Once a year and only once a year Santa Claus sits down with a reporter. All topics are on the table. This year Santa met with investigative reporter Della Monroe, of KRAT-TV in North Billings, Montana. To be honest, we were not really happy with this year’s interview. I encouraged Santa to talk to another journalist who was not so combative. But Santa said that would not be right and that the world needs to see what happened in this interview. So here is a transcript of their difficult conversation:
Q: Santa, where were you on the night of December 24th, 2004?
A: Well, hello to you too, Della.
Q: Can you answer the question please?
A: Where do you think I was?
Q: That is an evasive answer, Mr. Claus. Can you state — clearly and exactly — where you were on the night of December 24th, 2004?
A: Hmm. Yes. I can state clearly and exactly my whereabouts on the night of December 24th, 2004. I am capable of that.
Q: Will you tell me?
A: Tell you what?
Q: Where you were on the night of December 24th, 2004.
A: You mean…now?
Q: Yes, now. Where were you?
A: This could take a while, Della. That was kind of a long night for me. Are you sure you want to know all that?
Q: Yes, will you tell me now precisely where you were on the night of December 24th, 2004?
A: Whose night?
A: Well, whose night do you want to talk to me about? Are you talking about night in, say, Bahrain? Or night in North Billings, Montana? December 24th, 2004 was a long night.
Q: Yeah, sure. Where were you on the night of December 24th, 2004 at 3:34am Eastern Standard Time in the United States.
A: I was at 1653 E. Lincoln Ave, New Harmony, Nebraska…I think. That address could have been a minute or two earlier or later, if I recall correctly.
Q: I see. And at what time did you see the crime?
A: What crime?
Q:You were clearly at the scene of a crime in New Harmony. You just placed yourself right in the middle of a crime. You just admitted you were there in the right place at the right time.
A: You’re kidding me. What happened? What sort of crime occurred?
Q: A breaking and entering.
Q: Yes, we have video of a large man wearing a bright red suit breaking into the address you mentioned at exactly the time you said you were there.
A: No kidding? What did he do when he broke into this house? I certainly didn’t see anyone.
Q: He stole some cookies.
A: Really? How weird is that? Guess he didn’t have any interest in that American Girl doll I left at that house, eh?
Q: Oh, it gets even more interesting, Mr. Claus.
A: Mr. Claus? Look, Della….
Q: Don’t divert the questioning, Nickie.
Q: Why did you steal the cookies, Mr. Kringle?
Q: You heard me. You know you did it. We’ve got the video to prove it. And now the owner of the home wishes to press charges. Have you ever been to jail, Mr. Claus?
A: Yes, a couple of times.
Q: Ah-ha! So you’ve got a criminal record? You have been convicted before?
A: I didn’t say that. I just said I’ve been to jail before.
Q: How are the parents of the world going to feel knowing that their children are sitting on the lap of a criminal?
A: What is this? What kind of questions are these? What are you doing, Della?
Q: I’m exposing you for what you are, Tubby.
Q: Yes, you’re going down, Mr. Claus. From now on your name will be whispered along with fallen greats like OJ Simpson and Jimmy Swaggart.
A: Is that so? I thought we were doing an interview, not an interrogation.
Q: This is an interview. I asked you a straight forward question and you practically admitted to the crime. We’ve got you in the right place, we’ve got you matching the desciption of the suspect and we’ve got a motive.
A: A motive? A motive for what?
Q: Cookie theft.
Q: You wanted those cookies so you broke into the house and ate them, didn’t you, Mr. Claus?
A: This is crazy.
Q: Answer the question, did you eat the cookies?
A: What cookies?
Q: The sugar cookies.
A: Oh, the cookies on the plate by the fireplace with the note that said “for Santa” on it? Yes, I ate those cookies.
Q: Aha! A confession!
A: Someone is charging me with a crime for that? Good gravy, I did that in many places on the night of December 24th.
Q: Great, multiple counts. Keep talking, Mr. Kringle…if that is indeed your name.
A: Look, Della, I think you’re getting off on the wrong foot here.
Q; You just let me conduct the interview, bub.
A; Now, young lady– that’s enough. You will address me as Santa or I’ll see to it that your stocking stays empty this Christmas.
Q: Well, well. Threats now, Santa?
A: That’s not a threat. That’s a fact. I don’t know where you’re going with this and I don’t care. You will treat me with dignity and respect. You don’t have to like me but I will not stand to be called names by you. I am a human being and will be treated as such, do I make myself clear?
Q: Um, sure. Tell it to the judge. You have a lot of explaining to do. Do you need a lawyer?
A; Heavens, no.
Q; The police will be here shortly to arrest you. Are you ready to go to jail? Do you know how big this scandal is for you?
A: I’m not going any where and there’s no scandal.
Q: Santa Claus in shackles! My goodness, the headlines are going to be outrageous.
A: Della, are you on some sort of medication? Maybe you should lie down and I’ll call someone for you.
Q: Don’t be ridiculous. Just stick to the simple questions. What do you have to say for yourself? These are serious charges.
A; They are nothing of the sort. I visited that home because a nice young lady by the name of Elizabeth was there and she deserved a Merry Christmas. She got what she wanted, too. Have you asked her any questions?
Q: No, but her Aunt Margo is very upset and she wants to press charges.
A: What? I left something for her too. She’s charging me with a crime?
Q; Yes. Tresspassing. Breaking and entering. Theft. Vandalism. And…disturbing the peace.
Q: Yes, someone trampled all over her front lawn.
A; Those were reindeer tracks, you’ll never pin that on me. I couldn’t go on the roof, it was in bad shape.
Q; Oh, so you had accomplices? Hmm, interesting. You were the only one visible on the video.
A: Well, I didn’t break anything but I did enter. I was very careful.
Q: What about the cookies?
A: I already told you. I ate them.
Q: Tsk, tsk. The judge will throw the book at you.
A; Why? There was a note telling me to eat them.
Q: No there wasn’t. Those were pretend cookies and a pretend note.
A: What are you talking about? There were cookies, I ate them and then moved on.
Q: Margo was just pretending with Elizabeth about the cookies. She wasn’t serious about leaving them out. But she never got a chance to put them away because you ate them.
A: Well, come to think of it they weren’t very good.
Q: Hardly worth the time you’re going to have to do in jail, eh, Santa?
A; Oh, for pete’s sake. Can we talk about something else?
Q: Oh, no. I want to hear more. I want to see your face when they put the handcuffs on you.
A: What happened to you, Della? You were once a sweet little girl. Now you are vicious. Why don’t you stop this charade and talk some Chrismtas with me?
Q: Christmas, schmistmas.
Q: Look, fat boy. Christmas is a sham.
A: Della, stop it. I don’t know what happened to you but obviously you don’t believe in Christmas any more. But just because you don’t believe in it or just because you don’t like it does not give you a right to belittle it to those of us who do.
Q: Listen here, Santa…
A: No, you listen here. You were granted this interview with me to provide information. You were not invited here to turn this into a forum reflecting your own distaste for Christmas or for me. You ask me questions and I’ll tell you the truth. Let anyone who might see this decide for themselves about me and Christmas.
Q: But Christmas is a sham, Santa. You have to see that someday. It doesn’t mean anything to anyone. All that matters is money, money, money.
A: Says who? You, Della?
Q: Well, a lot of people feel that way about Christmas, Santa.
A: I know some that do. But I know many more who feel just the opposite. But so what? Let people believe what they want to believe. There is no reason to attack someone for believing in something just because you don’t believe in it yourself. That’s one of the core messages of Christmas, Della.
Q: Since when? Christmas is about spending money, holding parties, eating food and acting crazy. There is no message there, Santa. At least not a good message.
A: On the contrary. You might see some misguided folks doing the things you describe but, really, those who keep Christmas in their hearts follow the true message of Christmas in all that they do.
Q: And what is this magic message, Santa?
A: Peace, and on earth, goodwill to all men.
Q: Now you’re getting religious on me, Santa. That is exactly why we are taking Christmas out of the schools and out of the workplace. It is very bad.
A: It is not very bad, Della. It is not religious. Some religions, well most I say, advocate a message of peace. But most religions also teach you to love your neighbor, too. Are we going to take that out of the schools too just because it could technically be called a religious thought?
Q; Well, no.
A: Then why take away the message of peace and goodwill out of our schools by banning Christmas?
Q: Because Christmas means believing in Jesus Christ and believing in you, too.
A: That’s not exactly true.
Q: It’s not?
A: No, it is not true. Many believe in Christmas but don’t believe in me. Many believe in me but don’t believe in Christmas. Many don’t even believe in me or Christmas but they celebrate it anyway. Can you believe that?
Q: That makes no sense to me.
A: Of course it makes no sense to you. And that is because you think it is your business to define Christmas for everyone else. And really, Christmas is bigger and means more to most people than people like you will ever know. You’re being quite small minded, Della. You need to rethink this whole line of questioning. It is clouding your credibility as a journalist.
Q: Does this mean you are going to fight the charges?
A: What charges?
Q; Breaking and entering, theft, vandalism, disturbing the peace…
A: Disturbing the peace? What was that for?
Q: Waking up the neighbor’s dog, he barked the rest of the night.
A: I didn’t wake him up.
Q: Oh, so you’re fighting that charge?
A: I’m fighting all the charges. I was invited to that house, there was a written invitation in the house to eat the cookies and I left the place in better condition that when I got there. What’s the big crime in all that?
Q: Can you prove all that, Santa?
A: Sure, I’ve got witnesses.
Q: You do? Who are they?
A: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid….
Q: Reindeer are not witnesses, Mr. Claus.
A: Says who? Ask them anything and they will tell you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Q: Ask them? They can’t talk!
A: Says who? I talk to them all the time. Besides, they aren’t my only witnesses.
Q: Who else saw things? An elf? [snicker]
A: No. I’m hesistant to reveal my witness at this time.
Q: Oh, sure. You probably need time to make one up or pay someone to say nice things about you. That shouldn’t be hard for you to find.
A: That’s not it at all.
Q: Then what is it? You’re on trial here, Santa. This is going to be a big deal, you know. A proper witness is very important for your credibility. Tell me, who is your special witness?
A: Aunt Margo.
Q: No way! She’s the one bringing charges against you!
A: I don’t think Margo would do that. I think she might have been pressured. You didn’t tell Margo she had to press charges against me, did you Della?
Q: Why would Margo be a witness for you? She doesn’t believe in you.
A: Oh yes she does. She didn’t for a long time but I guarantee you that she believes in me now. Why did you do it, Della?
Q: Hey, I’m not the one on trial here.
A: Well, yes you are. This is your interview. So far I don’t see that we’re in a court and I don’t see any police or judges or handcuffs. Right now, we’re in the court of public opinion and the reading public is our judge. How do you think you’re doing, Della?
Q: Not very well, I suppose.
A: Ok, then. Stop this monkey business and ask me a proper question.
Q: Why does Margo believe in you now? How did that happen? For so many years she didn’t keep Christmas and now she does. Why?
A: Ah, I see. You know Margo personally, don’t you?
Q: Yes, I admit I do. She was my third grade teacher.
A:. Ah, I see. Well, Margo had to look at Christmas different because Elizabeth moved in with her. Elizabeth’s parents died in an accident and she went to live with her Aunt Margo. Elizabeth believes in me, and always has. When I got to their house with the few little presents I brought last year I ran into Margo.
Q; You did?
A: Yes, we had a nice little chat.
Q: What did you talk about?
A: That is none of your business.
Q: Oh, well, why not? I’m a reporter it is my job to make things like this my business. That’s why I said you’re going to face charges. The questions have been all about that.
A: My conversation with Margo was private. If she wants it revealed, she can tell you but I never will, even if that means I get charged with a bogus crime and go to jail. Oh, Della. Shame on you. Look, wouldn’t it just be easier to ask questions of me without having to lie or make up scandals? That’s why I only talk to the media once a year or so. It used to be your job was just to ask questions, to seek facts. Now all you guys seem to want to do is to get people in trouble.
Q: Getting Santa Claus to confess to a crime in an interview seemed to be a good way for me to get Dan Rather’s old job. Maybe I went too far, I suppose. The truth is, I don’t really believe in you, Santa. I don’t believe in Christmas. I think that maybe we should just walk away from Christmas and come up with something different for a holiday. There are just so many things wrong with it.
A: What’s so bad about Christmas, Della?
Q: Shopping, Parties, fatty foods, people shoving religion down your throat.
A: Alot of that stuff goes on at other times of the year and you don’t seem to mind then. Why pick on Christmas time?
Q:Because it is non-stop. Christmas surrounds us. I wake up and my radio plays music. I drive to work and I get bombarded with Christmas advertising. Everyone I know expects things of me at Christmas. It is all very stressful.
A: I hear the word “I” in there a lot, Della. Seems to me you’re thinking of yourself a lot at this time of year.
Q: So? I have to take care of myself.
A: And that is why Christmas is a burden for you, Della. That is why you feel it is a sham. Because Christmas is not for the selfish.
Q: Wait a minute, I’m not selfish. I give to the Salvation Army. I’d help an old lady cross the street. I have a cat, for pete’s sake. What’s so selfish about me?
A: I’m not accusing you of anything, Della. I’m sure you’re a very nice person when you want to be. But for those who bash Christmas, call it names and disrespect those who revere the day I say they are selfish people.
A: Because Christmas is all about others. Never self. Never. If you can shift your thoughts from yourself — your inconveniences, your hassles, your wants, your desires, what you think — and simply even observe what is decent and needful of others Christmas will open your eyes up to a whole new world. You’ll be appreciative. You’ll enjoy yourself more. You’ll thrill in knowing and helping other people. You will grow in tolerance. Peace, good will toward men will actually be seared on your soul. Love is the universal language and Christmas is its voicebox.
Q: Hmm. I thought you were going to lecture me on being on a naughty list and getting coal in my stocking.
A: Don’t be silly. You are mixing the mechanics of Christmas with the real purpose of it.
Q: Christmas is still a hassle, Santa.
A: Yes, and so is mowing lawns, taking out the trash, watching the news and eating celery. But there is good derived from things we do. We just have to look for them. And that was never more true than when you speak of Christmas.
Q: Are you losing Christmas, Santa? There seems to be so many more people these days who are against it.
A: Ah, there you go, Della. That was your first real journalistic question. And my answer is no, we’re not losing Christmas. The more media types like you talk about it, the more we win.
Q: How so?
A: Because more folks see the good rather than the bad in Christmas eventually. That is why you have folks who aren’t even Christian celebrating Christmas. That is why you have folks who don’t believe in me putting up Christmas trees and filling their lives with charity. That’s Christmas. It is not really about me or presents or parties or whathaveyou. Charity never faileth.
Q: Santa, the world has had a tough year. There was the tsunami, the earthquakes in Pakistan, hurricanes in the American gulf. Tragedy surrounds us. There seems to be no time for the silliness of Christmas. Can’t you at least admit that?
A: As awful as those event have been, and they have been terrible, they have caused more Christmas than they prevent. Look at the kindness shown from around the world after these heart wrenching events. Never was the spirit of Christmas more prevalent than after these things have happened. It fills me with hope when people from many lands join hands to help others at a time of need. That’s Christmas.
Q: But think of the sadness! Think of the homes lost. Think of the money gone!
A: Think of the better people they have made.
Q: How does a storm that destroys a home and kills people become a good thing? How does that make people better?
A: The storm doesn’t do any good. But the recovery from a storm or an accident brings out the best in us. We are more humble. We reach out to serve. We give abundantly without regard to ourselves because basic needs have to be met. I see more Christmas in the world this year than last year because folks have had to do that. While I don’t wish disaster on anyone I do wish for more of the Christmas spirit and this past year we have felt that in a big way.
Q: This interview isn’t anything like I thought it would be.
Q: You are a surprising man, Santa.
A: Is that a question, Della?
Q: No, I guess not. I just expected you to talk about fairy dust, sugar kisses and magic.
A: I’d love to talk about that stuff!
Q: I can’t do that, Santa. I just don’t believe in it.
A: Well, you don’t have to believe in it. My job isn’t to judge people on whether or not they think like me. My job is kind of like yours. I only expose the facts of Christmas. I believe what I believe and I find many don’t share that with me. But it is not my job to get them to believe.
Q: What is your job then?
A: To wish the world a Merry Christmas.
Q: But that’s the conflict! Don’t wish me a Merry Christmas when I don’t believe in it!
A: Why not?
Q: Because it offends me!
Q: Because it just does. I take it to mean you want me to be like you.
A: It doesn’t mean that at all.
Q: Oh, you Christmas types are all like. You’ll never understand.
A: I love you.
A: I said I love you. How does that make you feel?
Q: Very uncomfortable.
Q: Because it makes me think you’re up to something.
A: Maybe the problem isn’t me then.
Q: Santa, what would you say if I came up to you and talked about, oh, drowning puppies. Like, “Happy Puppy Drowning Day!” or something like that.
A: I’d ask you what in the world are you talking about?
Q: Exactly. That’s what I’m talking about. You say Merry Christmas and that offends me. I say “Happy Puppy Drowning” and that offends you.
A: It doesn’t offend me because I’ve never heard of it. I wonder what it is. It sounds weird and I think it is probably wrong but I don’t really understand what you are saying.
Q: Ah-ha, that’s it. When you and others say Merry Christmas I don’t understand it either and I get offended by it.
A: Well, that’s pretty silly. Getting offended at something you don’t understand makes you rather shallow and ignorant, doesn’t it?
Q: But it just isn’t politically correct to be going around saying things that people don’t understand and don’t want to hear.
A: No, it just isn’t politically correct to be going around determining what other people can and cannot say. Look, Della, I’m not sure what drives you to these conclusions. And I’m not sure why you want to talk to me about these things. I’m a busy man with Christmas on my mind. Is there anything else you want to know? I have to get going.
Q: Well, before you go, I have just one question. Do you think there is any hope for me or others who don’t like Christmas?
A: Yes, I do. Christmas is ancient. It never starts and it never stops. People forever have tried to change it and they can’t. They can only change themselves. And eventually, even you, Della, will change. Your life experience may take you a hundred years but you’ll come around on Christmas. It is like trying to stop a bad habit. You do something for years until the wisdom of doing just the opposite dawns on you. Christmas will have to happen for you like that. Kind of like Scrooge, you’re going to face your demons in the night, mark my words. Christmas isn’t bad, it isn’t evil. It is at the very center of what each of us is as a human being. You will eventually come to see that and to cherish that.
Q: Ok, if you say so.
A: Della, Merry Christmas.
Q: Peace, Santa.