With the help of Bill Dunning, a former radio broadcaster and journalist, SFR caught up with the elusive Jolly Old Saint Nick, aka Santa Claus, by phone at his home in the North Pole. You can grill him yourself at the DeVargas Center (564 N Guadalupe St.) 4-7 pm until Dec. 18. He’ll be there 10 am-5 pm from Dec. 18 through Christmas Eve.
SFR: Who is Bill Dunning and why do I have to go through him to reach you, Santa?
SC: He is Santa’s agent in Santa Fe so that we can keep things a little better organized. He’s not the best-organized fella in the world, but we kind of like the guy and the elves think he’s kind of funny.
Do you have a real job or is being Santa a front for burglarizing houses?
Being Santa Claus is Santa’s full-time job. I don’t really have time for that.
Do kids have to believe in you to get gifts?
That’s awfully hard sometimes to prove whether they do or don’t. If the kids believe in Santa Claus, it makes it easier for them but, even if they don’t, Santa believes in them. Santa even believes in you, sweetheart.
Do they have to believe in Jesus?
That is usually a separate issue, but it helps to believe in some manifestation of a higher power. When you get right down to it, it’s that sort of higher power that not only gives Santa the ability to do what he does, but you and everybody else.
What about all those other Santas roaming around the country?
Santa is not a single individual the way you are. Santa is an idea; Santa is a concept. All of us at one time or another get to be Santa Claus in one way or other, and Santa gets to be a little bit of everyone else too. Because Santa is you, Santa is your parents, Santa is your uncles and aunts.
So then there’s no ‘real’ Santa?
Everybody is real. You’re real; the person at the next desk over there is real. So are those people walking down the sidewalk outside your office. So we’re all real to the extent that we’re all Santa Claus.
What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened while a kid sat on your lap?
Oh my goodness. Well, Santa has never had the fabled story of a kid having an accident. The worst thing that happens is when a kid’s not sure what’s happening and suddenly panics and starts crying…The all-time worst thing that happens is when mommy doesn’t quite understand and loses her temper. It’s a situation where we all have to be very patient.
How do you feel about the song ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’?
All of the songs about Santa Claus are just a little bit embarrassing. I find I like the old Christmas songs best; maybe that’s ’cause Santa is some 1,300, 1,400 years old.
What’s the deal with the elves? Are they your slaves?
They’re my friends. We all help out together. I was saying everybody is Santa Claus in some way and everybody is an elf too because elves are the folks who do the work and make things happen. And an awful lot of people are that kind of helper and Santa appreciates them very much.
Will I get what I want for Christmas if I don’t know what I want?
Santa has a way of dealing with that. Because one of the most exciting things about Christmas morning is when you have a package under the tree and you don’t know what it is, and you open it and it’s a big surprise. That’s what Santa can do when you’re not sure what you want.
You remember to be a good kid. Don’t worry. Be happy. Ho ho ho ho…