All Santas have a story.
For Santa Greg, who spends his time away from the North Pole in Redwood Falls, that story began five years ago around the table on Christmas Eve.
“My grandchild, Teegan, was sitting next to me, and he turned to me and said ‘Santa, I mean Grandpa,’” said Santa Greg.
The seed was planted.
“I have never looked back,” said Santa Greg with a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his face.
Santa Greg said the past five years of his role as Santa Claus, including three in what he called a professional capacity, have been a wonderful experience.
Santa Greg allows children of all ages to crawl up into his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas.
In his role as “St. Nick,” Santa Greg has spent time in various settings from a mall in Portland, Ore. to local daycare sites in the community he calls his home for most of the year.
Santa Greg said the privilege of donning the red suit is not one he takes lightly, adding he has been involved with the North Star Santas association, through which he has been mentored to learn the high standard that is expected.
Following the rules is very important, because Santa Greg knows he is representing much more than himself in that role.
“Your breath needs to smell like candy canes,” he said, adding there is nothing worse for a child than having the experience of meeting Santa with bad breath.
The suit must always be in top shape.
Santa must demonstrate love and patience with every child.
“Santa never lies,” he said.
Of course, that can pose a challenge for those who interact with children, but Santa Greg said it is pretty easy to redirect a child’s questions. By the end of their visit, most children who meet with Santa Greg are more than pleased by the experience.
For Santa Greg, who grew up in New Ulm, lived much of his adult life near Franklin and worked for years in Springfield, the story of Santa comes much later in his life.
“I have no recollection of experiencing Santa from my childhood,” he admitted.
Taking his job very seriously, Santa Greg is ready to tell the real story of the man named St. Nicholas on whom the legend of Santa Claus has developed over the years.
Yes, Santa Greg said, Santa is real.
“There is no reason for anyone to stop believing,” he said.
He believes that with all of his heart.
After all, that is where Santa begins in the life of every child.
Each child who meets Santa Greg hears the same message.
“I tell every child that I love them,” said Santa Greg, and those who meet him know that love is genuine.
Santa Greg, donning what he called “Santa casual” during a recent conversation, has his own red suit and hat, and, yes, the beard is also authentic.
“I first started growing my beard five years ago and have not shaved since,” said Santa Greg, adding the suit he wears is one that was made specifically with him in mind. “The suit chooses the man.”
Yes, said Santa Greg, Santa loves to dress up, and he loves his bling.
Being one of the “Brothers in Red,” Santa Greg said the art of being Santa starts with being good at telling tales.
“Every true Santa is a storyteller,” said Santa Greg. “They want to help children get lost as they spin their yarns.”
That way every child walks away convinced the person they just met really was Santa Claus.
Santa said his favorite Christmas carol is “Jingle Bells,” adding he will often sing it with the children because it is one they can remember.
“I love listening to Christmas music,” said Santa Greg, adding he also loves Christmas movies.
Santa Greg is hoping to get more involved in his community and wants to have the chance to spread Christmas cheer to everyone.
“I love Redwood Falls,” he said, adding what really makes that experience enjoyable is knowing his grandchildren are nearby. “My daughters and grandchildren are the most important in my life.”
Those who would like to contact Santa Greg can do so via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After all of the work is done for Santa Greg this year he hopes to spend the rest of the season enjoying time with his family. That, he added, is what really makes Christmas special.
Santa Greg has lots of stories of his own to tell, adding he just loves knowing he can make a difference in the lives of the people he meets with a wink, a smile and words of love.
Knowing he had to get back to work, this conversation came to an end, as he sipped the last of his hot cocoa and holiday treat. (Thanks, by the way, to Santa’s elf who provided those wonderful treats.)
As Santa Greg said goodbye, he offered a pat on the shoulder to this reporter and a few words of wisdom.
“Stay on the nice list,” he said.