advice NPC Santa, prescription celebrity, helping others, Christmas gifts for childrens,St. Nick” src=”http://northminsteronline.com/wp-content/uploads/image/Santa%20Lowell.jpg” />It all began for me, when my wife, Janice and I went to see the movie, “The Santa Clause” starring Tim Allen. I suddenly realized what had happened to me. My hair and beard had started to turn gray and, of course, I was shaped like a pear. I hadn’t fallen off of a roof, but I had everything else going for me. When we left the theater, I walked into a store and purchased my first Santa hat.
That same year, started a family tradition of going to breakfast and to the mall the day after Thanksgiving. I put on my red sweatsuit, my Santa hat and would sit in the mall while everyone else went shopping. Soon people were coming up to me and saying that I looked like St. Nick.
On one of my early visits to the mall, I was sitting with my granddaughter Katelyn, when a reporter and photographer from the local newspaper approached to take pictures and write an article for the next day’s issue. We had made the front page! Katelyn always said Grandpa was like Santa, but she wanted her picture taken with the real one at the mall.
This tradition has continued for the last sixteen years, during which time, Katelyn and I once again, made the front page. This time it was the Sun City Times. A few years later, granddaughter Alayna and I appeared on the front page of the Phoenix Republic. It appeared Santa was becoming somewhat of a celebrity.
Many funny things happened on these traditional visits to the mall. The earliest occurred the first year at Christown Mall, when a young boy of about five came up to me and asked who I was. Since we were standing across from the Santa picture area, I told him I was a helper and that the Santa he had come to see was over there. He continued to question me, I guess because I had a real beard and the mall Santa had a designer beard.
I’ve had a few interesting experiences at my next door neighbor, Leah’s Busy Bee Preschool over the years. Once when my grandchildren Collin and Alayna were 4 years old, on the night of the Christmas program, they stopped by to see Grandpa and Grandma, before going to the program. Then it came time for me to go next door to visit with the children. After which I returned home and changed back into my regular attire. After the program, my grandchildren came running into the house very excitedly and said, “We saw the real Santa Claus.” They had not recognized me.
I remember my first family Christmas gathering where I appeared as Santa Claus. It was 1993 at Susan’s house. I rang the doorbell and as it opened, I saw 15 children under the age of seven. It looked like popcorn popping as they jumped up and down with excitement. I continued that part every year until 2008. Most of the children were teenagers by that time. But, you know what; you’re never too old to believe?
Over the years I have been Santa Claus to special education kindergarten classes, and behavioral problem classes at local schools. One in particular stands out in my mind and was a painful experience for jolly old St. Nick. I overheard one of the boys say that he bet he could pull Santa’s beard off. Even though I was on alert, he surprised me from behind. He got a good hold and pulled with all his strength, which was very painful, and after a short time I was able to get free from his grasp. My face hurt for two days after that. No designer beard for this Santa!
While working my real job in the radiology department at the hospital, I was asked to attend many Christmas parties. One of my co-workers small sons had an early December birthday and was asked to appear at his party. I knew some of the children and called them by name, while asking them what they wanted for Christmas. Eric replied by saying he wanted a real race car. Not a toy car. Well, two weeks later, I attended another Christmas party and Eric was there. When it came his turn, I again asked him what he wanted for Christmas. His reply was, “I already told you”. I guess Santa doesn’t have a very good memory!
After many seasons of being Santa and watching the excitement on the faces of children, Janice and I decided to go on an Alaska Cruise in March 2009 with 19 other Santa Clauses and their families and guests. It was a fantastic experience for the both of us. Meeting other men with the same ideals as mine and spending time in discussion made the trip worthwhile. Janice and I now have a Bachelor of Santaology degree from the International University of Santa Claus presented by Chancellor, Santa Tim Connaghan. We paid a visit to the North Pole, Alaska to meet the resident Santa. This excursion was one of the highlights of the trip. The community was invited to a reception held in our honor. After arriving into town, we were greeted by the Mayor and Santa Claus. Our pictures were taken with children and appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. What an unforgettable journey!
The Christmas season of 2009 was a very rewarding one. My daughter-in-law, Shantel invited me to speak at her children’s school regarding their very successful clothing and food drive. It was the last day of school before the holiday break, and I waited in a room for my cue, which was the choir singing “Here Comes Santa Claus”. As I entered the room, the children were cheering so loudly, you could no longer hear the choir, and to my surprise, the room was filled with 1100 people. That was a pretty big crowd for this Santa!
At times when I attended parties and had leftover gift bags, I never let them go to waste. I sometimes would give them to the children in my neighborhood and it would thrill them to no end. The family doesn’t have a lot and the children are ever so grateful. They call me Mr. Santa Claus all year long. How special is that?
In March 2010, Janice and I were on our way to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for the Celebrate Santa Festival for which I represented Arizona. We attended several seminars and met many really special Santa’s and their wives. We both attended “Keeping Christ in Christmas” which is very important to us. Janice even attended a class on Mrs Claus wardrobe. She met a lady that makes outfits for Santa and will make the Toy Maker costume for me. We topped off the fun with a parade in Gatlinburg, which included rain, and later the Jingle Bell Ball. Many were decked out in beautiful costumes. We had a wonderful time and hope to return many times again.
The year 2010 brought many exciting things to me. One that was very important to me was when I was offered the position of mall Santa at Paradise Valley Mall. What a wonderful opportunity for me and I was very excited. Another exciting thing happened when I attended a going away party for a friend. I was observed by a man named Jan Hansen, because I had on a red t-shirt that said, “Santa Claus, the man, the myth, the legend.” Jan works for Heritage Graphics and they donate printing for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Christmas card program. I was invited to be the Santa where five of the child artists and I posed in front of their art. This was such a rewarding gift to me, because each of these children are survivors of cancer. They are currently in remission and are truly inspiring. This was the best experience and I hope to get the opportunity again.
In my spare time, which is very little, I appear at the mall for all the little children to visit. I also help out wherever there is a need in our community. I am very active Northminster Presbyterian Church and I spend a day every week, helping at NPC Food Bank. There is such a need in our community and it warms the heart of this Santa to give back for all the joy he receives.
Each year brings special memories just seeing the excitement on the faces of small children, and the joy and happiness that fills their hearts. However, we must never forget the true meaning of Christmas, which is the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Now that is a really special Christmas story to tell your children. There are so many special stories to tell by this Santa, but I think I will leave some of them to your imagination. After all, isn’t that the magic of Santa!
Santa Lowell Kuester, Bachelor of Santa Claus International University of Santa Claus
Merry Christmas to All and to All A Goodnight!