Everywhere you look these days, he's there, complete in red suit, with his white beard well groomed and his sleigh bells in one mittened hand.
Part of the magic of Santa Claus is how he can accomplish being everywhere, sitting kids on his lap to hear what they want for Christmas, and responding with a resounding "Ho ho ho". He does all this while also supervising the elves as they make toys in their North Pole workshop, trying to fill all those orders all over the world.
My earliest recollection of Santa is from television, on CFCL in Timmins, and his daily visit during the weeks leading up to Christmas.
The search light would scan the snow-covered hill behind the TV station, waiting for Santa to come running in, after parking his sleigh somewhere beyond camera range. As he arrived at the back door of the studio, he would be greeted by Mr. Announcer Man, and sweep the snow off his boots, reminding all the boys and girls to do the same when they came indoors.
Then, for the next magical half hour, he would read letters from those boys and girls. And he would bring his magical telescope at least once a year, and look around CFCL's broadcast area, commenting on the good boys and girls he could see through the scope. One time, he even spotted my sister, and commended her on helping my Mom with household chores, at the ripe old age of three.
Sure, it's magic, but the Jolly Old Elf needs just a wee bit of help to accomplish it all. It seems that he has a volunteer in every community, taking care of the logistics of all of his local activities.
In the case of Timmins when I was a kid, it was a firefighter named Art Eby. I know this, because Mr. Eby and his wife were friends of my parents. He and my Dad served on a regional body for their credit unions, and the two couples travelled together once or twice, to provincial conventions in Toronto.
I met Mr. Eby a few times. The most vivid time that I can recall was at our house early one winter. As he and Mrs. Eby visited with my Mom and Dad, the three of us kids just did regular kid things. My sister, being a little busybody, was even trying her hand at washing dishes. In fact, now that I think of it, it was specifically dish washing that Santa mentioned, when he spotted Dale through his telescope.
Some 25 or more years later, when I was six o'clock news anchor at that same Timmins TV station, I actually got the opportunity to fill in for Mr. Announcer Man on the Santa Claus Show a few times. During a break, I spoke to Santa about Mr. Eby, who had died by that time, and how another firefighter, Sonny Farrell, took over his duties to make sure Santa's visits went off without a hitch. Santa spoke very highly of Mr. Eby, and how he passed along his organizational skills to Mr. Farrell.
While we all too often forget what Christmas really is all about, there's room for fond memories such as these, and the magic of the season.