. Over the course of time people have used different nicknames—Kris Kringle or Saint Nick. That is why you hear different people give me a different type of name.
What is your age?
Many, many years and sometimes more years than I want to remember.
What is your hometown?
The North Pole, of course.
How did you come across your profession?
Well, I did it because my family has been doing it for generations upon generations and I just like it. I like trying to reward the kids who have behaved and been very, very nice along the way. And, it's neat to see their joy at getting a present at the holiday.
Traveling from the North Pole to Naperville must take time. How is the commute and does Rudolph carry you back and forth? Or, do you spend a lot of time in Naperville?
I usually like to travel at evening time, at night because I can use the stars to navigate and the sun doesn't blind me and it is hard to navigate with the sun out. I do commute from Naperville, but not just Naperville, I'm in other towns too. But, I will be there (Naperville) later in the week.
What is it like working at the Santa House in Naperville since you do spend time other places?
When I get a chance to be in Naperville and be at the Santa House, it just surprises me to see the parents and kids because I don't tell anyone I am coming. It's really neat to see the kids year after year and how they have grown and matured and that they are not too materialistic. It's not always so fun when the 18-month-olds cry.
What are the gifts children want this year?
Trends haven't changed over the years. Girls are involved with the dolls that are coming along. Barbie is not forgotten, American Girl accessories and American Girl dolls. Boys are constantly—and in the last number of years—into technology and electronic material. A lot of the girls like the electronics too, especially after 6 years of age. Nintendo, iPod, iPod Touch, Wii. I cannot get all of the parts for Kinect; I hope we can get all the parts. We will try.
What are the gifts children always ask for?
In the past, a lot of building kinds of things. I still have boys asking for tools and tool benches and material like that. It kind of depends on the technology of the day. Kinect is the new technology. I expect by next year we will have a whole lot more requests for that.
Do adults ever sit on your knee to ask for gifts?
Yes, we sometimes have adults, but the biggest heartstring puller, is when Dad—after the kids have visited—says: "Don't forget, I need a new job this year." With what I see on the news and read in the news and on the Internet, it's kind of hard that I cannot get involved in people's lives to make things happen. I can't alter the way people's lives will be. I wish I could get jobs for them.
If the adults do ask for gifts, what do they ask for?
There are very few adults that walk in by themselves. Usually, it's adults who walk in with the kids, and dads will say, 'What about my gifts?' Dads will ask for a very expensive car and I have to remind Dad it must fit in the toy bag so I can lug it around with me. Every once in a while the children will say what about something for my mother or my parents.
Naughty or nice: What if someone was just a little naughty; will they be getting coal this holiday? What should they do to keep from getting coal?
More good days and good behavior than bad behavior. I cannot expect any human being to be perfect. But, we can try to be good more times than we are naughty.
What is the best part of your job?
Seeing the eyes and the smiles on the kids' faces and when they walk out the door. If they have had a short visit, that they are still excited about being there. That is fantastic.
What about working with the elves? How important are they?
Oh, without the helpers and the elves, there's no way we could accomplish all of the things we have to get done by Christmas. I use a company, BlueCo, to help get things done and made and assembled.
Now you are at Santa House a lot. When will you take off to travel on Christmas Eve?
The 23rd is the last possible day I can visit with anybody in any town. I have to start on my travels. The 24th, if you go far enough on the Far East, the 24th is the 25th for them. I have to start work on what you would call the 24th and get these deliveries going to get everything done.
Does Santa get gifts on Christmas?
Cookies and sometimes some juice and milk. I have some real, real, real generous and nice kids who send me some really nice artwork and pieces that I get to hang up and have around that remind me of them.
How is Mrs. Claus? And how does she keep you in top form? Favorite meal?
Mrs. Claus works hard and she does keep a lot of cookies and make sure they are in tins so that I have them around. She makes a lot of casseroles. They are easy and she can keep them warm because I am so busy and sometimes I get home late.
What is the strangest present someone asked for, or a gift that stands out in your mind?
The kids—you'd be surprised, the children as a whole are very nice and respectful very few say anything nasty to me or poke or pull—it is the adults who do. It's amazing how many mothers will say, 'Look at his beard,' and pull. Every once in a while I get boys or girls who ask for something that will benefit their family. Like peacefulness in the war situation or 'Bring home my brother.' They are wonderful wishes, but I can't control them.
Does Santa have a favorite snack to eat on Christmas Eve?
Oh, that is hard. You know what I really like is the cookies that the kids make with Mom or with somebody else in the kitchen. They usually put extra frosting and sprinkles on the top.
What do you do the day after Christmas? Do you sleep, watch TV?
Eat and rest, and you've got to remember I haven't had a warm meal. I've just been eating sandwiches and snacks. I will watch some DVDs and try to watch some of the newer ones.
Where does Santa go on vacation?
I don't like excessive heat. That is one of the reasons I like it up north. And I don't like huge, huge crowds. And I do like a lot of wildlife and just even with the trees and the plants and the animals. Wherever I go I would like to accomplish that. I do like it in the mountains. Neat to just sit there and walk there. I have spent time in Canada. When it is summer up here, it is winter down in the southern hemisphere. If I plan my schedule right and production is going well, I can take time off to go to some places down there.
Do you always wear the red suit, or is that just around the holidays?
When I am out doing my official duties yes, I am wearing my red suit with white trim. Otherwise I am wearing flannel shirts, slacks and my boots. Always my boots, in case I have to take off very quickly.
Do you drink a lot of coffee on Christmas Eve?
I understand why coffee shops have to shut down on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. It's sad to say I can't get into Starbucks. Sometimes I take some coffee with me in advance. I get lots of juice and milk to go with those cookies. Get a lot of that, that I can consume. Sometimes I can't drink it all.
But, those drinks aren't caffeinated?
But it's all so exciting enough.
What would you bring YOU for Christmas?
I don't think I've had any person ever ask me that. That is unique. I had never thought about that. One of the things I like is some quiet down time for a number of days after Christmas. I would like to keep that under the tree.