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  1. Question: Which of the Macy’s Santas, who work in the NYC Macy’s Santaland, get to ride on Santa’s float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?

    Answer: They all do, or at least invited to. But not as Santa Claus. One of the many costumed or uncostumed characters who ride on, or accompany, the World’s Most Famous Parade Float.

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    Changes in the Wind

    This was to be my fourth year returning as a Macy’s Santa in the Downtown Pittsburgh Store. It was late October and I still wasn’t contacted about schedules or shifts. When I finally was contacted, I was surprised to find a whole lot of changes had occurred.

    Gone was the photographer who had done it in this store with his family for over thirty years. Gone were the old Halco Majestic suits that had been worn. And gone was Santaland

    This year, a company called Freeze Frame had taken over the business of Santa Claus for Macy’s. Freeze Frame is mostly known for shooting photographs of people as they ride thrill rides in various American amusement parks, usually caught in some terrifying pose as the roller coaster is about to descend in it’s death-defying drop.

    Freeze Frame, a Florida company, made an offer that Macy’s couldn’t refuse. Freeze Frame would now completely control the Santaland photo operation in Macy’s stores in New York, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Next year they will expand to San Francisco, Portland and Seattle.

    The idea was to brand the “Macy’s Santa” image. You could go to any Macy’s in any part of the country and see the exact same Santa that appears in the infamous Herald Square store. Truth is, I don’t think any child (or average adult) sees the difference between a Macy’s Santa, Coca-Cola Santa or any other Santa. Santa wears a red suit with a fur trim and that’s that.

    Freeze Frame was scrambling to get everything ready in time. Creative Costumes in NYC was contracted to manufacture Santa suits based on the Macy’s in-store Santa Suit. Real leather boots were ordered from Italy. Beard and wigsets, made of genuine yak, were ordered from Atelier-Bassi of Switzerland.

    A” Macy’s Santa School” was quickly thrown together and presented to myself and the three other returning Santas. This was a 45 minute video shown on a laptop. School consisted of, 1) Taking care of the Macy’s Santa Beard and Wig, 2) Taking care of the Macy’s Santa Suit. And 3) Make-up. Oh yeah, and a quick how-to about getting kids on your lap, take the picture and get them off your lap in 45 seconds or less. This part of the video was absurdly demonstrated with Santa and an adult and I’ve never seen a Santa visit go that fast in my life. It became clear that this year was going to be less about a good customer experience and more about profit.

    The Legendary Suit

    The Macy’s Suit was made of wool and unlined. It consisted of a white, poet-style shirt, and wool overhauls with the straps sewn on that fastened on the front with buttons. This was made as a “one-size fits all” that the front buttons adjusted the length of the pants. The wool coat was comfortable and cool, but where the fur attached to the suit was exposed stitching and looked as if it were made in a hurry. The leather belt/harness was very loose-fitting. The tops of the straps were held onto the coat shoulders by the military-style espadrilles that had a snap button to hold things in place. A belly pad was optional; I didn’t need one. Leather wrist straps finished off the coat.

    The worst thing about wearing this suit was the hat. It had four bells around the fur trim and the way that the hat sat, there was a bell directly above my left and right ear. Every time my head moved the bells would ring right in my ears. It made it difficult to hear what the kids were saying and the constant ringing in my ears gave me a headache. By the end of my shift, I could still hear those bells ringing long after I went home. I complained about it and nothing was done. After the third night, not being able to take it anymore, I got a screwdriver and when no one was looking, removed the ball bearing out of the two bells above my ears. No one noticed and nothing was ever said about it.

    The fact that I had a real beard created a problem. I was asked to wear the yak beard over my own and I refused. Nothing against it, but there was no way that I could comfortably attach that beard and remove it without damaging my own beard that had been carefully colored and styled for the season. They had to send pictures of me with my beard to Macy’s officials to get approval. Macy’s approved and I was able to move forward. A long-standing good reputation surely helped. I was told that I had the only real beard in the system.

    Now the Fun Begins...

    Freeze Frame may know a lot about taking pictures but they didn’t know much about Santa. They viewed Santa as sort of a fixture to take pictures with. You could put anybody in that red suit (even a mannequin) as long as they got the picture (and the money). I was told more than once that I was taking too long with the kids and had to get the picture immediately.

    A funny thing was happening. People were bringing their kids to see Santa and not buying the picture that was taken. What could be going wrong? After all, this was the famous Macy’s Santa, the same one who appears in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and who starred in the movie, “Miracle on 34th Street”. Advertised locally as being the one and only, real Santa Claus. They were scratching their heads, puzzled in amazement. Now was the time for Freeze Frame to learn a little bit about what Santa is all about.

    Basic Santa 101

    The main reason that parents take their children to see Santa Claus is to give the kids a good, Santa experience. If I’m doing my job right, those parents will relive their own childhood when they see that their kids having a good time, and they have that special glow in their eyes. When a good experience is created, a picture is naturally wanted. People bring their children to Macy’s expecting the best possible experience.

    If I rush a little girl onto my lap who is even a tiny bit afraid of Santa, she will cry. If I spend a little bit of time, coupled with a little Santa magic, the child will willingly sit on my lap and smile. Also, parents will not buy a picture if their kids don’t look their best. It doesn’t matter how good Santa looks, the parents are only looking at their own child. Freeze Frame did not understand that.

    Has Anyone Seen Santaland?

    The fun of Santaland was gone, too. The old Santaland was on the 7th floor. There were reindeer, polar bears and other woodland creatures to look at while you were waiting in line. Santa’s throne room looked like a living room with his chair, other furniture and pictures & decorations on the wall. A nice, pleasant place, it was coupled with the Children’s Very Own Gift Shop and Macy’s Holiday Lane which was their selection of Christmas decorations.

    The new “Santaland” was moved to the 1st floor. It consisted of Santa’s throne and one Christmas tree located between the escalator and the perfume counter. Besides the camera equipment and cash register, that was it. It had been determined that Santa on the first floor would be more visible and generate more sales. Once again money was put ahead of the customer and the only thing generated was complaints.

    The season opened and the crowds were lining up to see Santa. If a typical visit to Santa is to last 45 seconds for one child, shouldn’t two children be a minute-and-a-half?

    The “rush ‘em on your lap rush ‘em off” approach wasn’t working. Children were crying and parents weren’t buying pictures. What could be wrong?

    Freeze Frame finally decided to listen to the Santas and the helpers who had been doing the job for years.

    Return of “Miracle”

    It’s true, there are some kids that will go through in 45 seconds without a hitch. I try to give each child a “good” visit with Santa. That means a little fun, a little laughter, and a smile on every face. Memories are being made. The children that are scared take a little more time. But when I see a scared face turn into a happy one I know I’ve done my job. Happy kids = happy parents and sales go with that. Also, my elves like to take a little time and make sure that hair is in place, dresses are straightened and hands are placed nicely on the lap before the picture is taken. All this makes for a “good” visit with Santa and people are happy.

    “We’ll be known as the helpful store, the friendly store,... the store that places public service ahead of profits. And, consequently, we’ll make more profits than ever before.” -R.H. Macy from “Miracle on 34th Street”

    This idea holds true today. Service sells. We even had a came up with a place where customers could put their coats and packages. Parents began buying pictures again, and Macy’s reputation for providing quality and service was intact.

    I was glad when Freeze Frame decided to listen. It was like when the Grinch’s heart grew three sizes that day. Pittsburgh became the store with the highest amount of sales per customer visit in the country, and I started to like working for Freeze Frame after all.

    I work a lot of private parties and events throughout the season, but I always have a soft spot in my heart for Macy’s and I keep coming back. It’s long hours and low pay and I use it mainly for the nights that I don’t have anything else planned. Since I became hooked on the original “Miracle on 34th Street”, I’ve always wanted to be Santa Claus for Macy’s.

    With me, I’m proud to wear the Macy’s suit and enjoy the magic that comes with it.

    Getting the Job

    Freeze Frame now hires all of the Santas, Elves, Helpers and Photographers for the Macy’s stores across the country that have Santa Claus in them, including New York City. These stores are mostly old, downtown department stores that Macy’s have taken over the past few years and want to keep the local traditions intact. They typically advertise in the Help Wanted section of your local Craig’s List starting around October. They have called back a lot of people who have worked in previous years but always have an eye open for new possibilities.

    They hire all races and ages but you must pass a drug test and a background check, which is done at their expense. In New York City, I’m told, they hire a lot of out-of-work actors looking for work for the season.

    The pay is lower than what a mall Santa makes and it is preferred that you don’t have a real beard. There is no bonus for making quota. The schedule is very flexible and the job is usually shared between several Santas. It can be very demanding at times, but still can be fun. You will experience many different types of people, both children and adults, and you’ll form memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.

    If you have Santa in your heart and like making children happy, you’ll find the joy of working at Macy’s. I know I did.

  2. RIP's Blog

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    RIP
    Latest Entry

    I had something happen today that is way past just strange. A father whose family I investigated, and found that he was molesting his children and abusing his wife, walked up to me and said that he would never again be with his family because of it. He said his wife is divorcing him and she is soon to regain custody of the children, in large part because she has excluded him from her life. He was not belligerent or threatening, just filled with hate, I suppose, and wanted me to know how I had ruined his life. This is the very sort of man that is the only sort for which I find nothing in myself but enmity. I so wanted to offer to escort him outside for a "tune up". As these thoughts raced through my mind, I was locked in to his eyes. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to give him back some taste of the pain he has put into the world. Then I saw it. Not fear. Genuine anguish, he was anguished over the consequences of his actions. Suddenly, my straining to not act out in violent retribution, had turned into a teachable moment. I had him at an instant of time wherein he was vulnerable. I told him the story of the adulterous woman and Jesus saying to her, "Go thy way and sin no more." I pointed out that Jesus didn't say to her to right all her wrongs. He said "Sin no more." I told him that his first priority is to resolve never to touch another child, another woman, never to put a hand ever again to anyone to use them without regard for them first and foremost. Then to execute that resolve, every day with every one. Only that is repentance. I told him that in repentance is forgiveness. If he repents of his sin, he is forgiven, even by himself. I told him that whether he is a Christian or not, the principle is the same. Take it out of religion and it is just the idea that to be truly sorry, is not simply to wish it didn't happen, because you can't change the past. To be truly sorry is to make sure it never happens again. If you make sure it never happens again, one day you will realize you are not the same man that did those horrible things, you have made yourself over into someone else. Someone, not any longer guilty, but rather someone forgiven his past. Maybe not by your ex-wife or your children, but forgiven none the less.

  3. I suppose I should blog more often. Anyway, Christmas is fast approaching and it will be here before we know it.

    I, like many of my fellow Santa and Mrs.Claus' are preparing for the season.

    I've already started getting promotional materials together and planning on how I can get more business this year. Even though I've been Santa for almost seven seasons ( mostly for family) I still feel like I'm new at this and I have a whole lot to learn. I expect to have more opportunities this year, at least I hope so. Maybe some that will pay.

    This last year I got a new suit, made my own boots and got a new yak wig set. Just recently I acquired a new human hair beard so I'm going to give it a try and see what happens, I really like the look.

    I still need to get some professional pics because I would eventually like to have a website or at least a web presence of some kind. We'll see, the website will probably be next year.

    Anyway, this Santa is going to be very busy between now and Christmas for sure. Wish me well.

    I wish everyone well in their preparations too.

  4. Republic of Kosova declared its Independance on the 17 of February in 2008. Tomorrow, the Republic will celebrate as they move forward. I wish to contratulate them with this poem I have written for my many friends, and aquaintences throughout Kosovo. Respectfully, Baba Demeri

    Kosovo’s Independance

    By James E. Webber

    16 Feb. 2010

    They are singing in the streets tonight,

    And chanting old time songs.

    Shooting fireworks everywhere,

    And proud that they belong,

    To a Republic new and free

    That they have waited for so long.

    They are waving flags and marching,

    To the beat of ancient drums.

    Waving torches of new light

    With hope of what they can become

    United by a common plight.

    Celebrate with gladness

    Let your heart lead the way

    Kosovo is very young,

    But old so many say.

    Move in to the future,

    It is a brand new day.

    Wave the flags and light the lights,

    Its Independance Day today!

  5. Today, my oldest son graduates from High School. Not only is he graduating with a good gpa and making a 21 on his ACT when he was sick, he is graduating a year early too. (He's actually been finished with school since February.) I've always said that I wanted to be known and remembered as a good man, husband, and father. I want that for my two sons as well. My wife and I still can't believe that this day is here. Not just the day of his graduation, but the days of him firmly stepping into the role as a man. Yes, he still has a messy room and doesn't shave as often as he should, but the way he talks about current events and his determination to finish what he has started shows me that he is on the path. I'm so proud of him I could burst! Will I cry today? I'm pretty sure that I will. Then I'll fret over college funds, etc., as we start down that path. Luckily, he has listened to my advice on college and wants to jump right in as soon as he can and not "take off a year or so" like I did. He wants to be a computer programmer/game developer. I have no doubt that he will succeed in whatever he desires to do. We've let him sleep a little late this morning. He just walked into the room as I'm finishing up this blog entry. He almost made me start crying when he says in his fairly deep voice, "Hey Bear.". I love what I see in him. The Beginings of a Man...

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    I think her name is Lori

    It was Thanksgiving morning and I was stopping by one of my favorite convenient stores for a bottle of pop. When I got up on this particular morning I decided to dress in my Santa casual clothes that consisted of green shoes, red pants, an off white shirt with a Christmas print vest. When I arrived at the store I was met with a bright smile from an old friend. Lori had worked at this store for several months and was always a welcome smile for my morning refreshment on my way to work. A few months ago like so many other friends Lori had just disappeared from this place choosing to take employment somewhere else. After a big hug I told her how sad it was to make friends and loose track of them, like I had her. I went on to wish her a happy holiday season, She extended her arms for another hug and feeling so moved by the moment, I kissed her on the cheek and wished her again a very Merry Christmas. I reached for my bottle of pop and started toward the door. When I heard her husband say to me "Now you've made her cry!" I looked into her now sad eyes and waved good-bye. As I drove away I realized for the first time how powerful the image of Santa Claus really is. Were those Tears of sadness or tears of Joy? I have no idea. I just know Santa had stirred an emotion in her. As a representative of the true spirit of Christmas we must all realize we are the hope and joy of all those who believe and have ever believed. I know I will continue to share the love of Christmas to everyone who will share it with me.

  7. Santa Edson's Ramblings

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    Carlo Klemm
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    Well it has been a while since I came here and added some information. Following the past week here in Edson, with the murder of a 14 year old girl, who was my Pastor's daughter, I gained some valuable insight into a blog. Pastor Terry has one and it was the focus of attention from around the world as the news of his daughter got out. Last time I looked there were around 400 entries. I know that Pastor and family cherished all the comments left.

    So what do I do now with my writings?

    The upcoming Christmas season is going well. I have 3 in-store sessions in the Santa chair for about 4 hours each. There is the community hall Christmas Party that I attended last year. There is a seniors lodge tea to attend for 2 hours.

    I have at the present 2 corporate children's Christmas parties booked with the possibility of at least 2 more. They just can't get their acts and dates together.

    Also booked is a Friday afternoon at the local movie theatre as Santa meets with the children following a Chamber of Commerce sponsored movie and treats. And speaking of the Chamber, yes Santa Edson will be bringing up the rear of the annual Christmas Parade. It's a Chamber function and I volunteered to be their Santa this year, mainly for the exposure, which may help for remaining dates this year but should be good for next year.

    That's enough rambling for now. I have infection problems with both of my replaced knees, well skin infections and am working to get that cleared up. I'll update next time.

    One thing I'm fighting here is the "competition". Well the local Kinsmen club. They have been providing a Santa especially on Christmas Eve home visits for 36 years, free of charge. Of course some of them also get to sit in on other private functions because of that, again as a Kin function. Some of the businesses I tried to book last year came back with the retort " I'll get a Kinsmen instead". However they are getting older and not as many volunteer to give up their family events to be Santa. So I'll play this one by ear and just do the very best I can wherever I am booked.

    It is because of this I have adjusted my professional fees to be basically $50.00 an hour. I know I can always raise it in a year or two but for this year.... The only extra charge I make is the first hour is $75.00 so that I have the extra $25.00 which the local dry cleaner charges to clean my suits. Funny how some people even balk at that fee.

    My home vists are also $50 each and usually last up to 1/2 hour. My Christmas Eve price is $75 and that for 15minutes as Santa is very busy that night. I had 2 home visits last year. We'll see what come up this year.

    Some things that are positive for this year is the fact that I now have 3 Santa suits, all velvet with faux fur. They are basically the Rubies models but that's good enough for now. Until I get to the point where I can be busy most of the time and get the dollars to warrant it, I'll stay away from a custom suit. I improved the whiskers from the basic Rubies set to a 3-piece Laceys, the 007 model. I have boots, not those cover-ups. I have a belt, not those plastic ones, but not high quality leather yet. Once again...$

    That's enough rambling for this time. I'll update more next time around. Right now I'm busy trying to clear up skin infections on both of knees that were replaced this year. It has me worried and I don't want to be. Was looking forward to getting back to my WalMart job, but that may have to wait. It's getting a little tight on the wallet right now.

    Til next time.

  8. OK, many of you may be asking if I'll be dressed as the Big Man during the walk... I will not be wearing my Santa costume during this walk. It's way too heavy and it probably won't fit very well in October because I'm losing some weight!! 60 Miles is a good trek. Even a watch may get to be a bit of a nuisance they told us.

    I can absolutely guarantee though, I'll be having a whole lot of Santa in my heart. I Promise! This experience has already changed my life!

    Just this morning, we had our big "Prep-Rally" and 10 mile walk. I heard of a few ladies that are walking that just recently got diagnosed with Breast Cancer. It had a profound impact on me. Just diagnosed and is still willing to walk 60 miles? Wow. Then I started seeing a few women that have lost their hair recently. Ugh. Heartbreaking, but so inpiring at the same time! These kinds of experiences make you want to walk even farther! I know there is going to be a cure someday, but we all need to pray for it and raise awareness.

    I just finished Randy Pausch's book, "The Last Lecture". Another powerful and inspiring book. He just passed away a little over a week ago from Pancreatic Cancer. Left behind three very small children and a courageous Wife. God Bless Them.

    So, a few have been emailing me about how I'm doing. I am doing incredible!! I have been logging many, many miles daily and enjoying the cool morning air during this hot summer. Walking some on the treadmill at lunch at my office, and then hitting the streets again in the evening after I get home. On weekends, I am doing some heavy duty walks of 10-15 miles each day. Needless to say, I already need a new pair of my sneakers!

    The walk is only 11 weeks away!! Thanks to everyone that has supported me over the course of the last few months!! I sincerely appreciate every message, email, phone call, donation, helpful hint, etc. Your encouragement keeps me going!

    Thanks so much and check out my Official 3Day Website listed below sponsored by The Susan G. Komen for a Cure Organization. I am so inspired - every single penny of profit received before my walk from this year's Santa season is going towards my walk. Every penny received after my walk, will go towards next year's walk!

    ***A HUGE THANK YOU GOES OUT TO ALL OF MY CORPORATE SPONSORS!!!***

    The Bellevue

    Broad & Walnut Streets

    Philadelphia, PA

    RockStar Enterprises

    BAE Employees

    Staples

    Lansdale Mardi Gras Parade, Inc.

    Raj's Sunoco

    West Chester, PA

    Thanks for reading my update,

    Santa Dutch

    http://08.the3day.org/goto/dutch

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  9. Cyber Santa

    Christmas 2001 was by far the toughest when it came to answering Santa's mail.

    Thousands of emails to Santa poured into My Merry Christmas.com by kids and adults concerned over the events of 9/11. But no letter touch me so thoroughly as the letter received from the little boy who lost his mother in the World Trade Center.

    "My mom died on September 11, 2001", Brandon stated in his letter. "All I want for Christmas is to get her back. Why did she have to die in the building, Santa?"

    I consulted a few folks on that one. Santa gets letters of a personal nature all the time. But how do you deal with a broken heart in one so young? What can be said? How can you possibly help?

    It made me think of my own children, of course. If they were to lose me or their mother -- were there actually words from a stranger that would help?

    I was convinced it could be done. I was convinced should be attempted. And I was terrified to even try.

    Fortunately, the boy's submission came from his father's email address. In working as Santa online there are some advantages that you might have over those Santas who have a sad child on their lap. In this case, it was an email address of a parent. I wrote to the boy's father my expression both my sympathy and concern. And I asked how Santa could help.

    For many weeks after I sent the email I heard nothing. I started to wonder if I had made a mistake. But then one day shortly after Thanksgiving I received a very gracious note. Brandon was doing well but still missed his mom. He wrote to Santa only because writing to Santa was a tradition started by his mother as soon as Brandon could pick up a pencil. Brandon's father told me that he had every letter to Santa that Brandon and his mother had ever written together. The email Brandon sent to Santa was a continuation of that tradition he was not expecting.

    He told me that Brandon didn't expect a response from Santa Claus because he had never had one before. After thinking about it for some time, Brandon's father decided to contact me to discuss Santa's reply in this special circumstance.

    Together we drafted a letter for Brandon's stocking. Over a series of phone calls and through many emails, I made a friend with Brandon's father. And though I never got to see Brandon's face on Christmas morning when he read the letter Santa had left for him in his stocking I lived that moment through his father. To this day Santa receives Brandon's emails. And out of the thousands we receive every year, Brandon's is always one we look for. We want to make sure Santa's archive of letters continues to grow for Brandon and his siblings.

    Brandon's story inspired us to expand the character of Elf Ed Zachary -- a columnist for the North Pole Gazette known for his superior, albeit-sometimes-snotty-attitude when it comes to answering some of the lighter hearted letters to Santa. For the website, we decided to give Elf Ed Zachary a shot at answering Brandon's letter publicly -- with his father's permission, of course.

    This article by Elf Ed Zachary never fails to generate email every holiday season.

    Elf Ed is still his wry self in his response. But he sheds light, as he always does, on the proper perspective of Santa as a human being.

    Tough letters come in every year. And behind them are real blessings for those of us charged with answering them.

  10. SantaSteve's Blog

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    one of the best things I do each christmas is get photos taken with camels they are a wonderfull animal and very impresive to ride and as you can see make a great photo

    however why the camel ? I think that the camel brings in to the christmas season the first present gift givers the three wise men. as santa surely we are coninuing on the tradition started on the very first christmas

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