Wednesday, December 17, 2008

He's making a list...

The annual right of passage for all little kids who celebrate Christmas is the visit with Santa. Whether it be at the mall, church, department store, or -- as was the case with our favorite Santa -- in a Santa Village in a small little house surrounded by plastic reindeer. This setup was cool because Santa was inside the house and you couldn't see him until you actually went inside, and then you had him all to yourself until one of his helpful elves had taken your Polaroid (remember those?) and shoved you and your parents out the door so the next kid could get his turn with the Big Guy. It was much nicer than the other Santas who were placed on an elevated throne in a mall with dozens of people watching you impatiently while you tried to remember what you needed to tell him. Remember Ralphie in "A Christmas Story"? Then you know exactly what I mean. Anyway, this Santa Village was off of Broadway in East Knoxville, and as I recall was in the parking lot of a Kroger grocery store. It was a small A-frame structure that sat vacant for 11 months of the year, but from Thanksgiving until December 24 it was the home of Santa. And (according to my Mom) he was the "real" Santa. All the other "fake" Santas were his elves, who were "helping" Santa take all of the kid's Christmas requests. It's a pretty good cover story when you think about it. (The Beach Boys Christmas tune "Santa's Beard" also makes it clear that department store and mall Santas are just "helpers" for Kris Kringle).
I thought it was really cool that the "real" Santa had his office in my hometown of Knoxville, TN.

(After talking to my Mom about it and searching on Google Earth, it appears Santa's Knoxville headquarters has been replaced by a fast food restaurant).

Anyway, we have a perfectly good Santa (or "Santa Helper") at Countryside Mall, about 10 minutes from our house. He isn't one of those garish, obviously younger obese men wearing blush and a fake beard. He is an older gentleman with genuine facial hair and just enough of a paunch to qualify as "jolly".

We waited in line for about 20 minutes to see him. Hanna would wave and smile at him whenever she could see him, but as we approached I sensed things might take a turn for the worse. She started saying "No Zinta. No Zinta". (Zinta is Hanna-speak for Santa). But as we walked out onto the fake snow that surrounded the Big Guy, Hanna smiled and waved. She didn't seem too thrilled when Terri sat her down in his lap, but she played along...sort of. She didn't cry but she obviously wasn't really enjoying herself. They took a few pictures, and when it seemed things might be going south Terri stepped in and reassured Hanna that we weren't leaving her with a large, strange-looking man. I did my part by standing next to the camera and waving my arms around and making noises like a fool. As you can see by the picture, she still wasn't too amused.
They took a few more pics and it was time to go. She waved at good old Zinta, and then we went and paid 20 bucks for a few 3x5 inch photos. It was magical.
Just for comparison, look at the photos below and you will see the marked improvement over last year's Santa debacle. But in Hanna's defense, 2007 Santa does seem pretty creepy!