I’m living proof. No Jew should ever play Santa Claus. And after today’s demonstration, it’s unlikely that anyone in my neighborhood will ask me to revisit the role.
I don’t actively hide my religion. Nonetheless, since I live in the land of Jesus, I don’t exactly advertise it either. The neighbor who asked me to fill in as an emergency St. Nick must’ve assumed I’m a Christian like everyone else around here. In retrospect, I should’ve disabused him and told him to look elsewhere. But he sounded so desperate, bemoaning that the fat man he’d hired for the “pictures with Santa” party had canceled at the last minute. He said if he didn’t find a replacement, he’d have a small hoard of disappointed children and parents rioting at his home this afternoon!
Under the dire circumstances, I couldn’t bring myself to say no. Instead, I merely warned him that I’d never played Santa before and didn’t know what to do. He told me not to worry: “Nothing’s changed since you were a kid; just act the same as the store Santas did with you. We’ll snap a picture with each child and you’re done. Easy as pie!”
Keep in mind I know almost nothing about Santa Claus. Though I must’ve seen Christmas specials at some point during my childhood, I have little recollection of them. All I’ve retained are the bits and pieces I picked up from an occasional holiday movie. Thus, contrary to the neighbor’s promises, my performance as Santa did not prove “easy as pie,” “easy peasie,” or as simple as any other cutesy metaphor.
I ran into trouble almost immediately. After seating the second tyke on my lap and proclaiming “Merry Christmas,” I asked the obligatory: “And what would you like from Santa this year?”
In response, the boy reeled off a mile-long list which sounded suspiciously like the entire electronics’ catalogue at Best Buy. I may not know much about Santa, but I’d recently skimmed an online article about Santa Clauses lowering children’s expectations in light of the current economic downturn. Given this child’s patently unrealistic expectations, I thought it appropriate to do likewise. Only, I didn’t recall exactly what the article advised Mr. Claus to say in this situation, so I had to wing it. I told the lad: “I’m not sure Santa can get you everything on your list this year. You see, times have been tough at the North Pole lately, and even Santa’s had to cut back. I’ve laid off a few elves, and I can’t afford to use all the reindeer either.”
I didn’t expect a follow up question, but I got one: “Which reindeer?”
Naturally, the one reindeer I know is Rudolph; but even I could see Santa would never bench him. I stretched my sparse recollection of Christmas lore to the limit. Vaguely remembering that one reindeer had the same name as a household cleaner, I went with him and the only other forest dweller which came to mind: “Ajax and Bambi.”