Even before the dishes are cleared off the Thanksgiving table, the jolly man in the red suit seems to be EVERYWHERE. And while I love getting into the holiday spirit as much as the next person, this Christmas I am in danger of being called out on being a BIG LIAR. Why? Because all of these images of Santa, whether in books, movies, or at our local mall, are different. Yes, the red suit and white hair are fairly constant, but if you have a three year old boy who notices small details, you’re screwed. I am only at the beginning of this Santa questioning phase, thank God, so I can still use our Elf on the Shelf and his nightly status reports to Santa to remind my boys to share their toys and not scream at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. If you find yourself in the same boat as me and have extra inquisitive kids who notice that GASP, they saw TWO DIFFERENT SANTAS in public in one day, here are some creative comebacks. Welcome to the “Liar’s Club,” grab a drink and a seat to rest your weary parenting bones and read on about what to say about why Santa looks different:
- Santa looks thinner than before because he is taking a break from eating so much so that he has room to eat all of the delicious cookies that boys and girls around the world leave out for him on Christmas Eve.
- Why isn’t Santa wearing his glasses? He must have lost them. Poor guy. Maybe someone will buy him a pair for Christmas.
- Santa’s beard looks shorter than the other time you saw him? Mrs. Claus must have given him a trim.
- Santa seems much shorter today because he has been leaning over his workbench nonstop, building wonderful toys for all of the nice good boys and girls.
- His voice sounds different? Oh no, he must have a cold! We will leave some tea out for him along with cookies on Christmas Eve.
Now that we’ve got Santa’s back covered, it is essential to find the most stress-free way to track down Mr. Claus. Since most communities offer similar activities, I’m just going to speak in general terms of the types of Santas you can visit with this Christmas:
The Mall Santa–This is where I met Santa the most when I was a girl. Most of the details are hazy, but I remember a few key things: long lines, screaming kids, itchy Christmas dresses, and clamming up when I saw Santa. As a mom it is my goal to avoid ALL OF THESE THINGS, so I am glad that many malls take “reservations” for a Santa visit and have extended their hours so that we can stop by to see Mr. Claus at “off times,” such as early afternoon when little kids are going down for a nap and older kids are still in school. We also venture to neighborhoods where Hannukah is predominantly celebrated since the lines are shorter. Local folks, Northbrook Court is great for this and Santa is very authentic looking (maybe you won’t need to use the aforementioned lies) and you can make online reservations for visiting the Santa at Woodfield Mall.
Breakfast with Santa–This year we took the breakfast with Santa at the Brookfield Zoo route and it was AWESOME! Typically when we go out to eat, I am constantly on edge because I am worried that my boys might be too loud or freak out because their crayon broke or their ice water is too cold (yes, this actually happened). But when everyone else in the room has a kid who could lose his or her mind in the blink of an eye, no one notices or cares if you kid has a meltdown because of the terrifying characters or has his own dance party to the featured banjo band. And when breakfast is served, your chances of kids eating is fantastic because of the kid-friendly fare and the threat of not being able to see Santa on an empty stomach.
Community Events–Many park districts and businesses will have Santa available for meet and greets during the Christmas countdown, and will often include carollers, crafts, hot cocoa and cookies, as well as live reindeer! We went to our local conservatory last year and enjoyed all of the “extra” festivities. Santa? Not so much. My rule of thumb for these types of events is that “the early bird gets the worm…er, candy cane.”
Holiday Train–A magical part of the Christmas season, some train cars (even L cars in Chicago) are decked out in Christmas decorations and provide the entertainment of songs, games, and crafts during the trip to see Santa at the “North Pole.” The trip we took really felt like we were on the Polar Express, complete with a special bell gift from Santa. Since these are so popular, it is best to book your tickets in the fall while you are picking out pumpkins to carve.
Too busy to meet him face to face? You can always track Santa down using Santa trackers, and be sure to welcome him as well as his hardworking reindeer with some delicious snacks.