Memories of My Temporary Gig as a Mall Santa Claus
A Great Seasonal Job
The Santa in the mall or the department store Santa has been a retail Christmas tradition for most of the last century and is continuing into the 21st century.
Every year thousands of men are hired to dress up in the red suit, flowing white beard, black boots and spectacles and then sit and listen to children first recite how good they have been during the year and then describe the toys they want for Christmas.
This is, of course, a seasonal, temporary job which usually pays minimum wage and comes without the usual benefits such as paid vacation and sick days, employer paid medical, dental and life insurance, etc.
However, considering that the only other positions open on Santa's staff are in the toy making division, which only employs elves and is located at the North Pole, a local job paying minimum wage and no material benefits isn't that bad.
The job does come with great non-material benefits. Seeing the smiles on the little children's faces as they sit on your lap and tell you what they want for Christmas. The smiles on the parent's as their little darlings pose for pictures with Santa. A giggly teenage girl who impulsively decides to have her picture taken with Santa - after which her girlfriends get the courage to do the same.
There are also the Christmas cookies many of the little children brig to give to Santa. Work this job long enough and a Mall Santa won't need a pillow under his Santa suit!
Me, In My Santa Claus Work Clothes
I Actually Got Paid for This Job
A number of years ago I was offered a position as a backup mall Santa. My business partner's son-in-law owned a photography business and had the mall Santa Claus concession at the Foothills Mall in northwest Tucson. He had a few evenings where his regular temporary Santa's were not available and asked Joe and me if we were interested. We said yes and Joe ended up with about five evenings and I ended up with the evening of December 23rd.
Frankly, I was surprised they bothered to pay us as this was not only the easiest job I ever had but benefits were fantastic! Who needs employer paid health insurance and paid vacations when you have little kids bringing you Christmas cookies and cute young women posing for pictures while sitting on your lap?
The beard was a little scratchy, but the suit was made of a light cotton material, the pillows fit snugly, and the boots were a similar light material – I looked like I was prepared to brave the icy North Pole but was actually quite comfortable in balmy Tucson.
I was the star. I had my own dressing room. After dressing, I entered the Santa Castle, sat down upon my throne-like chair and glanced out at my waiting audience. I had a staff of photographers and helpers to do all the work, while I sat in splendor and welcomed the little children as they approached me with awe. The camera kept flashing, as my picture was taken over and over again, making me feel like a star posing with admiring fans. Half way through the evening my assistant (the woman who managed the line and sent each child forward in turn) called a halt so that I could retire to my private dressing room to relax (sitting and smiling is considered hard work, so the mandatory legal break had to be taken) and consume some of the cookies the children had brought me.
All of the children were cute and very polite and many brought me cookies they had baked with their mothers or pictures they had drawn. I would put the very young ones at ease with a couple of words of reassurance. The older ones, having been through the routine in previous years were calm and confident but still polite. Surprisingly, their requests were very reasonable. I responded to each request with a promise to do my best but, being away from the North Pole, I couldn't guarantee that the elves would get everything right – this was the only time in my career that got to openly blame any and all problems on my staff. I, of course, reminded each child as they departed to continue being good as I would be watching.
As the evening wore on the crowds dwindled as the younger children were taken home to bed. There were still a few older ones who were still young enough to see Santa one more time even though most of them probably had the Santa Claus thing figured out. Then, with the line down to one or two people, young women shopping with their friends began coming by. They would giggle and tease each other and then one would bravely step forward to have her picture taken sitting on my knee. Others saw and soon I had a small stream of young women posing for a picture with me – sometimes two or three at once!
The clock ticked on and, like all good things, the evening and my career as a Santa Claus soon came to an end. I was given an envelope containing the $25 pay I had been promised and made one last trip to my dressing room to change and return to the everyday world.
Oh! There was one other employer provided benefit. I had my picture taken and received it for free! Everyone else had to pay $10.
Links to My Other Hubs on Santa Claus and St Nicholas
- How-To Track Santa Clauses Flight with NORAD
Every year since I was a child the morning papers on Christmas day have always carried a little notice from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in Colorado Springs, the joint U.S. - Canadian...
- St Nicholas and the Merchant's Daughters
St. Nicholas, who morphed into Santa Claus, was a real historical figure but much of what is known about his is mainly legend. St. Nicholas was a famous bishop in the early days of Christianity and he was...
- St Nicholas - Patron Saint of Many
As December approaches each year, the name St. Nicholas is encountered with increasing frequency. This is understandable given the Saint's close association with Christmas which falls in December. The...
- Yes Virginia There Is A Santa Claus
December, 1897 Dear Editor, I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says "If you see it in The Sun it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa...
- Father Christmas and His Assistant Pre Fouettard
Saint Nicholas Day is December 6th. In many parts of the world this day is celebrated with St. Nicholas visiting cities and homes where he distributes gifts to children. This tradition goes back to the Middle...
- Is It Good Or Bad To Tell Children That Santa Claus Is a Myth?
My first thought on reading this Hub Request was what is to be gained from telling a child that Santa Claus is a myth? After all, childhood is a time of discovery and learning for children and the...
- St Nicholas Day
December 6th, is St. Nicholas Day, the day designated by the Catholic Church in its Calendar of Saints to honor the man named Nicholas who was Bishop of Myra, which is now a part of Turkey, and noted for his...
- The Origin of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
For almost three quarters of a century the song Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer has remained a popular hit at Christmas time. In fact the song, has become an integral part of our Christmas celebration much...
- Do you believe in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer?
The simple answer to this request is No, I don't believe in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The reason I don't believe in him is that Rudolph is a work of fiction that was never intended to do anything more...
© 2006 Chuck Nugent
More by this Author
St. Nicholas, from whom Santa Claus has evolved, was a real person and saint who is still honored on December 6th - St. Nicholas Day - each year.
When Pere Noel, as St. Nicholas is known as in France, visits France each Christmas he is often accompanied by a ruffian like character named Pere Fouettard. While Pere Noel rewards good little children with treats,...
With so many Americans traveling and working abroad to say nothing of meeting people via the Internet, it is not surprising that many are finding love and marrying someone from abroad. Here is how to legally bring your...