DR: What is the first thing you do to get ready for your trip?
SC: Of course, we make toys all year long here at the North Pole, except for the elves’ Christmas break, so the ultimate answer is starting to make toys again in January.
Beyond that, though, the reindeer have to get back in shape with me to make the trip. It’s more grueling every year! So we start making training runs about the middle of November. Rudolph and the others just graze in Siberia until the Christmas season, so they tend to fatten up like me. We all trim down and build up our stamina at least a little bit before the sleigh flies.
DR: How long is your Christmas break?
SC: Usually two weeks, starting once I’ve returned from the delivery flight. While I’m gone, the elves clean up the factory and the storerooms and set out the refreshments for our Christmas party. After the party, Mrs. Claus and I head to Fiji for a week, leaving ourselves a week to rest after we return. Then we start on the toymaking binge again.
I leave the elves to their own devices while I’m gone. I’m not sure what they do, but the factory always smells like a mocha latte when I return. It’s kind of nice.
DR: How do the naughty and nice lists measure up this year?
SC: There are so many nice children! I’m always glad to look at the long, long lists of good children before I leave. The naughty lists are always too long, of course — even one name is too much. The good news is, with modern technology, the elves can send me updated lists as I fly. They’re linked to my GPS system, so I know exactly where they all are, naughty and nice.
DR: You have a GPS system?
SC: There are more than seven billion people on earth now, and Santa Claus isn’t getting any younger!
DR: Do you still leave lumps of coal for the kids who don’t move from the naughty to nice list?
SC: Coal is harder to come by these days, so I save it for the absolute rottenest of children. I leave ashes and switches for the run-of-the-mill naughty. I feel so bad about it, though, that I just can’t eat any of the milk and cookies that might be left there.
DR: Have you ever had a problem landing on a roof and getting down a chimney?
SC: Oh, very often! Steep roofs are quite troublesome, and some people don’t even have chimneys anymore. For the past 25 years, I’ve actually parked on more lawns than roofs, for that very reason. Santa isn’t getting younger, remember?
That can cause its own problems, however. Three years ago, I had to spend a good bit of time trying to get a bulky package into a house, and a traffic policeman in Helsinki, Finland, gave me a parking ticket. I remembered him from many years of naughty lists. Funny how that kind of child so often goes into that line of work …
DR: What is your most popular toy of all time?
SC: Oh, I would have to say dolls and stuffed animals. The kind of request has changed over the years, of course. Kids used to just ask me for dolls. But then came the letters asking for “Barbies,” then “Chatty Kathys,” and “Cabbage Patch Kids.” Now they ask for things like “Bratz,” which look to be aptly named. Those are very popular with the naughty-list set.
Recently, though, I guess video games and gaming systems have been among the most popular items. Santa used to not see the attraction, but I’ve actually gotten rather good at “Mass Effect.” When I’m not supervising in the factory, of course.
DR: Of course. Do you have a favorite Christmas song?
SC: “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” of course! I do always get a good laugh out of “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” though. That was cute and catchy. And, while I really should be angry about “Santa Baby,” it’s kind of flattering.
DR: When will you start your flight this year?
SC: I’ll start at the western edge of the International Date line and work my way west around the world, of course. I used to wait till midnight Christmas Day, but with older bones and more stops, I try to get away by 9:30 p.m. on Dec. 24 if I can. Sometimes I have to pass a home by and catch it later if a little boy or little girl hasn’t gone to bed early like they’re supposed to. A few times I almost forgot to make the second stop, which is why all little boys and girls should go to bed when their parents tell them to.
DR: Thanks for your time, Santa. Any last words?
SC: Ho, Ho, Ho, St. Mary Parish! Merry Christmas to you all! If you have some ’gator gumbo, that would make a nice change of pace Christmas morning.