Confessions of a Christmas Elf

For some reason I keep thinking of this story I wrote for The Beaverton Valley Times a few years back (reprinted below). I think it's because so many of my friends now have kids and they're all posting photos of them on Santa's lap. I've never really understood that tradition. Personally, I'm going to wait until they are old enough to request something like that. And I won't be surprised if they never do.

But maybe I just got jaded after reporting this story on the seedy underbelly of Santa photos. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did!

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Confessions of a Christmas Elf

The true story of working at the mall at the holidays

Ah, the mall on a busy weekend, right before Christmas.
Shoppers rush to and fro, holiday music is piped through store speakers, decorations glitter all around – and in the center of it all, the Jolly Old Elf himself presides over cheerful parents and children who go happily on their way after telling him their secret desires.
Not quite, says one of Santa’s helpers.
“Mike” (who spoke on condition of anonymity for himself and his employer) says that at one major mall in Washington County, working conditions and customers’ attitudes paint a far different picture.
“(The children) cry, they kick, some of them pout – while the parents just laugh and we’re all stressed because we’ve got a line that’s an hour and a half (long),” he said.
And the parents aren’t much better.
“I feel like here, it’s almost like a chore for them: ‘Well, I gotta get the Santa picture.’”

Parents want their children crying

Mike has also found that some parents revel in their children’s misery.
He tells the story of a mother of three children, who were terrified of Santa.
“They were just, I mean, hideously screaming,” he said. “And she was just in utter hysteria, laughing. And she said: ‘Take as many shots as you can, this is the greatest thing in the world.’”
Mike said she’s not the only one: “I’ve seen parents pick ‘em up by the pants and set ‘em on his lap and just say: ‘Take it as fast as you can; I want them crying.’
“I get that request at least 10 times a day,” he said.

‘Santa’s grumpy!’

As can happen with any job that involves kids, unsophisticated things are bound to happen.
Once, Mike said, “I took a picture of a kid vomiting.”
Another time, a squirmy toddler was placed on Santa’s lap “and he kicked as hard as he could, and I think he got Santa in some precarious spots,” Mike said. “Santa was pretty perturbed, so the people were really ticked when they left, saying: ‘Santa’s grumpy!’
For all the big man does for children, Mike said he tries to make Santa as comfortable as possible.
“The Santas,” he said, “you just don’t want them riled.”
Though, he also feels that the management can overreact to Santa’s perceived needs.
Once, Mike’s manager was so upset that Santa didn’t have any water that Mike ran to get him some.
“Like an idiot, I fell on the escalator and this guy was like: ‘Are you OK?’
“No, I am not,” he replied. “I am not OK. I’m Santa’s helper. That says it right there.”
The stress of his job even follows him into his dreams.
Mike’s wife said that one night in bed, he pushed her and said: “The back of the line is over there!”
Mike’s wife said she was sure that he had to be awake and was joking with her.
“So I turned on the light and he was like, ‘Where am I?’ He really was asleep,” she said, laughing.


  1. I'm with you Shasta! Never really understood people's obsession with getting a photo of their kids on Santa's knee. We went today for the first time ONLY because Daniel wanted to go. Ben of course went along for the ride, but was a bit scared so he didn't participate. Daniel had a great time though....hugged Santa, climbed up on his knee and told what he wanted for Christmas...even smiled nicely for the camera.

  2. Elissa8:52 PM

    Yep-we're only there at Addie's request. I tried to keep my Christmas spirit up while waiting (hour and a half!), but would have preferred to be almost anywhere else. Torture for all (minus Addie) involved I would say....��


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