Just as he does every year, Santa has been interviewed in advance of Christmas. And just as he has done in the past, Santa has met with an aspiring journalist, this year being 17-year-old Jeremy Hart of Fontana, California. Jeremy did something no other journalist with an exclusive interview has ever done — he opened up the questions to the world. For more than a month the public was invited to submit their questions for Santa to Jeremy. The result is this candid conversation where we learn more about the modern Santa Claus than ever before.
Q: Hello, Santa. Nice to meet you.
A: Oh, we’ve met before, Jeremy. Many times.
Q: We have?
A: Yes. Don’t you remember?
Q: Well, I remember my Mom taking me to the mall once and standing in line.
A: No, no. That wasn’t really me.
Q: Then I don’t think we have met before.
A: Well we have. The last time I saw you was when you got into a little trouble. It happened in the street in front of your house. Remember playing in a little street football game with Jimmy Beck and you knocked his teeth out when you tripped him on that deep slant by the Moore’s driveway? Remember how he hit that bumper of the truck that was there?
Q: You were there?
A: Of course, it was just one of those things.
Q: Santa, wait. That was a big deal. I remember that day clearly because I got busted big time. I don’t recall seeing anyone with a long white beard and a red suit. There were paramedics who showed up. I remember that day, you were not there.
A: Sure I was. I just wasn’t in uniform like you are used to seeing me, as you see me now. But I was there.
A: Yes, I was there. I was the guy who gave Jimmy the ice pack. We stopped his bleeding before the paramedics got there.
Q: No that was a big guy who came from a house down the street…
A: Yes, that was me.
A: Yes, of course. You were wearing a San Francisco 49ers sweatshirt.
Q: Yes. Yes I was. That was you?
A: Oh yes. I get around and a lot of people don’t recognize me when I’m not in uniform. The world tends to ignore round little old men who aren’t dressed like Santa Claus, Jeremy.
Q: Wow. That blows me away.
A: I move about quite freely and many people are not even aware I am around.
Q: That’s really interesting Santa. What were you doing in my neighborhood?
A: I was visiting Vern Schulz that day, a dear friend of mine.
Q: Mr. Schulz?
A: Oh, you know him?
Q: I knew of him, Santa. As kids we were all afraid of him.
A: That’s too bad. Vern was a good guy. Very handy. Always made me nice things in his workshop for Christmas. I was there visiting him that day because his dear wife had passed away a few days before and nobody else had come to visit him.
Q: Really? I had no idea, Santa. I thought maybe Mrs. Schulz just moved away or something. We never heard a thing about it.
A: Oh, your Mom and your Dad knew about it. They went to the funeral.
Q: They did? They never said anything about it.
A: Well, about some things parents keep quiet. You were very young if I remember right.
Q: Yes, but I think my Mom or my Dad might have told me about it.
A: I recall talking with your Mom and she said that at the time you were still upset about losing Willie.
Q: That’s right! Willie was my dog. I remember now.
A: I think your Mom was very wise not to say anything to you. We talked a long time about that.
Q: Do you talk with all parents, Santa?
A: As many as I possibly can. A smart parent will use Santa for things like that.
Q: Santa I have a bunch of questions for you that have been sent to me from people around the world. One of the questions I received was from a little girl in Tacoma, Washington. She wants to know how you know so much about people. And after listening to you tell me this story I have to ask the same question.
A: [laughs] Knowing people is my business, Jeremy.
Q: Do you really know when someone is sleeping and when they are awake?
A: Sure. That’s how I know when to visit. I couldn’t get around the world in one night if I stopped by when people were awake, Jeremy.
Q: Well that leads to another question.
A: We will get to them all, Jeremy. There is no rush.
Q: That’s just it, Santa. You never seem to hurry. I do remember meeting you once and I wasn’t so little. It was on a Christmas morning in my house just three years ago and I saw you. You were there — in the flesh, wearing your suit and I saw you.
A: Yes, I know.
Q: Ok, I was wondering if you knew it.
A: Well, we didn’t talk. I remember that.
Q: Well, I was a little busy at the time Santa and I didn’t want to wake anyone.
A: Have you told anyone, Jeremy?
Q: No sir. Everyone would think I am nuts if I said I saw Santa Claus in my house on Christmas morning.
A: I suppose they would.
Q: But that was the thing, Santa. There you were in my house, filling stockings and writing out Christmas cards like you do every year at my house and you were not in a hurry. How DO you get around the world in one night and still take time like that in every house you visit?
A: Did someone send in that question, Jeremy?
Q: Yes, actually. Many people did. But that question is for me.
A: Do you doubt me now, Jeremy?
Q: No, not at all. I saw you. You’re real. I have no doubt about it and never will. But this is something I have to know.
A: Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, Jeremy. But there are just some things I cannot tell you. I’d love to tell you everything but if I did that it would make my job more impossible than ever. You don’t suppose that Roger Clemens would show you how to throw his splitter would he?
Q: I hear he shows people his pitches all the time.
A: Oh, he teaches people. Don’t get me wrong. But you’ll never get the secret of The Rocket’s pitches from him and we shouldn’t. And we shouldn’t expect Santa to tell all either.
Q: So you’re going to hold out on me in this interview, dude?
A: Not exactly. I’ll tell you everything I can. But when we’re done talking and you write your story I’ve still got a job to do and that means I’ve got to keep some things proprietary. You do understand, don’t you Jeremy?
Q: Well, sure. I understand. I just hope you can answer all these questions I have gathered.
A: That’s ok. I will do the best I can. Very smart of you to get ideas from people like that. I was very impressed with that idea. Go ahead ask me anything you want.
Q: Ok, I’ll just pick one at random here. From Jacob in Las Vegas, Nevada: Do you ever give yourself presents?
A: Oh, that’s a wonderful question. Hi Jacob! My answer is yes, I get something from Santa Claus every year. In fact I send letters to Santa, I hang my stocking, and I even leave out cookies for, um, me.
Q: That’s pretty weird, Santa.
Q: Well, do you sit on your own lap?
A: [laughs] Clever. Very clever, Jeremy. No, I don’t sit on my own lap. But I think believing in Santa Claus is very important. It keeps the child in all of us alive. Even in an old guy like me. Believing in Santa helps keep a person centered and focused on what is simple and important. That is why Christmas is always remembered by adults as being the most memorable and most meaningful in their childhood. It was great when they were kids and it can be so as adults. All they have to do is believe.
Q: So what did Santa bring Santa last year?
A: I got a new skateboard.
Q: Seriously? Santa — dude! You rock.
A: I’m a kid in more ways than one. You’d be surprised to know the things I still do.
Q: Really? Like what?
A: Well, there’s playdoh. Wonderful invention! And I still don’t like the crust on my toast.
Q: You seem to have the kid thing down, Santa.
A: [chuckles] And I’m still trying to teach the world of adults how to be kids again as well.
Q: From Maggie in Sandy, Utah we get this question. Is Thanksgiving your favorite holiday?
A: Hello, Maggie! Merry Christmas! What a sweet girl. And you all know the answer to this question. Yes, I love Thanksgiving. I celebrate it year round. We just had Canadian Thanksgiving at the North Pole, a great event. That’s what I love about it. So many cultures and societies celebrate a day of thanks and I think that is a most wonderful idea. Like Christmas, it is both a secular and sacred observance. All can agree that gratitude for what’s good and right about life is a worthy thing. That is what I love about it.
Q: Are you bothered that people don’t agree on Christmas, Santa? Every year we hear about the war on Christmas. Does it bother you that people have to debate like that?
A: Yes, I think it is silly. The world has more important things to debate other than Christmas. Christmas never harmed a soul. All it does is serve people. We should keep it in our own way and let others keep it in theirs.
Q: I’ll get back to that topic in a bit, Santa. I just want to plow through some of these other questions.
A: Ok, shoot.
Q: Kayla in Baltimore, Maryland asks — what is your favorite Christmas song?
A: Excellent question, Kayla. Merry Christmas, sweetheart. What a bright young thing Kayla is. I just love her. But this is a trick question, isn’t it Kayla? Kayla and I sang together when she visited me when she was four years old. And she told me then that her favorite song was “Jingle Bells” and I told her that was my favorite song, too. It still is. But I love all kinds of Christmas music. I even write Christmas music now and then. Music is one of the best ways to experience Christmas.
Q: Another question from Maggie. How old are you, Santa? She says – “I don’t want to be mean because if you are 234 you are worthy to live that long. You rock, Santa.”
A: Ho-ho-ho. That Maggie is something isn’t she? You rock too, Maggie. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m as old as my tongue and a little bit older than my teeth.
Q: You always say that.
A: That’s because it is absolutely the truth. And Santa never lies.
Q: Lauren in Perth, Australia writes in to ask how you keep track of all the naughty girls and boys.
A: Hi Lauren, Merry Christmas! Well, I know there is this thing going around about a naughty list. But to be honest, I don’t really keep a list. I only know who is naughty because I have spies.
Q: You do?
A: Yes, they are called parents.
Q: Whoa, Santa. You sure you want to say that? Shouldn’t you keep that secret?
A: Oh, not at all. I talk with parents all the time. Lots of parents tell me how great their kids are. In fact, most parents do. But some parents tell me about problems because they want help. I’ll be honest with you, most of the letters I get from Moms ask about something for one of their kids. None of this is ever about naughty or nice. Not really. It’s all about love.
Q: Ok, so there’s no list then?
A: Oh, there’s lots of lists, Jeremy. I have addresses to find, stockings to fill. I could not do it without a list. But a naughty list? Nah, not necessary.
Q: So you don’t know who the bad kids are?
A: There are no bad kids, Jeremy. Anywhere.
Q: Oh, I see. Good answer, Santa. Lauren has a follow-up question for you. What is the best way to spread Christmas cheer or Christmas spirit?
A: Outstanding question! Did I tell you what a lovely girl Lauren is? Brilliant!
Q: I think it is a very good question, Santa. Kids my age aren’t really into Christmas. Most are pretty cynical about it.
A: Oh, I don’t think so. I believe the youth of today are especially bright and capable, Jeremy. Some might not think it is cool to believe in Santa but almost all of them love to have a good time and they love that Christmas feeling, wouldn’t you agree?
Q: I guess that’s true. But how does that happen, Santa?
A: Well, Lauren understands it. She sees that if you love the season and focus on what it is about you cannot help but affect others around you. Everybody loves Christmas, Jeremy. Some just love it more than others. For those whose love of Christmas has waned we can easily bring them back. All we have to do is give. Give time, give attention, give meaningful service. Give, give, give — that’s the secret.
Q: Logan in Cincinnati, Ohio wants to know if the North Pole is ever open to the public.
A: Very timely question, Logan. Merry Christmas, pal.
Q: Yes, that is timely. It appears that some countries are trying to claim the North Pole for exploration of mineral rights and such. Also, the North Pole is in the news because they say all the snow there is melting due to global warming. What do you make of that, Santa?
A: Well, I’ll just stick with Logan’s question first. And the answer is that yes, the North Pole is open to the public but we don’t exactly have a lot of parking. So if you can get there and knock on the door, technically yes, it is open and you’re free to visit. That being said, I can’t claim to have had a lot of visitors since we moved our operations there. We don’t have a lot of roads either.
Q: That’s a good question right there, Santa. Why did you go to the North Pole?
A: Well, the location was outstanding. You can get anywhere in the world you need to go quickly from the North Pole. Just point the sleigh south. Very easy.
Q: Ted in Utah wants to know if you and Mrs. Claus have ever visited Las Vegas?
A: Oh yes, many times. Vegas is a great place to visit because they put so many lights on the buildings there and they keep them up year round. During the summer, if I get a little down because Christmas is so far away, I’ll swing by Vegas for a peek at the lights. It always makes me feel better.
Q: Do you get depressed often, Santa?
A: Oh no. Not much. I’m like everyone else though. I have my ups and downs.
Q: What kinds of things can bother Santa?
A: Well, serious problems bother me. It bothers me when I cannot help a sick person. It bothers me to see old people treated poorly. I get bothered when folks yell at their mothers, are mean to their cats or think only of themselves.
Q: I think those things bother everyone Santa.
A: Yes, I think you’re right. That is why I say I’m pretty much like everyone else.
Q: What about the Cubs, Santa? Do they depress you?
A: You had to ask, didn’t you?
Q: I thought this was their year.
A: Me too. Maybe next year. Seems like we’re always saying that, eh?
Q: Yeah, it has become tradition. Diddy in Italy sent in a very popular question. He wants to know if he can grow up to be Santa Claus.
A: Hi Diddy. Merry Christmas! Of course, Diddy can grow up to be anything he wants to be.
Q: That’s a big admission there, Santa. Have you always been Santa?
A: Yes, of course.
Q: Then how could Diddy grow up to be Santa when there already is a Santa?
A: Who said there is only “a” Santa? I never said that. Anyone can be Santa. In fact, all the world is full of Santas. Santa is a state of mind as well, you know.
Q: It all sounds so mystical, Santa.
A: Not at all. It is very simple, really. Think about it. You’ll get it.
Q: Santa – dude, have you seen that new movie, Fred Claus? What do you think of the actors who play you in the movies? Do you suppose people don’t understand who you really are because they seen you in certain movies?
A: Oh sure, that’s an old worry of mine. Way back when they started putting Santa Clauses in department stores and in advertising I started to get concerned about it. Just for the record, Santa doesn’t actually endorse anything and I’m certainly not like they portray me in all the movies.
Q: Has any movie ever actually come close?
A: Heavens no. I’m pretty sure anyone in history you might talk to who has been portrayed in movies would tell you that they get it wrong most of the time.
Q: Does that mean these movies that have a Santa in them are bad?
A: No, I didn’t say that.
Q: Mind if I ask you about some movies with Santa in it?
Q: Miracle on 34th Street?
A: Well, that depends what one you’re talking about. The 1947 version with Edmund Gwynn was pretty good. And I liked the 90s version, too. Both really good movies. But neither really reflected my true personality.
Q: What about Bad Santa?
A: Bad movie. Stay away, stay away, stay away.
Q: I thought you would say that.
A: Did you see it?
Q: Only a preview. What about The Santa Clause?
A: A great fantasy film in many respects. Certainly silly. Santa was a little sarcastic at times in that for my taste. I’m not the sarcastic type.
Q: A lot of people loved those movies though.
A: Yes, and with good reason I suppose. You know the funny thing about that movie? I was in Chicago doing some service work and a woman approached me on the street and said that she just loved me in that movie and would I give her an autograph. I tried to explain to her that it wasn’t really me in the movie but she said it didn’t matter and that her kids would be thrilled to get my autograph. So I signed it and she said “hey! this says Santa Claus! I wanted you to sign it Tim Allen!”. That’s a true story.
Q: That’s hilarious, man. Do you worry about people who play Santa — either onscreen or offscreen? What about professional Santas?
A: Oh, I worry a little. But there are more good santas than bad santas out there because most who do it have love in their hearts. And anyone with love in their heart is qualified to play Santa.
Q: Montana Santa wrote in to ask if he could get a raise this year.
A: [chuckles] Montana Santa is a good guy and deserves a raise. He does a great many things for Christmas and I love him for it. We’ll see if we can put a little more jingle in his pocket.
Q: From the Merry Forums, joyfulheart asks for her 4 year old if Santa has any superpowers.
A: Well now, that’s a very good question. And my answer is no. I’m just a man. Spiderman, Batman and all those guys are great. But if you read their stories they started out as just regular guys too. I assure you, Santa is just a regular guy.
Q: Mrs H on the Merry Forums says she’d like some snow in Florida this year.
A: I’ll bet she does. But if that happened her new puppy would only diddle on the floor. I think this year it is best for Florida to stay out of the snow business.
Q: That’s a question you get a lot isn’t it, Santa?
A: Yes, many folks ask for all kinds of silly things. I’m not saying that MrsH is being silly. And heavens knows there are plenty of people in the south east US asking for rain or snow. Things are terrible down there right now. But despite what the movies say I don’t have any influence on nature and I don’t perform mysterious miracles.
Q: Some talk about that. They talk about how you are a saint. They tell the old stories of how you brought those boys back from the dead in the pickle barrel. They talk about you feeding a starving city of millions of people. They talk about how you’ve saved the lives of sailors at sea. Are these ancient stories about you true? Are you really a saint?
A: I see you’ve studied some Santa history, Jeremy.
Q: Well yes. It is very interesting to see how people have thought of Santa Claus through out the centuries. Are those stories true, Santa?
A: Well, yes. They are true. But stories tend to become far more fantastic over time as it gets passed from generation to generation.
Q: Really? How so?
A: Well, take the story of feeding the people. The city was in a terrible drought, the country was at war and there simply wasn’t any food. I didn’t make it appear over night. I went to the captains of the ships at sea who had grain in their hulls and I asked them to spare a little. And in the spirit of Christmas, they did. Each ship gave just a small portion of their cargo and from that we were able to help people have food for quite some time.
Q: But that’s not the whole story, Santa. Those ships sailed to their destinations and each captain was afraid of what would happen to them because they no longer had a full load. As the story goes, when they arrived their ships were full. How do you account for that, Santa?
A: Well, it is a true story but you’re missing one fine detail. Those ships were merely counted as being full. They were not actually full. They just counted them that way. You see, the story of what the captains had done had spread around the world. They helped many people in a desperate situation. One good turn folds into another. Those captains were forgiven of their shortages as the spirit of Christmas touched the hearts of those accepting the loads. The world is full of good people, Jeremy.
Q: So it wasn’t really a miracle?
A: Yes, it was definitely a miracle. But it was a miracle of giving by dozens if not hundreds of people. Not just one man.
Q: But you were central to the story, right? You got the grain for the people, correct?
A: I asked. I explained the situation. Anyone would do that.
Q: You know, a very popular question is how does one become an elf? How does one get a job at the North Pole?
A: Well, to get a job at the North Pole all you have to do is apply. We have a very well staffed Human Resources department.
Q: But you have to be able to get there first, right?
Q: But there are no roads?
A: Right. That would explain why unemployment at the North Pole is so low.
Q: You mean to say there are job openings at the North Pole?
A: Oh yes, millions of them. We have more work than time. We need lots of elves.
Q: Santa – this is the most popular question for you. There are people all around the world who want to work at the North Pole. There are millions who want to become an elf. Can’t you make it easier?
A: I have millions of elves who work all over the world. Everyone focuses on the North Pole but honestly we’re every where.
Q: You have said something like this before.
A: Yes, that’s right. Anyone you meet could be an elf. An elf could be short or tall. Light or dark. Native or immigrant. You just never know because a real elf will never tell you they are an elf. You need to be more secretive as an elf than if you were a spy.
Q: Why is that, Santa?
A: Because true giving is secret giving. There is no price on it. No reward is necessary and no recognition is required in true giving. Because of that, all elves working for me are sworn to secrecy.
Q: But we know about some elves. Elf Ernest. Elf Bernard. Elf Ed Zachary, for example.
A: Well those elves have special roles. Just as I have a special role. But you’ll never hear us brag about what we do. We have a very strict code of conduct as an elf. We don’t want anyone thinking we’re running for office or trying to get money or something like that.
Q: There are still a lot of people who cannot fathom how you can deliver to millions of homes all in one night, Santa. That is a very popular question that was sent in. Anything new you want to tell us about that?
A: Well, the science of it is what people focus on. To others it is simply a miracle. But let me tell you this. Less than 100 years ago for a man in Tokyo to speak live to a person in Rome was impossible. Now we do it without even thinking about it. So I would ask those who doubt to consider the advances in technology and instead of doubting and asking “why?” — change your attitude and ask “Why not?”.
Q: Fair enough, Santa. Do you bring all the presents at one time on the sleigh or do you go back and forth to the North Pole?
A: Everything comes with me.
Q: Wow. How do you do that? That has to be one big pile of stuff!
A: [chuckles] Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t a bit much. But to be honest, there is a practical answer. Simply stated, I have more than eight tiny reindeer and more than one sleigh. Enough said.
Q: Many people wrote in to ask what you do all year long when it is not Christmas.
A: It is always Christmas, Jeremy. Always. That’s where most people go wrong. They think of Christmas as a season. It is not a season. It is a frame of mind. Now, granted, I don’t deliver presents every day. And that’s because presents are really just a minor part of Christmas. I travel some during the year. I visit people. I try to see where I can help out here or there. But I usually get a chance to take a little break now and then, too.
Q: What does Santa do for recreation?
A: Last year we took a cruise.
A: Yes, really. And we loved it. We sailed the Southern Pacific and saw many friends in New Zealand. It was a spectacular experience.
Q: Santa, did you know that I contacted many media outlets asking for suggestions for this interview?
A: Really? Who did you ask and what did you ask?
Q: I just asked if they had any questions for Santa Claus.
A: Oh, I see. What happened?
Q: Nothing. I didn’t hear back from them. Brian Williams ignored by emails, Wolf Blitzer didn’t bite, Larry King said he’d get back to me, Leslie Stahl sent nothing in, and Katie Couric just turned me down. I even contacted Sean Hannity. Nobody from the media responded. I don’t think they took me seriously.
A: Well, that’s ok. I’ve talked plenty to those people over the years and they just never seem to get it.
Q: Well, Santa. Most of these questions today have come from other people. Do you mind if I ask a few of my own?
A: Ok, fire away.
Q: Do you ever get tired of being Santa?
A: Do you ever get tired of being Jeremy?
Q: No. But people don’t put demands on me like they do Santa Claus. Do you ever get sick of it?
A: Nope. Never.
Q: What about Mrs. Claus. Why don’t you ever talk more about her? We got lots of questions about Mrs. Claus. A lot of kids are really curious about her first name, as you know. They want to know more about her.
A: Mrs. Claus is a very kind-hearted old soul who just happens to be very shy. It is hard for her, really. To be married to a famous man is hard for a woman who just wants to go about her business without any fuss.
Q: Is that why you won’t tell us her first name?
A: No, that’s not it. I just think the world should know Mrs. Claus as Mrs. Claus. I honor her and respect her by doing that and I think keeping her a little more formal with the world helps others to respect her too. Years ago it used to be polite to refer to people as Mister or Missus or Sir or Ma’am. I kind of miss that courtesy and I think the world was a better place with those kinds of manners.
Q: Don’t you worry about being old fashioned in that sense? Some people will think you’re old and stuffy with that kind of opinion, Santa.
A: I don’t worry so much about opinion as I do just trying to do the right thing. And I think it is the right thing to do.
Q: Should I call you Mr. Claus?
A: No. I know you mean no disrespect when you call me Santa. I don’t take it that way because I understand that Santa is a title, not just my name. So it is different.
Q: Santa is a title? You mean like “President” or “Prime Minister”?
A: Yes, exactly.
Q: I had no idea.
A: A lot of people, especially adults, have one rigid way of thinking of Santa Claus. Come to think of it, many are rigid in their thoughts about Christmas, too. It is just human nature I guess.
Q: Is that why you do an interview each year?
A: I suppose so. I’m not going away. I’ll always be here and Christmas will always be a part of us. I just want people to understand it and to get as much good out of it as they can.