Yes, Westchester, There Is a Santa

Santa who, alas, doesn’t live in OUR COUNTY (Did we detect a Southern accent?) takes a break from visiting children at The Westchester in White Plains to talk to Senior Editor Robert Schork.

How long have you been making appearances at The Westchester?
This will be my sixth year.

About how many kids do you see there on a given day?
Usually around two hundred, but I’ve seen as many as six to eight hundred kids on certain occasions.

Is there an age limit? Size limit? Or are you willing to see anyone?
I’ve never found anyone who was too young, too old, too small, or too big. It all depends on what’s in your heart.

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How do you reassure children who may be afraid of you?
That’s a very tough thing to do. You have to make them feel relaxed and loved—then they’ll want to talk to Santa. Children from one to three-and-a-half years are the toughest to do.

What do you tell kids who say they don’t believe in you?
I’ll let them pull my hair and beard, of course. But it’s what you believe. If you believe in the spirit of Christmas, and what Christmas is all about, Santa will always be there for you—I don’t care what your age is.

Does Mrs. Claus ever accompany you on your visits?
She’s there at times, yes, though not necessarily dressed as Mrs. Claus. But we’ve been appearing there long enough that a lot of people know who she is.

Do you give her Santa’s platinum card and let her go shopping at Neiman Marcus while you’re visiting with the kids?
I’m just like any other man: Mrs. Claus is the boss, and she does whatever she wants to do.

Are Westchester kids naughtier or nicer than most?
I’ve seen kids all over the world, and they’re the same everywhere you go—whether they come to see Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, or Father Christmas.

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What kind of toys do Westchester kids prefer?
They ask for the same things that all the other children ask for, especially video games and dolls.

What’s hot this season?
Trains seem to be going very big this year. Boys and girls alike always love the magic of trains.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked for?
Certain animals. I’ve had them ask for snakes, and for alligators. I explain it’s very hard for me to bring live animals in my sleigh.

How do you handle the tough questions, when kids ask you for things beyond your control, like a baby brother or world peace?
I’ve had a child say, “I would like my mother for Christmas.” I asked, “Well, where is your mother?” And she said, “My mother died three months ago.” Now that’s tough. I had to let her know that that’s beyond my power, and that we have to look up to a higher power. I also said, “I’m sure that your mother is looking down on you now and would not want you to be sad during this time of the year.”

Do you use union elves?
The elves have their own thing going on. I do not control the elves. The elves control themselves, and they take good care of me. They’re the ones who give me the magic to do what I do on Christmas Eve.

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How do you deal with bratty children?
You have to be nice to them, and you let them know that they have to be nice, too. If they want to pull my hair, I tell them, “You can pull my hair and beard. But just remember, when you finish pulling my hair, I get to pull yours.”

Have you ever put coal in a Westchester kid’s stocking?
For as long as I’ve been Santa, I’ve always been able to find some good in everybody.

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