Once a year and only once a year Santa Claus sits down with a reporter. All topics are on the table. After last year's combative interview with a hostile journalist, Santa decided to meet with a more sincere kind of reporter. He met with Taylor Burnette, editor of the Bainesville, Iowa Calvin Coolidge Middle School newspaper. Here is a transcript of their conversation:
Q: Hello, Santa.
A: Why hello, Taylor! How nice to see you again. Would you like to sit on my lap?
Q: Not right now, Santa. I have to get this interview ready for this week's paper.
A: Ok, all business. Whatever you say. What can I do for you?
Q: Well, what's it like being Santa?
A: It's wonderful. I have the best job in the world. I get to make toys, live with elves, wear great clothes and fly a sleigh. I wouldn't trade my job for anything. The best part is talking to kids like you, Taylor.
Q: Santa -- I'm not a kid anymore. I'm a teenager.
A: You are? My goodness. When did that happen?
Q: When I turned 11.
A: But you're not a teenager until you're 13.
Q: Says who? When you're 21 you are in your twenties, right?
A: Hey, yeah. That's right. I never thought of it that way. Very clever. You ARE a teenager.
Q: Well, that's why they pay me the big bucks!
A: (Laughs) You certainly deserve them. Well, then what's on the mind of a teenager?
Q: Well, real important stuff like -- what does Santa have on his iPod?
A: Ah, well. That is monumental information. I like a great many types of music, Taylor. And I listen to a lot of it. I love the Beetles. James Taylor has a new Christmas CD out this year, you know. Oh, and I love classical music. I always listen to Bach. I love Mozart. I have so much music in my library I have to have two iPods.
Q: Wow, Santa. That's a lot of music.
A: Well, I think music is important. It is the food of the imagination and candy for the creative spirit.
Q: Do you listen to music when you deliver presents?
A: Only when I am in the sleigh. Once I touch down on a roof the music gets turned off.
Q: Too afraid of waking up kids?
A: No, not at all. The reindeer don't really like my music all the time.
A: Well, it's not that they don't like music. It's just that flying makes them nervous. It is hard for them to do and they have to concentrate. The music breaks their concentration.
Q: But don't they hear the music when you're flying.
A: No, not over the bells.
Q: Oh, I see. They hear the bells when they fly.
A: Yes, the bells help them keep their rhythm.
Q: Wow, that's really interesting Santa. I didn't know that about reindeer.
A: Yes, alot of people think the reindeer are magic and that they just fly around in starry skies with light snow falling around them. But actually, they work very hard. It is a very athletic kind of thing for them.
Q: Don't you use magic? I mean, how do you really get down chimneys? Is it how they show in the movies.
A: Goodness, no. Some chimneys I don't go down at all. Only very old chimneys will be big enough for a man like me. Most of the time I have to come in through the front door.
Q: We lock our door, Santa. How do you get into my house?
A: I know someone with a key who lets me in.
Q: My Dad?
A: Yes, in your house it's your dad. Nice fellow, your Pop is. He was a good boy, too.
Q: This is pretty big news, Santa.
A: Not really. I depend upon a lot of people to do my job. For example, you're helping me right now.
A: Yes, by talking to me and asking questions and then writing about it in your paper you spread the goodwill of Christmas. That's my job and you're helping me do it right now.
Q: Wow, Santa. Does that make me an elf?
A: Sure! Anyone who helps Santa can be called an elf. By all means!
Q: I know lots of people who want to be an elf! This is really big news.
A: And it is really old news, Taylor. Look around you...just about anyone can be an elf. I have millions of them out there, helping me.
Q: Why didn't I know this stuff when I was a kid?
A: Oh, you're still a kid. Heck, I'm still a kid. Kids are what make Santa possible. That's why adults like your Pop are such believers in Santa. Pop is still a kid.
Q: Santa, do you REALLY get around the world in one night?
A: Oh, yes. And what a long night it is.
Q: There's just something fantastic about that. It is hard to believe, Santa.
A: Yes, but so is music from a tiny machine smaller than a remote control.
Q: That's good point, Santa.
A: Are you starting to doubt me, Taylor?
Q: No, not really. But I cannot talk about you like I did when I was, like, seven.
A: Ah, well, I understand that. Kids are hard on each other. As you get older I get a little silly to be believing in, right?
Q: I'm sorry, Santa. I don't mean to doubt you.
A: Oh, I'm not blaming you. I wouldn't want to be a kid in today's world.
A: Heavens no. You kids have it harder today than I ever did. I really admire how kids like you stand up to everything around. Look at yourself, Taylor. You're pretty. You're smart. You can handle just about anything. You're polite, you stand up for your friends, you're respectful to teachers and adults, you have a pure mind, you dress nice and you're funny too. That's saying a lot for a kid your age. Not all kids have it together like you.
Q: I'm not doing so good keeping my room clean, Santa.
A: Well, nobody's perfect. I'm not saying they need to be. But kids today need to remember they are kids and that they don't know everything. They need their moms and dads. They need to work hard in school, they need to be respectful at all times and live their lives full of learning and imagination. Kids today are in too big of a hurry to do the bad things some adults do and I want them to slow down. You only get to be a kid once.
Q: Are you mad at the kids of the world, Santa?
A: No. I'm disappointed though, in a few of them. A lot of these kids know better.
Q: Are kids today worse than they were when my Dad was a kid?
A: Yes. But not everything is their fault. They live in a different world than your Dad did. It is harder to be a kid today.
Q: Is that your message this year?
A: Yes, it is. To all kids of the world, I say: Don't grow up!
Q: (Laughs) Really, Santa?
A: Yes, I'm serious. I want kids to just be kids. When was the last time you pretended?
Q: You mean like Barbies and stuff?
Q: I gave up Barbies a long time ago, Santa.
A: Well, I haven't. I think you need to continue to play like you did when you were a kid.
Q: Santa plays with Barbies? Ewwww!
A: Well, I have to test them out, you know. That is my job.
Q: That just seems weird, Santa.
A: Do you still have that last Barbie I gave you?
Q: Yes, Santa. Why?
A: Tonight, before you go to bed, pull her out of wherever you keep her and brush her hair for just a couple of minutes, okay?
Q: Why Santa?
A: Because kids today -- even you -- need to think about other things than what you think about. Sometimes is it good to go back in time and just be a kid. That will make the world a better place.
Q: You sound worried, Santa.
A: I am worried.
Q: Is the world on the naughty list?
A: Not the whole world, heck no. And not many kids are either. Even still, I think I'm going to be bringing kids your age a lot more toys this year than things like video games and iPods.
Q: But Santa! I really want an iPod this year!
A: Ok, if you're really good, we'll see.
Q: Santa, you're a big softie.
A: Yeah, I know.
Q: What about the world this year, Santa. How do you think it has been since last Christmas?
A: Oh, just terrible,
Q: Really? Are you worried about the Middle East? North Korea? Iraq? The price of gas?
A: No, not those things. Well, those are all important things and of course I am worried about them. But they aren't really what's at the top of mind right now for me.
Q: What is?
A: The Cubbies, Taylor. What are we going to do about the Cubs?
Q: My teacher told me to ask you about baseball.
A: Sorry, I know I talk about the Cubs every year. And every year we seem to be talking about next year.
Q: You really like the Cubs, don't you Santa?
A: Um, well, they're ok. But their fans are what worries me. Every year they write me letters by the millions asking for better relief pitchers or managers who can win. But I can't control stuff like that. They are some unhappy campers and I cannot make things better for them. It is so sad.
Q: There are a lot of unhappy people in the world, Santa. What about those people starving in different places? Or victims of crime? What about kids who are abused?
A: Oh, you're right. I should be ashamed of myself. There are lots of unhappy people out there I wish I could help more.
Q: Does it bother you that you cannot help more people?
A: Yes, of course. But I am just a man. That's all. I do my best. (sighs)
Q: Well, I think you do a lot, Santa.
A: Thank you. That's very kind of you.
Q: Santa -- why do you wear red all the time?
A: Because it is the happiest color in the world. Nobody can frown wearing red.
Q: But you can't be happy all the time.
A: I think it is important to try, even in the face of bad news.
Q: You mean, like positive thinking?
A: Yes, that's exactly what I mean. I think we have to be serious about serious stuff. But we can look forward. We can be hopeful. We can carry the spirit of Christmas in all things that we do.
Q: Even Cubs fans?
A: Absolutely. Thank you -- that's exactly what I'm talking about!
Q: Is there anything else you want to tell this world this Christmas, Santa?
A: Yes. Breathe in and out. Enjoy each other. Savor the moments together. Promote peace.
Q: Is that an anti-war message, Santa?
A: No, that's a pro-Christmas message.
Q: That's what "Merry Christmas" is all about, right, Santa?
A: That's right. Merry Christmas indeed.
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