Creeped Out by Santa

creepy santas 1Do I look terrified or what? My sister escaped!

Let me start out by clarifying that I love the idea of Santa Claus as the embodiment of joy and generosity for children around the world. But it was the department store Santa with the nasty cigarette and coffee breath I endured for the sake of the obligatory traditional McCartan photo every Christmas.

After dressing my sister Patty and me in our matching outfits and itchy scratchy tights, my mother drove us to Gimbel’s Department Store. While gripping my mom’s hand, my little dimpled one perspired as we joined the line waiting to sit on the Big Guy’s lap.

“Tell Santa what you want for Christmas,” she reminded us. I studied some of the children with eyes as big as saucers. Others wailed while squirming away from the Mythic Man as the lights flashed from the camera set up not far away. Overwhelmed by performance anxiety, I worried that once it was my turn I would forget to say, “A Chatty Cathy doll.

Being born gullible, I believed in everything magical longer than my friends. I guessed that since we didn’t have a chimney, Santa blasted through our heating vents. The year we didn’t have snow, he was smart enough to put roller skates on the sleigh and reindeer. But there were several things about this Santa that didn’t add up. How did he have time to sit for hours? Wasn’t this his busiest time of year? Why did I have to tell him what I wanted for Christmas? I had already written a two page list. There were Santas in other locations and none of them looked alike. Some were short and fat and others were tall and thin. The one that came to our door looked a lot like our neighbor Mr. Ripple and his suit was plastic!

plastic santaMany years ago, my husband Danny wore the plastic suit. The hole in the beard doesn’t even line up with his mouth! 

This was all so very strange. We never sat in any adult male’s lap other than my dad’s. The proximity and intimacy would have been unacceptable. So why did we have to sit on Santa’s hot and overstuffed one every year?

It was our turn. With trepidation and a slight push by my mother, I stepped forward. While glancing over at my little sister, I could see the terror along with tears welling up in her eyes. I had to be brave. As we neared Santa, my heart pounded and I realized how big he was. He was like a human stop sign! His long curly white hair tumbling down past his shoulders and beard that rested on his gross protruding belly looked foreign compared to the men of that era who sported crew cuts.

It was show time. I was lifted onto his knee, but with my bony rear end, I slipped off. His big hand drew me in close and I could feel heat emanating from his body and smell the stink of his breath.

Finally the all-important question was asked. “What do you want for Christmas little girl?” I could see that although his lips moved, his beard remained independent. Obviously a clean-shaven stranger lay underneath. Patty wouldn’t have anything to do with him and started screaming and pulled away. I gawked at her in horror. Would she get what she wanted for Christmas?

The picture was snapped and I was released from Santa’s firm grip. I scurried back to my mother and sobbing sister. Did I even tell him what I wanted? Even with my mother’s assurance, I stressed out about it until Christmas. Weeks later, I breathed a sigh of relief when I discovered Chatty Cathy under the tinseled Christmas tree.

creepy santas1Really? I must be in the freakin’ fifth grade!

I went through the same process with my own children. It was my daughter Courtney that would have nothing of to do with him while her older brother Kelly stoically sat on his lap.

kids and santa

I am trying to keep Courtney on Santa’s lap while she is momentarily distracted by a stuffed bear.

Now I look back on those pictures and smile knowing that the McCartan tradition lived on. Perhaps one day in the future Kelly and Courtney will make their own children endure the creepy shopping mall Santa.

Were you ever creeped out by Santa?

114 thoughts on “Creeped Out by Santa

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  1. Brilliant. That photo at the top of the blog is priceless. Neither of my daughters would sit on Santa’s lap. When my youngest was 3 she kicked a department store Santa in the shins and ran – and that was the end of that. GREAT post Susie.

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    1. Thanks so much Colin! I never had really looked at that photo before and it never occurred to me that my sister wasn’t in the photo. 🙂
      Kicked in the shins? Hilarious! That sounds like something in a movie. Hahaha! Was she always a pistol or was it a random event?

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  2. OMG! Fabulous topic. I don’t recall any of my personal experiences, but my daughter would cry so hard my husband and I would have to get in the picture to calm her. She’s scream at Disneyland, too, if one of the characters got too close. The Chuck E. Cheese mouse made her pee her pants once. So not cool. My son cried so hard over Santa one year that when we went to lunch immediately afterwards he fell asleep face first in his food, so tuckered out from all that screaming. Man, I wish I had that on video. I know, evil. Several years ago we took my son to this historical town to see the lights and Santa. Santa wasn’t where he was supposed to be. I found him around the back of the building with his flask. NICE. Santa didn’t smell so pretty. And he was in my son’s face, “What do you want for Christmas, kid?” LOL

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    1. Oh my gosh! This is exactly what I am talking about! I think it is traumatizing. How weird is it that children look so forward to Santa’s visit, but don’t want to see him up close and personal. I think they realize deep down that it is a stranger!
      I bet that your video would have gone viral especially if you captured him freaking moments before!
      Thanks Debra for chiming in!

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  3. I recall having to share time in a Santa suit at Sears Roebuck in 1978. I worked in the warehouse which was already sweaty. Then I had to put on that suit. I am sure I creeped out more than was creeped by.

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    1. Hahaha! How great that you were Santa!
      When my son was 18, he put on the suit for the Denver Santa Claus Shop fundraiser at a Rockies Game in July. It was 90 degrees, but he had so much and wore it the whole game!
      Thanks for coming by EW!

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  4. This is such a wonderful post. My sister and I were put throughout the same torture. I’m referring to those scratchy tights of course. As far as Santa went we were both willing participants. My son screamed his little head off, while my daughter sat diligently with the big guy. I put their photos out every year!

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    1. That’s great and I love that you still put out the photos! When I was looking for the ones where Courtney screamed, I could only find her squirming photo. I think I may have thrown the photo with the Christmas cards. Have a Merry Christmas!

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        1. I love that your mom pulls out the photos too. You are continuing the tradition!
          I loved those outfits! My mom made all of our “good” clothes including that fur trimmed jacket I had on. My sister was wearing one too but slipped away before the picture was snapped.

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  5. That Santa was probably the best anti-smoking message ever. As far as Danny is concerned, he’s too good looking to be a mall Santa. Sorry but, he’s just gonna have to hold onto his day job.
    And yes, Santa scares the hell out of me EVERY year when the credit card bills come due and my calls to him go straight to voicemail!

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  6. Wow. That is so cool that you remember all of that! And it just now hit me that I don’t have a single, solitary memory of ever going to see Santa in a department store. I’m sure we must have though. I’m going to have to ask my siblings if they remember going. Hmm. Kind of weird, but then so am I. 🙂

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    1. We are all weirdos and I am the Queen! Hahaha! I remember going since my mom made it such a big deal. And look at how old I was in that last picture! God! I must have been towering over all the three-year-olds! Hahaha!
      Thanks Kristy! It may all come back to you after talking to them or not. 🙂 We do like to block out the traumas in our lives… Ha!

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  7. I too endured the Scary Mall Santa and the Easter Bunny too. The picture of Santa I am looking at has me on yellow and several different shades of brown plaid pants with a red pinstripe and a dark brown turtle neck and along with me was my screaming sister also named Patty,,,hmm maybe its a Patty thing???

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  8. First, I traveled around from one site to another, beginning with your “Chatty Cathy” site (above). I ended up reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bild_Lilli which was wonderfully informative.
    Back to your post – when I was little my Dad in an exuberant effort to get us to sleep early, would put on his army shoes, climb outside on the roof, and ring huge sleigh bells that he had bought. It would always frighten us enough to go to sleep and not be up when Santa arrived later.
    Scott

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  9. I love your pages and your form of self-expression, it is a pleasure to have you share your gifts through your pages Thank you. I have nominated you for blog of the Year please visit my page Blog of the year awards and nominations Thank you! Revised
    Posted on December 9, 2012

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    1. I believe he was tall enough to do that too! Hahaha!
      Thanks Piper. It was fun looking for them. I never studied these when my mom gave them to me. I can’t believe how old I was in that last photo of Patty and me!

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  10. I had exactly the same experience. I don’t remember where Santa was, but it may have been Macy’s. The whole experience was traumatizing. Luckily, I don’t have photos.

    Great post, Susie.

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    1. Thank you! I just remember my sister freaking out every year and my mom’s persistence in wanting that perfect holiday photo. I looks like she had to wait until Patty was in the 2nd or 3rd grade and I was in 4th or 5th! Hahaha!

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  11. There is a picture of me somewhere screaming bloody murder while I was on Santa’s lap. Isn’t it strange how children react so negatively to the man who brings us presents? 🙂

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  12. Thanks Susie! I love the plastic suit. Where do you get those? And I am sure Kelly and Courtney will have their day of fun as well. Save all these pictures! Our kids are pretty freaked out by the pseudo Santas too, although my 2 year old will talk to him. This year they had to be bribed with Disney snow globes. Have a Merry one Susie with your clan this Holiday.

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