Being Santa in Hampton Roads, VA

I really enjoyed reading this letter from Santa Tate in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It’s interesting to hear the different gigs Santas do:

Hi Noah,

Santa Tate here. I am a new Santa (3rd year) so not much experience to help you with, but maybe a newbie’s view might be of interest to you?

I have thought about being Santa for some 50+ years, but never really got the chance – you know, trying to make a living for my family and future. I did perform as Snow Bear at Thallhimers in Richmond, VA. (they didn’t have a Santa) back in 1968-69 while I was teaching in Petersburg, Va (just below Richmond) and I loved it.

I retired in 2006 and worked at Busch Gardens for 2 years as a Guest Ambassador where I helped families, especially with kids. I would I make sure that the entire family got into the picture when I would see dad or mom taking their family pictures. I have a zillion pictures of my family everywhere we went – all of them without me in them and I didn’t want anyone else to know the feeling I get when ever I look at my family pictures.

I contacted the employment at Busch Gardens office a couple of times about trying out for Santa but I really didn’t want to wear a false beard and hair.

Well year before last, my beard turned White, so I let it grow and bought a Santa suit and did some freebees for friends and neighbors. The next year I got a paid gig at The NorVa night club, in Norfolk, Va, Dec 2012.

I was really surprised to find that the young men would approach me and want their pictures with me as much as the young ladies. My wife is Mrs. Claus in the pictures. She helps me sometimes, like Toys for Tots.


Yes, the beard is real!

This year I joined

  • Hampton Peninsula Santas
  • Virginia Santas
  • International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santa (IBRBS),
  • ClausNet

I got Background Checked and Insured so I could work at Bass Pro this year – I got eight days paid gig in November and December.

I also got a (volunteer) gig with Tots for Tots at Busch Gardens and just tonight got a paid gig with Bed Crafters in Williamsburg for two days in Dec.

And now I am available for Parties, Events, Outings, Special, Home; Adult and/or Children events.

I talk to children all the time and wear a Santa hat with red suspenders and pass out candy canes to passing children (clearing it with their parents first) and anyone who is kind to me, you know open a door for me, or recognize me as Santa (mostly the old folks).

While I don’t have a great child’s wish, I do get a lot of Children’s smiles when they see me and point at me and say, look mommy, its Santa Claus. Or a car will pass by and then slow down real quick and as I catch up to see I’ll see a child waving at me grinning from ear to ear.

I try to keep the Christmas spirit through Santa’s image and am very careful when children ask me if I am the real Santa. I try to say that I am the spirit of Santa as are many Santas they may see around and this usually satisfies them. They really are not looking details of Santa, they just want to believe in the spirit of Santa and it seams to satisfy most of the parents as well.

Hope this has been of some use for your project.

Santa Tate and Mrs. Claus


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A snake to scare mom

I recently got a letter back from a Santa at Quail Springs Mall in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  What makes Santa want to be Santa? In this case, Santa had good experiences himself as a child, and he wanted to continue them:

“It was my way of giving back to the children and making the Santa experience a great one. I wanted the children to be treated as well as I was when I was a child.”

As for the perks:

Getting involved with families, seeing the positives of what’s going on in the city, and being a part of the Christmas experience.

I was surprised at the downsides to being Santa. I never thought about how some children are treated unfairly:

Seeing children that you wish more could happen for them, ones that are mistreated or treated unfairly; observing unhealthy things- some children I see pass away within the same year.

The most interesting part of being Santa:

How much children will tell you, how intimate the secrets they tell me are, and there is no greater moment than the one when a child hugs you and tells you they love you.

The Santa told me a couple things children asked him for. This was heartwarming:

 A child asked me to bring back his father who had died in the war in Iraq so his mom would smile again.

And this was amusing:

A little girl that wanted a little brother asked if I could help her mother and father and explained they really needed help because she’d been asking for a long time. When I looked up at the father he knew what she had asked for.

This was probably the highlight of the letter:

I got asked for a snake (a big one) so his mom would stop coming in his room- she’s scared of snakes.

What an evil child! He must have been taking away from Santa’s magic, because Santa says he maintains his magic throughout the entire season by

the thrill of being with children and realizing it’s the one time of the hte year most of us try to be nice to one another.

But in the end, the best part of his job is joy and happiness:

The amount of people that come back to see me year after year- it’s not only the joy of seeing them again, it’s the joy of realizing I continually am a part of celebrating Christmas with them.

Next post will be published by Wednesday. Follow The Santa Letters on Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Tumblr

Festival of Trees

I had the opportunity to visit Kennedy Krieger Institute’s “Festival of Trees” at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium the other day. Wow, what an experience it was!

Kennedy Krieger describes it on their website as “a three-day extravaganza of fairyland forests, gingerbread towns and toy train gardens, complemented by over 100 craft boutiques, holiday goodies and activities for kids of all ages.”

My two favorite teachers, Mrs. Natalie Rebetsky and Mr. Jeremy Brown, are so into Christmas (read their blog and listen to their podcast, The Yule Log 365) that they designed trees, wreaths, and gingerbread houses for the event. They gave me a couple tickets to the Festival of Trees preview Friday so my family and I could visit and see what it’s about.

The place really impressed me. The festival was held in the Cow Palace, but the organizers completely transformed the building into a Winter wonderland. I found this time-lapse video from 2012 that shows the 8-day setup:

They had every detail covered, and even had decorations hanging from the ceiling:

Decorations hanging from the ceiling at the Festival of Trees

The festival was divided into three major areas.

The front of the complex was where the real “Festival of Trees” was. There were so many Christmas trees, decorated in different themes! I think my favorite was made by Jeremy and Natalie. It was decorated using recycled materials like soda cans, K-cups, and lightbulbs, and it won first place!


How they made the tree. P1050259 Photo of the tree

There were other interesting trees, too:


A Wizard of Oz themed tree by a girl scout troopP1050264I’m not sure if this really counts as a “tree”, but I still like it…P1050272This tree was designed by Johns Hopkins University. It is made from wine bottles, and I even saw a couple bottles from Linganore Winecellars!P1050265This was an interesting Sherwin-Williams themed tree.P1050278Very interesting!

There were also ginger bread houses and wreaths. The trees, houses, and wreaths were being sold and all proceeds went to the Kennedy Krieger Institute.

In the middle of the complex, there was food and a performance area. Throughout the three days, about 15 different groups were scheduled to perform. While we were there Friday, we were able to listen to pianist Jeremy Harvey and the kids’ band Milkshake.

At the back of the complex there was a “Santaland”. This included holiday- themed crafts, rides, visits with Santa, and games. I was impressed with the number of things that were packed into the event. My grandpa and brother especially enjoyed watching the electric train set by The Train Guys.


A small part of the massive train set

Now, I know the real question: What about Santa Claus?

The answer is, Santa arrived just as regular guests were entering the festival (because we had preview tickets, we were there long before the general public arrived.) By the time I made my way over to his chair, there was a huge line to see him! I really wanted to talk to him, but there were little kids waiting to see him, too. I asked a worker when his break was and I was told that it was going to be a while before Santa went on break. It was about time for us to leave, so in the interest of time we decided to skip the visit with Santa.

Other than that unfortunate event, I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed seeing the various trees, wreaths, gingerbread houses, and rides and crafts. Perhaps next year I will have to design a small tree with my family!

Here is a complete gallery of photos from the festival:

TrainTrain guys- like on Facebook infomerry-go-roundbig trainkids on big traintree

Festival of Trees, a set on Flickr.

Photos from the Festival of Trees

My first post! About me, this blog…

Hello, and welcome to the Santa Claus Project! I’m Noah, a high school student who loves every aspect of Christmas.

Three years ago, my family visited Santa at a local mall. Afterwords, I asked my mom, “do you think that Santa likes his job?”

We, (my family) had agreed that each of the “Santas” at all the malls nationwide are really “Santa’s helpers” and they report back to the real Santa at the North Pole. In response to my question, my mom suggested that we write letters to the Santas.

That year, we sent about four or five letters to different malls in the Washington, D.C. area. We asked the Santas questions like, “What is the best part of your job?” and, “What is the best part about being Santa?”

We only got one reply back (it appeared to be from one of the “elves” that take photos). Just last month, I found that letter and remembered how much fun I had with the project, so I’ve decided to do it again!

This blog chronicles my letters and responses as well as other Christmas-related experiences.

Last week, I mailed 42 letters via postal service to different malls around the USA and abroad. I also emailed a few different Santa organizations. Each letter had different questions for Santa, including:

  • Why did you chose to be Santa?
  • What are some pros and cons to being Santa, and why?
  • What is the most interesting part of being Santa?
  • What was the most memorable, most interesting, and most amusing thing a child has asked you for?
  • Do you have any specific Christmas- related traditions in your town?
  • How do you maintain the magic of being Santa throughout the entire Christmas season?
  • What are some of your best memories as Santa?
  • What to you say to children when they ask you questions like, “How do you deliver the toys so fast?” and, “How do you fit down the chimney?”

I hope to receive a lot of responses back!

Each week, I’ll share a new letter, email, or other Christmas- related post or experience on this blog. Subscribe to our emails and get the posts in your inbox!

Until next time, Merry Christmas!