Santa lives at the Mall now. 

He’s surrounded by a tunnel of greenery and roped off from the press of children, who must form a single-file line to the big guy.  Parents aren’t allowed to take pictures of their children in Santa’s lap.  The only permissible pictures cost some ridiculous amount and are taken by a teenager clad in an elf costume. 

The Santa at Flatirons Mall isn’t bad this year.  He’s no Edmund Gwenn, but he’ll do.  (For those of you who don’t know Edmund Gwenn, he’s the iconic actor who portrayed Santa in the 1949 classic “Miracle on 34th Street.) 

I’ve seen some horrendous parodies of Santa, courtesy of the Internet, and some total Santa creepers, which could truly influence susceptible children:

How times have changed.

When I was a child, way back in the days of yore, there were two places in town that had Santa: Northgate Mall, which was within walking distance of my house,

and Belk’s Department Store, which was a bus ride downtown. 

As I consider it, I think these two shopping powerhouses were in cahoots with each other, because each had a Santa AND a Mrs. Claus.  This was very clever, because back in the 1960’s, we were more clever than children these days.  And if we saw Santa at one place, we knew that he couldn’t be at the other place – hence, the ploy of Mrs. Claus.  And by the way, Mrs. Claus DID NOT LOOK LIKE THIS:

She looked like this:

They’d trade off.  Mrs. Claus would say “Oh, Santa’s gone off to tend the reindeers,” and we’d buy into it.  It wasn’t the same, sitting on Mrs. Claus’ lap – I recall usually seeing her at Belk’s.  But I actually felt like I was kind of covering my bases by talking to both of them.  Mrs. Claus would be more likely to understand things from that “just us girls” perspective, and she could share that with Santa, in case he didn’t understand me.

I seem to recall that E-Bro did not like going to see Santa AT ALL. 

The Santa at Northgate was in a little shack on the sidewalk. 

It was all lit up outside and dark red inside, and Santa’s throne was against the back wall of the shack.  So it was a little scary going inside. 

But I think E-Bro at one point resisted going in most forcefully, and I remember standing there watching his unseemly display (I couldn’t have been more than 3) with exceptional disdain.  And even though I was scared to death too, mostly because my big brother was, I boldly strode inside with my head held high and I sat on that lap and I told that man what he was going to bring me for Christmas – or else!  I gave him my well-thought out list.  And my knees were shaking when I left.

The last time I sat on Santa’s lap was about 15 years ago, after a particularly festive girl’s Christmas lunch.  And it was still weird – OK, maybe it was weirder because I was in my 30’s.  But Santa didn’t seem to mind a bit.  Which made it even weirder.

Anyway, no more Santa for me.  But hey, I still have the spirit – and the hat.