From my infancy, my father always played the role of Santa at Christmas time, not in department stores or parades, but for the Kiwanis or Lion’s club and other civic and church gatherings and often for individual families. He never charged for his services and would not accept any payment if offered. For him it was an act of love from which he derived great enjoyment.
Playing the role of Santa suited him perfectly, because he truly was a jolly old soul and was simply ... being himself. He even had a sash of antiqued and burnished leather adorned with 100-year-old tarnished brass sleigh bells which draped across his shoulder and chest that truly were “jingle bells.” Over his other shoulder was a Santa-sized black leather bag in which he carried candy and gifts. Just prior to making his entrance he would start jingling, which had an immediate magical effect on the children and would instantly bring their enthusiasm to a fever pitch.
After visiting a ward one year, he was exiting the building and other neighborhood children heard the bells and came running. He greeted them but his sack was now empty, he having meted out its entire contents inside the building. He was heartbroken that he didn’t have any more candy canes for these children who were full of anticipation. From that point on, he never ventured out without an ample supply of candy canes.
Each year he would drop in on a dozen or so events. Once I turned 16 and was able to drive, I took turns with my mother and older sisters as one of Santa’s chauffeurs. Of the hundreds of lives my father touched over the years, one story stands out. That year there was a family of very modest means who had 13 children and were eking out a living. They lived on the outskirts of town in a modest home built out of cinder blocks and could not afford the kind of Christmas other families enjoyed.
A compassionate donor family decided to sacrifice their own Christmas presents that year so they could provide this humble family with a memorable Christmas, and asked my father if he would be kind enough to deliver the Christmas offering.
On Christmas Eve, unbeknownst to the family, Santa dropped by and entered their home with his big black leather bag filled with gifts for the whole family. There were more looks of surprise and wonderment from the parents than there were from the children. Many tears were shed as the gifts were handed out to each member of this humble family, including many from Santa himself.
My father reported back to the donor family and let them know of the joy and tears of gratitude that their selflessness and spirit of Christmas had created. Their sacrifice ended up not being a sacrifice at all as they experienced an even merrier and more joyous Christmas than the grateful family who were their beneficiaries.
My father taught me the principle we learn in Acts 20:35 “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” I don’t know anyone who was more giving than my father and my mother. I am grateful for their marvelous examples manifest through the many years of my father playing the role of his jolly alter ego.
And as a postscript — I truly have seen “Mommy kissing Santa Claus” on many occasions.