Christmas is a time when kids gets to live in a fantasy where a jolly old man brings them presents once a year. Families flock to malls to get their Christmas photo taken with Santa. With all the kids that sit on Santa’s knee, there a lot of interesting present requests.
Here, mall Santas share their most shocking – and sometimes heartbreaking- stories.
I wasn’t Santa, but I was playing the elf role. There was one instance where a little girl came in with her father. She must have been 4 or 5. She sat on Santa’s lap and he asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Timidly, she whispered something. Santa couldn’t hear her so he asked her again. She said, a little louder “I want my mommy for Christmas.” The girl started crying and the dad immediately rushed up and grabbed her. He was rubbing her back and saying “We talked about this honey, mommy’s gone to heaven.” And she was sobbing and sobbing and the dad started to cry and he ran with her out of the mall.
It was the most depressing thing I had ever experienced. I saw at least 5 or 6 mothers in line silently shedding tears watching the spectacle.
I think the saddest one I ever watched was waiting in line with my daughter who was to be next on Santa’s lap. The boy in front of her was whispering, which was odd because all the other kids were so loud and cheerful. He also looked about 8 or 9 and was so frail looking. Well, I guess he finally got tired of being asked what he wanted because the associate couldn’t hear him because he finally spoke up.
He said that he wanted food, because his tummy was tired of hurting and so was Mommy and Daddy’s but that Daddy couldn’t find another job yet he had an “owie”. Santa had the camera girl call the manager of the store and when they showed up, they had a cart with all the fixing for a dinner, as well as canned goods, soups, snack foods, etc. I wasn’t even mad for the half hour hold up after that it made me feel better knowing the little boy and his family weren’t going to go hungry.
When I was six my big sister spent weeks carefully coaching me to say, “Santa, all I want for Christmas is a cure for my contagious hemorrhoids, which are on my butt and now on your lap.”
I had no idea what it meant, but I said it perfectly-Santa looked like he wanted to murder me.
I was Elementary School Santa for three years. This experience still haunts me….
I’d had a long morning of little tykes with retail advertising dreams of all kinds of shiny new ‘must have’ toys, older boys with dreams of motorized vehicles, and older girls with dreams of ‘cute boys’ and makeup and clothes. After a break to ‘feed the reindeer’.. (those costumes are HOT), I returned to a busy classroom filled with kids working at all the activities and having fun. And then, after another hour of the usual, I met two little children dressed in their Sunday best.
And each of them perched on my knee, looked deep into my eyes, and asked, quietly and from the depths of their hearts, “Please Santa. I don’t want any toys. I don’t want anything. I just want my baby sister to get better.”
And suddenly I knew who they were… their little sister, age 7, was dying of cancer in the local Children’s hospital. We had already done a school fundraiser for her and her family. Our Scout Troop had raked leaves at their house, and helped them with their Thanksgiving dinner.
It took everything I had to not weep. I hugged each child close in turn, gave them their candy cane, and told them that it wasn’t up to Santa, but I would do my best to put in a good word with the guy upstairs. And told them to remember that everybody loved them too, and that it was OK to have fun for themselves. And that I would do what I could to make sure they had some presents.
They each smiled a little bit in turn, and went to hug each other and their grandmother. I could see the smile through the pain in her eyes and she led them to other activities.
I called a break to ‘check on Rudolph on the roof’, and walked as rapidly as I could to the teacher’s lounge. Where I wept quietly for the little girl, and her family, and the unselfish love of little children.
And then put on the suit and went back to work with a broken heart.
She died two days after Christmas. We planted a butterfly garden at the school in her name, just outside the office window. It’s a pretty place, with a shaded bench and brilliant flowers. And the butterflies come there in the summer and dance.
I am not a Mall Santa, just a nurse on pediatrics ICU. Me being one of the few males it was my turn to be Santa for the kids in children’s hospital. I also like to dress up, mainly as a super-hero but that’s not the point here.
We are used to some really hard and tough requests kids make, but the one I’ll remember for the rest of my life is a kid with few months to live and who knows it… he asked from Santa to promise him he’ll take care of the family and animals, which is not the first time a kid has asked something like that, but he was very precise and knew exactly what each and every one of them would like and enjoy. He was four years old.
A few years back I filled in for Santa at a locally owned toy store – as I don’t QUITE look old enough to be Santa (and I have a full lush gingery lumberjack beard) I was billed as “Nick Jr” and the story was that my dad was Santa and I was in training to be the next Santa – he was having me go and fill in for him at some of the usual stops as part of my training in getting to talk to the little kids.
Oh man, the kids loved that. There was a rocking chair that I was “supposed” to sit in, but I sat on the floor with the kids and chatted and it was friggin’ AWESOME. The kids really connected with this idea of a “trainee Santa”
The most heart-wrenching story was a little girl, about 7 or so.
She was staying with her dad and stepmom because her mommy was ill in the hospital. She came and saw me every day that I was there and she just wanted to talk to someone she KNEW could really understand where she was coming from in her fear. She hoped that she could come visit the North Pole, but understood if it wasn’t possible.
My last day of the gig she brought me a handwritten-in-crayon note thanking me for everything, saying she was glad to have met me and hoping that I grew up to be the best Santa ever. Lemme tell ya, all the feels. I am going to keep that damned note forever.
I am not Santa, but I think I probably asked for the strangest thing. I still lived in Florida at the time, so I couldn’t have been older than five. Every year I’d put on my fanciest dress, and my parents would take us to the country club for brunch where we would meet Santa.
I climbed up on his lap, following all the other kids who asked for the newest Barbie, or a pony, looked up into his eyes and told him what I had been very good. So good, in fact, that I deserved what I wanted more than anything.
Not South Dakota. Not both Dakotas. Just North Dakota. Why? No idea. I had never been there. I knew nothing about it. It was my favorite state on the map, though. Maybe because it was pink. Maybe because it was nearly perfectly rectangular. All I know for sure is that there was nothing I wanted more than to own North Dakota.
I worked as a mall santa in high school and likely experienced every crazy story you could imagine, but one in particular stands out most vividly in my mind.
A young boy waited quietly with his mother in line until it was his turn to sit in my lap and have his picture taken. As his mother started to follow him up towards my chair, he turned around and yelled, “No! Mommm you have to stay back thereee!” I watched the mom look at him pleadingly and she reluctantly agreed to keep her distance. As I tried to make sense of the situation, I invited him up to my chair.
He looked to be 8 or 9, which was older than most (~75%) of the kids in line. When I got around to asking him what he wanted for Christmas, his eyes locked onto mine and it happened: “If you’re real, then aren’t you supposed to know?”
As I fumbled around with my words, it dawned on me. Here he was, on the cusp of becoming a non-believer, and his plan was to make sure his mother couldn’t whisper to me the gift he had been hoping for. I tried to play it cool, and come up with an explanation on the fly, when suddenly the mother dropped her bags and started jumping, punching, and kicking the air. Furiously! Shoppers stopped dead in their tracks, staring at her (we were at the main intersection of a two-story indoor mall).
I said something along the lines of “well you can’t expect me to bring you those Power Rangers if you aren’t a good boy and listen to your mother!” He melted, instantly. His eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped. Before I could react he buried his head into my foam padded chest and gave me the best hug all Christmas season.
The mother couldn’t believe it herself, and tried to gather herself as her overjoyed son turned to run and explain to her how Santa really is real, and that he had proven it (at least for another year). Worth it.
I wasn’t Santa but I volunteered at a public school Christmas toy/clothing drive that made sure all the kids would have something to wake up to on Christmas. I had a little boy ask for a jacket that still had the tag on it because he had only ever had used clothes. Being in a not so lucky family growing up helped me relate to him.
The guy we picked to be Santa was really well built and tall. Paul, our would-be Santa, had his doubts but we were convinced his well built frame and height would be fine. All we had to do was give him a bit of a belly and a costume and he put on this deep booming voice!
The day of the party went really well. We had jugglers, magicians, a mini disco, games, food and of course a Santa’s grotto. We had the Santa’s sack prop against a false wall which had a hole in it that would let us plant toys in the sack without any of the children seeing it. As it was all special needs schools we had their names and a teacher hid behind the wall and she identified the child coming in.
We had hand picked each toy to the child depending on their disability or special need. Reached that toy into the sack, whispered the name to Santa via an in ear headphone we had hidden on him under the hair and beard. That way when the child entered he could seem all knowing and the children were in amazement at this. It added to the magic.
One child came in who was around 7 or 8 but his disability made him very small in stature so he looked about 4 years old and he had an oxygen tube under his nose. He also had poor eyesight and his glasses gave him these giant sad looking eyes that melted everyone’s heart. He came into the grotto:
Santa (Paul): “Why hello Patrick! Nice to see you again!”
His eyes lit up and he exclaimed: Patrick: “You know my name! You’re the real one!?”
Santa: “Indeed I am! I came here to make sure you are being a good boy! Have you decided what you want for Christmas?”
Patrick: “Yes, but it’s not a present…I…I just want to be at home this year for Christmas!”
I am not afraid to admit, my eyes grew very damp. The girls who volunteered that year immediately broke down but Paul held it together remarkably well. He explained that he couldn’t get in the way of doctors and that they knew best and he wanted Patrick to be better so he could visit him on Christmas Eve no matter where he was.
Paul then reached into the bag and lifted out a cuddly toy duck. The child ran around with that duck the rest of the day tucked into his jumper. Stroking its head and kissing it now and again, he beamed a massive smile for the rest of the day.
Paul, a 6ft 2in, muscle bound guy, was found crying in the charity office when he left to get changed.
Kid at the front of the line yells to his mom, so everyone in the mall can hear, “Mom, can I ask Santa to use his special magic to get dad out of jail?” But when he got on my lap he asked for a car.
When I was a freshman in college, I got a gig as a mall Santa at a smaller local mall. A little girl came up to me and sat on my lap. I asked her in the most jovial way what she wanted for Christmas. She pulls out a picture of her dead dog and says “Can you bring my dog back?” The look on her face when I said no was heart-wrenching.
I was a mall Santa once in college. I’m from the Northeast US and college was in the deep South. My elves were girls from a local business school who were running the mall Santa thing as a senior project.
The best thing that happened was when a bunch of the elves’ friends showed up and whispered some very unladylike things in Santa’s ears, just to see how red they could make Santa’s cheeks.
The funniest was one little kid who, after I had been chatting with him for a while, looked at me wide-eyed and said, “Santa, you sound like a Yankee!” After a few seconds of frantic desperation, I simply told him, “Well, that’s because I live at the NORTH Pole.” He found the logic inescapable, plus me promising him a football helped.
Wasn’t a Santa but I volunteered at a Christmas fair at a stall where kids could write their wishes and I’d put them up on the tree for them. Most of the kids wished for toys, one wished to be like his older brother.
Then I asked one little boy of about 5/6 what his wish was and told me ‘I wish Connor would be my friend’. His poor mum had a completely defeated look on her face and said, “Yeah, I wish that too.”