Kids really do say the darndest things, especially when they’re excited.
And when you’ve been playing Santa Claus for more than a decade, you hear it all.
So we asked Jim Manning, a full-time children’s entertainer who’s played Santa Jim in Boston for the past 14 years, to shed some light on the most awkward things kids say at Christmas and how he responds.
Feel free to take some notes for your own curious Santa fans.
‘Will you get me that toy?’
I never commit to any presents. You could have a child grab me by the shoulder and ask, “Santa, will you bring me an X-box?” And I will say, “We will see what we can do.” Because even if a parent is whispering in my ear “We will definitely get them that toy,” I don’t know that they’re going to find it in the store, and I don’t know that they’re going to deliver. So I never commit to any single present.
‘Can I have a puppy?’
I also get asked about pets a lot – “Can I have a puppy?” “Can I have a kitty?” – and I explain that, because it gets so cold on the sleigh, I don’t bring animals with me. And that’s a decision to make with Mummy and Daddy.
‘You don’t look like the other Santa I saw’
Sometimes kids will come up and say, “You’re different from the other Santa Claus I saw,” and I’ll say, “Well, that was one of my helpers,” which is something I encourage all Santas to do.
You’re the real Santa, and everybody else is your helper, so as to not cause confusion.
It’s really a case-by-case basis, but I try to stay on the kids’ level as much as I can.
Every year I meet some Jewish children, and they say, “Santa Claus, I’m not Christian – I’m Jewish.” And I say, ‘Well, you know, I’m Santa Claus for everybody,” and then we sing the “Dreidel” song.
The important thing is, you don’t have to believe in me. My job is to bring joy. My job isn’t to force them to believe with proof or anything like that.
‘Is your beard real?’
My beard is tied on in three different spots. It’s really beautiful, and children under the age of eight have a tough time distinguishing between my beard and a real beard.
That being said, if someone wants to tug on the beard, they’re very welcome to. If children do tug on it, which happens once every two or three visits, I give a little wince as if it actually hurts. It stays in place, and that’s enough to seal the deal.
‘Can you bring back Grandma?’
The hardest gigs are when families have had a recent loss.
Children will sometimes ask me to bring back a deceased relative or pet, and I have to explain that there’s limits to what even I can do as Santa.
I remind them that their loved ones are looking down on them from heaven, and that their family and friends are here for them as well.
‘Can I see your sleigh?’
Children always want to see my sleigh when I visit houses. I explain that I don’t want to tire the reindeer out, so they’re waiting for me at Logan Airport.
‘Do you remember me?’
Later in the season they will cross-reference seeing me – “Hey, do you remember when I saw you a couple of weeks ago” – and I’ll say “Oh, yes!”
I took improv classes a couple of years ago, and one big thing you learn in improvisation is “Yes, and.”
So when I ask the kids, ‘What’s the name of my favourite reindeer?” and they say “Bob!” I say, “Yes, Bob is one of my favourite reindeer, and Rudolph.” I always try to answer in the affirmative, and a lot of it’s listening to what the kids are saying.
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