Christmas time is the best time of the year, especially for kids. They get to ask a jolly old man, Father Christmas, for all sorts of presents. That's when their families take them to a mall where they get to have their photo taken with Santa. There are also a lot of interesting (both shocking and heartbreaking) requests from kids that sit on Santa's lap.
In this article, professional Santas share the most memorable moment they had with a child.
[Sources can be found at the end of the article]
I was Santa for Big Brother, Big Sister for about 9 years. It was the best and worst day of the year. I had 2 kids I will never forget.
When I asked the first kid what he wanted for Christmas, he looked up at me with no smile but with a sadness and said, "I don't want any toys. I just want a family."
The second one was a cute little girl who was very excited to meet Santa. She jumped up on my lap and looked me straight in the eyes and and said "All I want is for my daddy to come home from Afghanistan." She didn't wait for an answer she just jumped off and ran away. Both of the incidents left me with tears in my eyes. I often think of those two kids and hope they both got what they wanted.
I was a Santa a few times at the zoo I worked at. It was the worst idea ever and I hated it. I found out I ruined the day of a kid, too.
We had volunteers who had various mental disabilities. A co-worker was escorting one of them across the zoo and pointed me out and told him to wave to me, etc.
I was about 50 yards away and never heard or saw them. Apparently he was very upset Santa didn't wave back. Worst Santa ever.
I am Santa 7 days a week from the weekend before Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve. I have heard all kinds of stuff. I had a child ask me for a single stick of gum because his mom wouldn't allow him to have any. I had a girl ask for a box of Frosted Flakes for the same reason. I've had a child ask me to bring her daddy home from Afghanistan. I've posed with the portrait of a child who had just passed away a month prior. There have been children who have asked for live chickens and live pigs. One day I really need to write all of these down. One thing I can say, it's usually never boring.
My stepdad was a Disneyland Santa. A kid asked him for a penguin and he asked where the kid would keep it and she said "in the freezer."
Also, they aren't allowed to tell the kids they'll give them pets until the parents say it's cool and some little girl asked for a pony and he was about to say whatever they were supposed to say, but the parents looked at him and gave the approval. I guess they lived on a ranch or something.
I was a santa for Walmart one year. Other than crying babies who didn't want to be there, it was actually a really easy work day.
Kids would come up and a couple would ask for stuff, but most were just shy. Then photos would be taken, one right after the other. And customers were actually at least not horrific to me.
I played Santa once at a work function for families who were new to the country and about to go on a tour of local Christmas lights. The kids didn't really have a chance to ask me for anything, I was just tasked with handing out candy. They were all pretty awestruck, which was neat to see, but what they didn't tell me was that they were also bringing some mentally challenged adults along. They were also really cool, but the one that stuck out to me was a middle-aged gentleman who handed me a note while I was passing out candy bags. I didn't get a chance to look at it until afterwards; it was a piece of lined paper with squiggles all over it. Took me a minute to realize that the man didn't know how to write, but still wanted to give me his Christmas list.
I don't know what happened to him afterwards, but I really hope he got what he wanted for Christmas that year.
About 25 years ago, my dad was in his first year working as a family social worker and volunteered at the local church. A particularly stocky guy, he was a natural candidate for playing the Santa role for the community event.
One child asked for a big wheel, "a blue one," and my dad saw the boy's mom frowning and shaking her head behind her son. It being a fairly small community, he knew the family and knew the mother was working herself to death to pay the bills. He was heartbroken at her pain, knowing she couldn't satisfy the one "wish." My dad deflected the boy's wish, and got the child distracted talking about reindeer. That night, he made a stop at the toy store, and left it wrapped on the family's porch. The only person who ever knew my dad did this was my mother (his girlfriend at the time), who only knew because she'd picked him up from work that night.
My dad passed away the night before Thanksgiving in 2012. My mom told us over Thanksgiving dinner that year. One of the many great memories that gets us through Turkey Day.
One year my family asked me to be Santa for the younger kids. When anyone asked they were told I had to work. This was done to avoid suspicion. The time came and walk in the door with a bag full of presents. Each cousin/niece/nephew takes turns sitting on my lap telling me what they want for Christmas. Most of them asked for toys. We finally get to my cousin who is THE BIGGEST trouble maker. I expect this little guy to give me a hard time. He sits on my lap and tells "Santa" he wants his cousin to come home early for work. I almost teared up.
I've been a Santa for smaller community functions, and this is the best wish I've ever gotten:
"I wish mommy and daddy were back together."
Absolutely heartbreaking, because I had gone through that exact situation. My separation with my ex did not go well but my son loves me more than anything, besides maybe his mother. All I could do was tell him his mommy and daddy loved him more than anything, and that sometimes the world doesn't work the way we want it to, but that doesn't mean we can't be happy.
Then I gave him the biggest, most expensive gift we had. To be given at the discretion of me. It was a PlayStation 4, and he was 10 years old.
I was Santa for a kid's party my Navy command threw one year. One girl asked for her real daddy not to come back from deployment, because the one that stayed there while he was gone was a lot nicer.
I was speechless.
I was Santa at Rainforest Cafe once a few years back and a little girl asked me if I had a sister factory because her mom and dad wanted to make one but couldn't. I told her that I can't make people and she immediately bawled her eyes out with the most ear-splitting screech you'd ever heard.
One time, when I was the resident Santa at a well-known and highly respected department store in NYC, a little person came in and sat on my lap. Under the layers of beard, ill-adjusted plastic spectacles, and loose clothing, I had no clue the person was not a child.
"How are your folks?" I ask innocently.
"A little under-the-weather, they are dead," he replies monotone.
I hesitate, we are told to ask using the term 'folks' because it is accepting to children who may be in a non-traditional family setting - i.e. they are fostered or adopted. Therefore I was taken aback when this child, and I truly believed them to be just that at the time, said their folks had perished; in my mind, that seemed to allude to them being a homeless child, a humble street urchin. This set in to motion the procedure I was trained to follow, to get the homeless person out of our up-market store as fast as possible. Without a moment to spare, I engage in the secret call for security: a loud jolly laugh three times in the tune of 'Fight For Your Right' by acclaimed rap trio The Beastie Boys.
The little person on my lap grows restless by the third laugh and I am worried he may bolt at any second. Luckily the security arrives in time to throw the guy out.
My first year as a Santa, I had a weird gig where I was at a major retail outlet but didn't have a seat, so I just kind of awkwardly walked around. Because of the beard/wig, there's very little peripheral vision, so I didn't see this one little girl run up behind me until she hit me in the back. I turned around, and you could just tell that this kid was an ungrateful smartalec.
She looks up at me and says, very matter-of-factly:"Santa, for Christmas this year I want a flying unicorn named Sparkles who poops rainbows."
Well, I proceeded to explain to this young lass that unfortunately, when I put Sparkles in the sleigh, she just flies away again. So I couldn't bring her along.
I asked if she'd like a surprise for Christmas this year instead. She was shocked, and just nodded kind of absentmindedly. I don't think she expected that response, and then seemed quite excited about the prospect of a surprise. She walked away with a candy cane and a pretty excited demeanour.
I was a (very poorly costumed) santa for a bunch of kindergarteners:
One kid (about 4 years old maybe?) asked: "I wanna pack of ... ahh (struggling with words) dinner-sauce!"
Me: Dinner sauce? Are you sure? Like, what kind of sauce?
Kid: No! dinner-sauce! Like with green dinner-sauce, big dinner-sauce with big teef, and dinner sauce that flies!
Me: I'm not sure (look questioningly at kid's mom. Kid runs away and comes back with a coloring book).
Kid shows me the book: See? Dinnersauce!
Me: OH! ... DINOSAURS!
I spent a week as Father Christmas at my last job. I was sat in the grotto having dealt with loads of new mums and their babies when a 12-13 year old guy comes in, in his school uniform. He had clearly just come in on his way home from school.
So, I'm a bit confused why he's there, as I'm expecting younger kids. I ask him if he's been well behaved and what he would like for Christmas. His response was completely different to anything else I'd been told by other kids.
"I'd like a laptop so I can learn to code."
I was quite endearing to see a youngster so eager to learn and grow.
My dad was a "signing" Santa in his young 20s. Fluent in ASL and needed some extra cash during the holidays. They would have a special day where all the deaf kids would be able to come and sit on Santa's lap and sign what they wanted for Christmas. He would always recall how amazing it was that the kids were never surprised, excited, or in awe that Santa could sign. It was a given; of course Santa signs, it's Santa!
I was a Santa, but this isn't about what the kid asked for. What would happen where I worked is the parents would fill out a form while their child was doing arts and craft, and the form was then passed to me. It would be filled out with the child's name, what they wanted for christmas, any pets they have, etc. The forms were usually just passed from the manager to an elf, who passed it to me. However, this time, the manager came in to give me it herself. She explained to me that there were two kids coming in now who lost their dad earlier that year. I can't remember the specifics, but I think it was cancer. I read through the forms and the kids were quite young, like, 5-7, so I felt absolutely terrible for them. They came in with their mum and sat down. I was kinda expecting them wanting their dad back or being upset, but they just wanted normal kids stuff like hot wheels. But the mum was very emotional throughout; when it came to get a picture with Santa, she was in a flood of tears.
I was Santa last year at our local mall for I needed cash for The Steam Winter Sale. A little girl climbed up to my lap and asked for an iPhone6,the Pink one.
I didn't even know that there's a Pink iPhone6.
Anyways,I glanced at the parents to see much worries to their eyes that they knew that they couldn't get their 4-year-old child an iPhone6.
I volunteer as Santa for an organization in a large eastern city. They have a holiday party for about 100 children where each one gets an age appropriate gift. There was this little 4-year-old girl who absolutely adored Santa. Her parents and her even followed me to the lobby where I waited for the elevator. While waiting I told her that Santa loved her and this Christmas would be wonderful. Just then, the elevator arrived and I got in. She asked "Santa, where are you going?" I replied " To the roof. That's where the reindeer are." As if by magic, the door closed right on cue. it was a perfect Christmas moment.
I was a mall Santa once in college. I'm from the Northeast US and college was in the deep South. My elves were girls from a local business school who were running the mall Santa thing as a senior project.
The best thing that happened was when a bunch of the elves' friends showed up and whispered some very unladylike things in Santa's ears, just to see how red they could make Santa's cheeks.
The funniest was one little kid who, after I had been chatting with him for a while, looked at me wide-eyed and said, "Santa, you sound like a Yankee!" After a few seconds of frantic desperation, I simply told him, "Well, that's because I live in the NORTH Pole." He found the logic inescapable, plus me promising him a football helped.
A few years back I filled in for Santa at a locally owned toy store - as I don't QUITE look old enough to be Santa (and I have a full lush gingery lumberjack beard) I was billed as "Nick Jr." and the story was that my dad was Santa and I was in training to be the next Santa. He was having me go and fill in for him at some of the usual stops as part of my training in getting to talk to the little kids.
Oh man, the kids loved that. There was a rocking chair that I was "supposed" to sit in, but I sat on the floor with the kids and chatted and it was AWESOME. The kids really connected with this idea of a "trainee Santa."
The most heart-wrenching story was a little girl, about 7 or so, who was staying with her dad and stepmom because her mommy was deathly ill in the hospital. She came and saw me every day that I was there and she just wanted to talk to someone she KNEW could really understand where she was coming from in her fear. She hoped that she could come visit the North Pole, but understood if it wasn't possible.
My last day of the gig she brought me a handwritten-in-crayon note thanking me for everything, saying she was glad to have met me and hoping that I grew up to be the best Santa ever. Let me tell you, all the feels. I am going to keep that damned note forever.
I did a Santa gig for two years as a charity thing for the humane society in my town. It was actually pretty fun. It was neat seeing the faces of all those little guys light up when you came out of the dressing room. To them, you WERE Santa by God. And there was no convincing them otherwise.
You do learn a few things though:
1. Febreeze, Lysol and hand sanitizer are your friends. Buy a few gallons of each.
2. Keep a box of tissues, paper towels and an up-chuck bucket within easy reach at all times.
3. Cool it with the big booming voice for particularly small kids. you already look kind of scary with the beard and red outfit, so cut them some slack.
4. Get your flu shot. and make sure you have at least 6 weeks before the gig starts to make sure its effective.
5. Just for an extra sense of security, since kids tend to be short walking bio-weapons grade laboratories, wear some kind of barrier between your skin and the pants that come with the suit. A bathing suit, saran wrap, whatever you can use. You'll need it to help keep you dry.
I was Santa for a local children's theater last year. This exchange occurred.
Me: "What do you want for Christmas, little girl?"
Me: "Ho ho ho, I'm sorry dear, I can't hear you."
Her: "I want daddy to die."
Me: "Oh... that's... that's not very nice."
This 7-year-old girl gave me the single longest, oldest, most world weary stare I have ever gotten — a look that said she wanted to cry, but had run out of tears long ago. The owner of that gaze had, it said, seen more things than I ever world and had endured far worse than I ever could. I recovered quickly.
Me: "Why do you want your daddy to die?"
Her: "I thought you knew everything."
Me: "No. I wish I did, but I only know if little boys and girls have been naughty or nice. Not adults."
Her: "Well, my daddy shouldn't get anything for christmas this year."
Me: "Has he been nau- bad?"
Her: ... She didn't answer, just looked fearfully away as she rolled up her sleeve, revealing a bruise in the unmistakable shape of a hand around her arm. It was an older bruise, yellow around the edges but purple in the middle. I signaled my friend, who was in the role of an elf and watching the whole, to call the cops. The dad was arrested when he came to pick her up. Any doubt I had about her story were erased when he showed up drunk and attempted to deck the officer. He's still in jail now. That year, for christmas, Santa made sure daddy could never hurt that girl again.
Having been a Santa since I was 22 for my mum's playgroup, then 6 years at my office now for a school. I always gauge the parents if they do not appreciate a guy in the costume sweating his butt off saying ho ho ho 600 times in a session, I do like doing this.
The one that sticks out the most was 3 years ago. A girl about 8 comes in with the elves.
Her: Santa, I would like to pay for heating over Christmas and new shoes for mummy as she has big holes in hers, and I want my daddy back so mummy and daddy and I can be happy again.
What can you possibly say to that?
I personally gave the elves money for the heating. It really choked me up and made me think about continuing doing this.
Back around 1990, I played Santa one time for my high school's Beta club or Octagon club, can't remember which - they were doing a Christmas dinner for disadvantaged children the week before Christmas. One little boy asked me for a Nintendo and I said "I'll see what I can do," and then a few kids later, his older sister came up and said "I don't want anything, but could you get my little brother a Nintendo? He wants one so bad." - It broke my heart so bad I almost started crying right then and there.
I asked if I could keep the Santa suit for a few more days, and Christmas day, I found out where they lived and got all my friends to donate any old games/equipment/accessories they didn't play anymore and gathered up about 25 games, a Nintendo, power-pad, light gun, power glove and sensors, and all the cables to hook it up, and one parent donated a 27 inch TV. I drove up to their house in that Santa suit, in my purple firebird (It was hard to explain where the reindeers were,) and gave that little boy a Nintendo.
I'd never seen a child so happy and I was trying my best not to cry with his mother. She was that mix of happy, excited, crying, covering her face, and couldn't stop thanking me. I hooked up everything and got the kids started with it and explained how everything worked and how to hook it up and they were just so amazed that Santa brought them all that and stayed all afternoon to play with them.
Because his older sister was so selfless and gave up her wish to him, we rounded up enough to get her a pink and purple bike with the streamers on the handlebars, and one of those Barbie camper playsets. She thanked me so sweetly for her presents and thanked me for her little brother's Nintendo. I tear up every time I think about it.