Tue, July 23

Sitting down with St. Nick<br>In an exclusive interview with <i>Kudos,</i> the man in red shares his secrets for success in spreading holiday cheer

Staff photo by Paula Blankenship

Like any successful man, Santa Claus has an extremely supportive wife. Mrs. Claus says one of her favorite moments of the holiday arrives at the conclusion of one of the longest nights in history.

It's a busy time of year, but the merry old elf is experienced.

For hundreds of years, he's managed to bring millions of presents to children across the globe without breaking a sweat.

Not even the United Parcel Service, Federal Express or the U.S. Postal Service guarantees Christmas delivery. It's all about good solid preparation, says Santa.

"We're busy all year round," he explains, adding that technology has increased the efficiency of North Pole procedures and methodology.

"The computer has been a great benefit to us," says Santa. "We use it in our toy design, our inventory, it's just a huge operation."

And Mrs. Claus has become a regular techie.

"I use it for our personal shopping and to order feed for the reindeer," she explains.

Just a few years ago the harsh winters in the Antarctic would require Mrs. Claus to write out lists that either dog or reindeer couriers would bring to local suppliers.

"That is if we could get them out and then we would have to wait weeks," she explains. "It's much easier to do it online."

But even when you match the best hardware with the newest software, the Claus' still experience frustration with inventory challenges.

"We don't always have sufficient inventory to match requests," says Santa with a hint of disappointment. "It's not always possible to bring children exactly what they wish for."

A young girl with spurs on her slippers and no pony in sight came to mind.

Santa explained: "I tell children I will do my best for things you ask for. I hope you will trust me to make some choices and leave some surprises."

Like Easy Bake Ovens, jacks and new socks, I inquired.

"We do the best we can," said Santa. "We can't always be a hundred percent."

But regardless of the types of toys delivered, Santa must be in peak physical condition to ensure delivery by Christmas morning.

And then, even some chimneys remain a snug fit.

"Well although it's a trade secret, I'll share it with you," he said of the descent technique employed by the stout. "The guy who wrote the poem got it right. There is a little magic involved."

A crackling fire, however isn't part of the charm.

"I don't like to go down with fires in the fireplace," said Santa.

But although he has an appetite for the treats carefully prepared for his robust frame by children all around the world, his sweet tooth doesn't get by his doting wife.

"Mrs. Claus has a plan for my overindulging," says Santa.

"I've created a special cookie sack," says Mrs. Claus. "His doctor advises him to be careful about his cholesterol and sugar count."

In his usual generous fashion, Santa returns on Christmas day with confections to share with all his workers and elves. "That way we can enjoy them over a period of weeks instead of eating them all night," Mrs. Claus explains.

And about that coal in the stocking story, I inquired sheepishly.

Santa defiantly denies the practice.

"It was just one of those rumors," the jolly old elf explained with a hint of exasperation. "Santa would never give a lump of coal or do anything but remind children who are not always good to be good. They may not always behave as we like, but children are good."

And like all who are adored by Santa, everyone has a special talent, even reindeer.

"Some have more flight potential than others," he explained describing the rigorous aptitude and altitude tests required by a specialty in-house training system. "The ones that come up with the best results are the ones that become Santa's reindeer," said Claus.

Noting a sensitive subject, Mrs. Claus interjected, "Oh, it wouldn't do if they were all flying," she said. "The one's who don't fly are a big help. They pull the work sleighs from workshop to workshop. We have the best of both worlds."

Although Mrs. Claus isn't considered a slave driver, she does rely on the help of elves and reindeer during the busy Christmas season.

After all, as an accomplished seamstress, Mrs. Claus requires a few hours a week to make clothes for the man she loves.

Her latest creation is a floor length winter travel coat. "It's lined with all the stars in the universe," explains Mrs. Claus. "It protects him and it's how Santa comes home safely every Christmas."

Although modest, Mrs. Claus clearly has an eye for fashion trends, " Of course," she explains, "Santa doesn’t wear his red suit during the day. He prefers tweeds and wool," She also notes that in summer months Santa fancies lighter cottons.

But whatever he's wearing, Mrs. Claus says one of her favorite moments of the holiday arrives at the conclusion at one of the longest nights in history.

"When he returns safely from his rounds," she explains, "we get to sit down together and have a nice cup of cocoa and cookies."

Yes, Santa is a very likeable fellow.