by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas, Father Christmas, Père Noël, Jolly Old Elf: No matter how you say it, one Norman resident has big boots to fill this holiday season.
Santa Opa Claus (his civilian name is withheld to protect his identity) began his transformation after he grew out his beard one year for No Shave November. After an acquaintance told him he looked like Santa, Opa Claus found an opportunity to transform himself into the beloved legend for his own grandchildren. Before he knew it, the festive metamorphosis was well underway.
“It’s kind of like the movie where you put on the suit and the reindeer know what to do,” Opa Claus said. “In looking into it and learning about being Santa, magic happens. And you get it.”
Now, Opa Claus is about to embark on his first season into the secret world of being a “Santa ambassador.” His new responsibilities include checking the naughty or nice list twice, caring for the reindeers, organizing the elves and handing out gifts. Of course, Opa Claus said it’s not as simple as it seems.
“It’s much more than just putting on a suit, anyone can do that. But a child will always be able to tell if you’re not being honest and you’re not being forthcoming with them,” Opa Claus said. “And once you learn what it is about the appeal of Santa, I think it’s easier. It’s just three basic things: It’s love, joy and kindness. That’s all it is. And that’s something we all strive for every day. And once you figure that out everything else just falls into place with it and it just becomes fun.”
When he makes visits, Opa Claus wears a deep red velvet suit — or crimson, Opa Claus does live in Norman —accented by white fur, gold buttons, a large black belt and spectacles. Opa Claus has to be on his A-game for every interaction with children.
“You have to have a basic working knowledge because you never know what a child is going to ask you,” he said. “Like ‘What’s your name?’ ‘Santa Clause.’ ‘What was your mom and dad’s name?’ ‘Mr. and Mrs. Claus.’”
His favorite part about visits is the look of wonder in a child’s eyes the moment they see Santa. Mrs. Claus, Opa Claus’ wife, said she likes being a part of that magic, too.
“The best thing in life is just to see that look in a kid’s eye,” Mrs. Claus said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the parent, the grandparent, an aunt or whatever — just that amazement and the wonder and just the magic — I think that’s what everybody should strive to see every day.”
Unfortunately, Opa Claus said visits with children aren’t always feel-good moments. And though he wishes he could say yes to everything on all children’s wish-lists, some heartbreaking stories are too much for even Santa to fix.
“It’s not all happy times because I know I’m going to hear some terrible things, but they’re just children. They’re going to be honest and you have to try to comfort them and help them through that moment and help them to see what I’m standing for and it’s those three things again,” Opa Claus said referring to love, joy and kindness.
Once the season winds down, Opa Claus said he hopes he won’t feel too depressed waiting for Christmas to come back around next year. His ultimate dream would be to have Christmas all year round.
“It’s sad to me that Santa is only recognized for four weeks out of the year because really what he embodies is what we should strive for every day,” Opa Claus said.
“Right. Hope, goodness — and dreams,” Mrs. Claus echoed.
For more on Santa Opa Claus, find him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SantOpaClaus.
Hints for a Memorable Santa Visit
Before you book a visit with Kris Kringle, Santa Opa Claus suggests the following tips to make the visit as enjoyable as possible.
1. Have your camera ready
Be sure to have all cameras, camcorders and batteries necessary to take the photos you want. Be sure to recharge or have fresh batteries in advance.
2. Reserve a special parking place for Santa
Parking should be available right where Santa is visiting. If he parks down the street or around the corner and has to walk all the way to your home or office, he will be winded and exhausted when he gets there. Remember, he’s a senior citizen wearing a heavy wool suit that gets very hot. Santa always budgets about five minutes for parking. Any more time than that is part of your allotted time.
If the visit is at your home, leave an opening at the end of your driveway. Put a temporary barrier in the space. Have some fun and put a sign out like “Reserved for Santa!”
If your event is at a company facility, office building or hotel, try to make arrangements for Santa to park in a valet or loading area. Again you can mark the area with a fun sign. This makes it easier for him to be fresh and ready to bring joy to your guests.
3. Have your gifts ready
Santa does not bring any candy canes or gifts with him. He will hand out your candy and gifts and can carry in one bag of presents (40 pounds or less) for children or guests.
All gifts should be well labeled. We suggest a large black marking pen and writing directly on the gift, as tags can easily fall off. All packages should fit into one 35-gallon trash bag. He will then transfer the gifts to his “Santa” bag.
If you have more gifts than will fit in his sack, Santa will usually ask a couple of the ‘big kids’ (adults) to be honorary elves and instruct them to bring in the extra gifts.
4. Have a special chair for Santa
Folding chairs, plastic chairs, and low chairs (the one’s you sink into) are not good. Santa likes a chair that is sturdy and stable. A good, sturdy straight-back dining chair with no arms works well. He should be able to sit comfortably with the chair supporting him plus a child on each knee.
5. Place the chair in a holiday setting
Place Santa’s chair in front of a decorated wall or any festive type of backdrop for photos that will express the holiday season. Place a wreath, a few Christmas cards or your children’s drawings on the wall for a perfect backdrop. Leave a foot or two between the chair and the tree or wall. This will allow room for others to gather around and behind Santa’s chair for group photos.
6. Get everyone together before Santa enters
To prevent wasted time during Santa’s visit, gather everyone together before Santa arrives. If everyone is scattered around the house or office, you lose valuable time.
Santa should call you when he is five minutes away from arriving. That’s your cue to have someone go outside to meet Santa, and for you to get everyone together to maybe sing some Christmas carols. If Santa is to bring in presents, the person meeting him can help him fill his bag. Then, at the right moment, Santa can pop in and join everyone in the singing. If you have a large group of children to see Santa, you should assign someone to be Santa’s helper and coordinate the children as they each visit Santa.
7. Think about photos with everyone
Yes, some teenagers will shy away or think it is too childish to have a photo with Santa. But don’t worry: Santa can stand up for a “buddy” photo. What about Grandma and Grandpa? Take a photo with Santa and Grandma hugging. And, nothing is more fun than having Santa ask Grandpa if he’s been a good boy.
8. Gifts for Santa
Santa always appreciates tokens of appreciation. Instead of handing Santa cash directly, consider placing cash inside a Christmas card or envelope. As Santa departs, hand him the envelope and say, “Thank you Santa, and here is a Christmas card from all of us.”
9. Santa never breaks from his character
This is very important: Santa never breaks from his character. Please don’t say things to Santa such as: “Why you’re one of the best Santas I’ve ever seen.” Don’t ask questions about when he started playing Santa or where did he get his costumes. It’s very important that you treat Santa Opa Claus as Santa Claus and not as someone that plays Santa Claus. Please help keep the wonder of Christmas alive for your children and others.
Source: Adapted from Santa Opa Claus Facebook page.
Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.