Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Improper Poll: Bad Santa

When I was a kid, Real Santa always went to one particular department store downtown. Going to see him was a big production because we’d go at night to see the lights. He had his own floor of the department store and sat on an enormous throne surrounded by elf helpers and glittering snow and a cute little miniature train that wove around the animated reindeer. He was truly jolly. You could even see where his beard actually grew out of his face. It was magical.

Loser Santa was found at the little mall. They just sort of plunked him down by himself on a folding chair in front of a plywood house next to the cheese display. He had B.O. and a black five o’clock shadow peeking out from under a beard that had visible ties in back and was slipping off. I can still remember the way my mother giggled when I told her about the beard. And my mother was not a giggler.

Worst of all, he lacked proper Santa Clause enthusiasm.

I know he was probably some underemployed guy who had to put up with obnoxiousness all day long, but oh wait, that kind of describes a significant portion of the workforce. Bad Santa still reminds me that every day is a new chance to do a good job in spite of it all.

Did you ever have a bad Santa?


  1. Luckily, no. At least, not one that I remember. However, there are places where the Santa is "better" than others. I do remember one Santa who was probably in his 20's or 30's--obviously thin (and the padding was poorly done) and was not too excited. I guess that WAS a bad Santa.

  2. Hello. My name is Tom.. and I am a Bad Santa.

    Well, not in the same way as Tammy's article. But in my own way and I will eventually pay the cost for this...

    It all started when my daughter was young. Around the age where kids start losing their belief in Santa Claus. I was determined not to let my daughter's childhood slip away so soon, so I decided to prove to her that Santa Claus DOES exist.

    So, at 3am on Christmas Eve I found myself bringing my daughter to wakefulness. I told her to be very quiet. That Santa was in the living room - and if he hears us stirring or sees us that he'll dash off, possibly without even leaving any presents.

    So we stood very quietly by a cracked door into the hallway with our ears pressed to hear the sounds of Santa.

    A few seconds later we heard the prancing of reindeer hooves on the roof of the other room, the sound of sleigh bells, and a bellowing "Ho Ho Ho. Merry Christmas."

    My daughter was positively shaking in anticipation. Santa set busily about his tasks.

    Santa asked "Rudolph. Who's house is this? Melanie's? Ah. Melanie has been such a good girl this year. We'll have to leave her plenty of presents."

    We heard him commenting to Rudolph about each and every neatly packaged gift and the answer of sleigh bells to each comment. "Ah. Once again Seymour has outdone himself. Look at how beautifully this gift has been wrapped." Or, "I'll have to have a talk with Justine. It's a beautiful gift, but the tape wasn't fixed in place properly. What's that you say Rudolph? That I should remember that it's Christmas? Well you're right, old man, I'm sure Justine meant well. I won't take him to task over this. Ho Ho Ho."

    And so it went for the next 15 minutes or so until Santa commented "Well. I think that's all of it. Just look at all those presents! Melanie will be so excited when she sees them! I wish I could see her face, but you know how it is. We have so many more houses to visit tonight!"

    Finally, Santa ate his cookies and milk saying "What delicious cookies! Melanie must really appreciate us! I'm so glad we were able to leave her everything she wished for, and then some!"

    At this point Melanie was shaking so hard that I was afraid she might have a seizure.

    Santa then was off. We heard him leaving through the front door, answering a question that Melanie had posed (we had no chimney). Then in the distance "Off we go Rudolph. A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"

    Melanie exploded from the room to run to the living room so fast she almost crashed several times. She tore into the presents.; Paper was flying everywhere! I've never seen her so happy!

    So busy was she that she never noticed her father slipping a cassette tape from the player into his pocket for posterity.

  3. (cont'd)

    During the next two years Melanie was the great defender of Santa. If another child claimed that Santa was a myth, there was Melanie to defend him. "But I HEARD him!" she'd say. "He DOES exist!" A number of other children were convinced by her certainty for a time. Others just looked at her and shook their heads.

    A few years later, when the events of this night came to be related as a family story (with sound effects from a well hidden cassette tape), Melanie would claim that she "just went along with it". That "she didn't want to disappoint me." But I saw the look. The one that said "Daddy, I love you. But there will be a reckoning some day. Not anything really bad, but the scales of justice have to be balanced."

    Every 5 or 6 years I toss out a hint. Just something to see if she still remembers, nothing to encourage her to remember and she pretends it never happened. But I see that look in her eyes again...

    So. If someday I find myself in a nursing home and it's Christmas Eve I'm going to stay up all night waiting for Santa myself. Bad Santa. I know he'll pay me a visit and play a prank on me. Nothing really bad - just something to remind me of a Christmas Eve in my past when *I* was Bad Santa. Something to bring the scales of justice back into balance.

    Payback can be a bitch!

  4. There were so many Santas around town in every department store, I finally told my kids that they were all Santa's helpers,a nd the real Santa came on Christmas eve. They bought it for abput eight years.

  5. One year we were the needy family who got toys delivered by the beer-bellied, beer-smelling Santa from the local tavern. He wasn't a bad Santa; I thought he was the real deal, but looking back that's one Santa I remember.

  6. My husband was Bad Santa. He used to play him for the daycare where the boys went. They never recognized him. About three years ago, he forgot. The lady put the kids down for their nap. "I wonder if somebody might drop by while you're asleep?" Every year, they woke up to find a bag of presents on the porch (which she had wrapped and left out). Then Santa made his grand appearance and handed out candy canes and small gifts. Except that one year, no Santa. She called after 5:00 to ask what the deal was. I felt SO bad for her.

  7. As the first of my parents' children, I had to keep "believing" in Santa for several until my sister was ready to be told otherwise. It was fun, but it's probably a good thing I wasn't a child in the era of cassette tapes, because I'm sure my brother and I would have done something like Tom did. We would have loved it, and our sister would still hate us for it. She still hates us for something, but we don't know what. LOL

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  8. for several years, that should be

  9. Yep, Sioux, it's one job that the old guys really do better.

    Wow, Tom--you sound like a very GOOD Santa. And an even better dad to have gone to all that trouble. What a sweet story. Except for the revenge part....

    Linda, that's what I always told my kids. Of course once my daughter and I quarreled, and I said to her, "Have I ever lied to you?" She said yes. I was stunned, since I'm known for being honest. When I asked her when, you guessed it. She said, "Santa Clause." And she was serious!

    Well, Donna, at least I bet he didn't need padding thanks to the beer belly!

    Val, maybe she got the kids to take a nice loooong nap that day, at least? You reminded me that I was once a bad tooth fairy. I had to tell the child (who used to pull his own teeth for cash and then get too excited to sleep) that part of the fun is wondering when that fairy will show up. I know. I am horrible.

    LOL--that was sweet of you, Kay, even if your sister doesn't realize it!

  10. I think I repressed all my Santa memories. Big scary guy in a red suit...no, thanks, Mom!

    Critter Alley

  11. Yes! When my son was 3 we went to see Santa at a local strip mall. He looked like W.C. Fields, big red nose and all. And he reeked of liquor! At 3, my son didn't know the diff, but my husband and I sure did. We always checked out the Santas ahead of time after that debacle, just to be sure we were visiting a "good" one.

  12. I know, Pat. I was crying in most of my Santa pictures, too. It's a wee bit cruel when you think about it--forcing your child to go sit on some weird stranger.

    And oh, Lisa, a drunken one to boot! Ho ho *hic!*

  13. I have no memories of a Santa when I was little. Wah, but maybe it's a good thing considering...

  14. I think Santa gave me adult issues. I too remember a drunk Santa so when you put it together... Big fat guy, in red suit, with a fake beard,slurring and you are instructed to believe in this guy. I think this is why wino's have a soft spot in my heart, their Santa. :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  15. One of my favorite holiday movies is Bad Santa! So I'd have to say my favorite is Billy Bob Thornton! My Christmas letter is posted on my blog. Check it out!!!


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