So from what I hear, Santa can't be at all the malls and stores to take pictures with kids since he's so busy getting ready for Christmas Eve, so he often sends helpers to represent him at these places. Apparently, there are times when it's actually him and sometimes it's not, so the kid's never really know. They just have to assume it's him at all times and act accordingly.
You never know from one year to the next, or one place to the next what his "helper" or "him" may actually look like. As a parent, you just go assuming the helper will look exactly like or at least really close to Mr. Claus himself. When the helper doesn't quite fit the Santa mold, there's a fear that sets into the parent that their child's excitement might be squashed and questions will commence about the strangely dressed "Santa."
For the past 12 years, I've taken my girls to see Santa or his designated representative every year to tell him what they want (finally narrowing that down for ol' Mom), as well as get their picture taken. I've been pretty fortunate that most years, when we arrived at the mall or store, Santa looked 99 percent like himself and that iconic image of him that is portrayed everywhere. The half hour wait in line to see him was almost always worth it and I have great pictures to prove it.
However, there have been a few years where the annual "see Santa" tripped I planned was a little disappointing, to say the least.
This the first year that I have only one daughter that wants to see the jolly ol' elf and I want to be sure and soak that fun up before the years pass and she too, feels too old for St. Nick. We had planned a shopping day last Saturday, so I was hoping Mr. Red Suit would be at the mall and we could fit in his annual visit. Of course, this close to Christmas, there he was, perched on his fancy throne awaiting the eager kids while the elves were snapping pictures. My four year old went from whiny to super stoked in a half second flat and bolted over to him and gave him a big hug.
As he was asking her questions in her ear, I watched her examine him from head to toe. Then, interrupting his speech, with a disgusted look on her face and pointing to his feet, she yells to me, "Is that the shoes he really wears?" Santa, or his helper, whichever this gentleman was, forgot one essential Santa uniform item ... black boots. Instead, Mr. Claus wore his black orthopedic shoes with velcro straps. C'mon, man, Santa wears his ortho's in the off season, not during Christmas in front of the kids. Get it right! You can't sneak that stuff by kids.
Still, orthopedic shoes was nothing compared to the "Santa" we went to visit three years ago at a mall in Kansas. We were visiting family for thanksgiving and decided to do some early shopping and get the Santa visit in while were there. The line to see him was long and winding, filled with little kids dressed in there prettiest holiday getups and parents hyping up the arrival of Kris Kringle. As fancy as the throne area was, I was certain this Santa helper would be a good one, if not the actual Santa himself. During our long wait, an elf came to announce that Santa had landed his sleigh on the roof of the mall but had to feed his reindeer down so he was going to be a few minutes late. This information only heightened the anticipation for my girls and even us parents were getting excited for his appearance!
Then we saw "MISTER" Claus with a couple elf escorts walking down the mall hallway on his way to greet all the anxious kids. As the red suit got closer and closer to us, I couldn't believe my eyes. "Santa" was woman! And it was no Mrs. Claus either. Hubby and I looked at each other in disbelief. NO WAY!! I couldn't believe some young, skinny chic, with an oversized red suit draped on and a fake, curly, white beard loosely attached to her chin was trying to pull off Santa. No "Ho, Ho, Ho's," no big belly, nothing. And they were expecting all these excited kids to fall for this junk, plus expect the parents to pay for pictures with drag queen Santa? I wondered who thought that would be a good idea. Our girls were so confused and obviously we wasted no time and in telling them that was in fact, NOT Santa and then we were forced to make up stories as to why Santa might have sent a girl dressed up in his clothes.
It was by far the most ridiculous Santa visit we've had so far. I always thought nothing could beat the "Drunk Santa" visit my brothers and I had when we were kids, but I guess I was wrong. What's funny though, is my mom actually paid for pictures with Drunk Santa, and I did pay for pictures with Orthopedic Velcro Shoes Santa last weekend, but there was no way I was buying pictures with Woman Santa. Gotta draw the line somewhere.