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South Salt Lake Journal

Inside the life of a Santa's helper

Nov 21, 2018 03:49PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Santa must be prepared to deal with many different types of reactions. (Photo courtesy Mike Findlay)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

All kids know that at this time of year Santa Claus is ramping up his operations at the North Pole, getting ready for Christmas. With so much to do, like training reindeer, helping elves make toys, and getting his sleigh in tip-top shape, Santa recruits helpers, such as Murray resident Mike Findlay, to find out who has been naughty or nice.

“I was…raised in a…home where Christmas was king of the holidays. My mom would make her own Christmas tree by buying two or three live trees from the Allied tree lot and would drill holes and graft branches and build the perfect tree,” said Findlay.

The 42-year-old blood-donor recruiter for ARUP Blood Services fell into the role of Santa by accident while in college. “One of my teachers approached me, asking if I would be interested in playing Santa for their family Christmas party. She had rented a suit and just needed a fat kid who was outgoing enough to fill it. I was scared to death. But I let my personality shine through and ended up having a blast.”

In order to avoid ending up on the naughty list themselves, all good Santa’s helpers must prepare to take on the hefty role. Reading histories of Santa is useful, as well as understanding the big man’s adaptability to different cultures. Also, Santa must be an expert on toys.

“I am that weirdo who can sometimes be found walking up and down the toy aisles at Walmart becoming familiar with some of the latest toys. It always excites the kids when they can ask for a certain toy and I can ask them more specific questions about characters and what not.

“I have a huge list of one-liner jokes about Santa and Christmas that I start studying before Halloween. I also start listening to Christmas music as soon as my wife will allow it. As the appearances get closer and things heat up, I make sure to watch all the good Christmas movies with Santa in them as much as I can. The day of an appearance, I tend to drop my voice more, laugh more, and just get into it,” Findlay remarked.

Being Santa does have its own unique occupational hazards. Everything from having his beard pulled to crying babies to having a mysterious wet spot appear on his knee—Santa must be prepared for these situations. Perhaps the most ever-present difficulty is the suit, as the North Pole requires super warm attire; but when Santa’s inside a warm home, the suit gets extra hot.

“The other thing that gets hard about being Santa is when kids ask for things that even Santa can’t bring them. And your heart just breaks for these kids putting all their hopes (on him) that he can do anything in their minds. Unfortunately, Santa can’t heal diseases, bring parents back together, end wars, or help out with family hardships,” noted Findlay.

With the sleigh back at the North Pole, Santa’s helpers use more modern modes of transportation. “When I pull up to a stoplight and look over at the car next to me, the kids are usually the more reserved of the occupants in the car. The adults go nuts, waving and smiling. Seeing Santa just makes a majority of people smile. I love driving around or hitting convenience stores after a gig. Even the crankiest of people seem to get a little twinkle in their eye, break a smile, and sometimes ask to take a picture with me.”

It’s the kids, however, that matter most to Santa. Findlay makes it a point to go the extra mile with them, such as making sure to know their names. “This helped one autistic boy overcome his fear of Santa because he felt like he knew Santa. There was a familiarity that drew him in and eased his fears and hesitations.”

And what keeps Findlay representing Saint Nick? He replied, “It is all about that magic!”