Santa is just around the corner

Published 8:22 pm Friday, December 16, 2022

A little red tossle –headed boy visited Santa Claus in a big department store. He then went with his mom across the street to another store where Santa was also listening to Christmas wishes.

“Santa Claus is dumb,” the little boy told his mom. “I had just told him what I wanted for Christmas and he had to ask me again. I better send him a letter.”

It’s that time of year when Santa Claus makes appearances in places big and small. Everywhere, he is welcomed by wide-eyed, good little boys and girls with Christmas wishes.

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Here in Pike County, Santa Claus is just around the corner and he is always willing to listen and remember the Christmas wishes whispered to him.

What is it like to be Santa Claus? Three Pike County Santas took a few minutes out of their busiest time of the year to share what it’s like to be on the other side of children’s Christmas wishes.

Santa Keith Roling can’t exactly say.

“We don’t think about it but not everyone with Christmas wishes is a little child,” Santa Keith said. “I started being Santa Claus at Noble Manor because they needed Santa. The residents all enjoyed visiting Santa.  They liked to look back and remember when Santa came to them with a stick of candy, an apple or an orange and a dime in the toe of their stocking.”

Santa Keith was invited to ride along on the Riverboat in Montgomery.

“What do you big boys and girls want for Christmas?” he asked?

“I want a man!” one lady called out,” Santa Keith said, laughing. “I went back the next year and the same lady was on board. She said she asked Santa for man last year and she didn’t get him so she was through asking.”

Santa Keith said big children are too heavy to sit on his lap, so he decided he would only listened to the wishes of little children.

“I remember my excitement the first time I saw Santa Claus at Loveman’s in Montgomery,” Santa Keith said. “I wanted to be a part of bringing that same excitement to children and it has been as rewarding as I had hoped it would be. What a joy it is to be Santa Claus.”

Santa Jimmy Messick has been thinking about being Santa Claus since his beard turned white.

“Somewhere back in the 1970’s,” he said. “So, I was waiting in the wings to be Santa Claus,” Santa Jimmy said.

And the opportunity came in 2005, when his granddaughter ‘s dance class needed someone to play Santa Claus;

“After I played Santa there, I got several calls so I bought a Santa suit,” Santa Jimmy said. “The more I played Santa, the more I enjoyed it and that’s why I’ve kept being Santa. The kids are wonderful and the things they say. One little boy got up on my knee and the first thing he said was ‘Now, Santa, I can explain…..’”

Santa Jimmy said over the years how kids approach Santa has changed. “They are not as shy and are more frank in making their wishes known.

“Kid used to want toys – dolls and tea sets and trucks and rubber balls. Now, they want high-priced electronic gizmos and expensive designer dolls. Even very young kids ask for iPhones and a lot of things that Santa doesn’t even know about.”

Santa Jimmy can usually tell whether the kids come from urban or more rural areas.

“They want different things — smartphones and golf carts or BB guns and dirt bikes But Santa never makes promises. It’s always, ‘Santa will have to check on that for you.’”

Following the pandemic, kids no longer sit on Santa’s lap to whisper their Christmas wishes.

“I don’t know if being Santa will ever be the same again,” Santa Jimmy said. “Now, kids usually stand beside Santa and that makes for a nice picture. But, that’s not like whispering Christmas wishes in ol’ Santa’s ear.”

When Brian McDaniels’ beard began to turn white, something magical seemed to happen in his life. He was filled with the spirit of Christmas and the desire to be Santa Claus.

“I began to think like Santa Claus,” McDaniel’s said. “It was a very special feeling.”

Through his business, McDaniels had seen the magic of Christmas in the eyes of children in far and distant places.

“What I saw and experienced made me want to be a part of the magic of Santa Claus,” he said. “There was just a closeness between the children and that Jolly Ol’ Elf.”

No matter, whether McDaniels was in a far-off village or in a busy American city, he realized that Santa Claus connected with kids.

When McDaniels’ beard turned snow white, his desire to be Santa became stronger. But it was not the beard or the red suit that brought out the Santa in him; it was the look in the eyes of the children and the smiles on their faces.

“The more I go to different places, the more times I’m Santa, the more I realize how much the children want to believe,” Santa Brian said. “It’s not often that a child asks if I am real, if I’m Santa Claus; they just know.”

Santa Brian said Santa Claus is more than toys under the tree. Santa Claus represents love and caring, family and togetherness.

“It is heartwarming to hear a child ask for something special for his mom or dad and others special in their live,” Santa Brian said. “There’s a little of Santa Claus in all of us. Being Santa Claus is a blessing to me… to all of us who put on those red suits and listen to the wishes of little children. Santa Claus is the giving spirit of Christmas.