The Smithfield Herald contacted the North Pole last week to ask Santa Claus about the big day. Santa sent his answers to Smithfield Parks and Recreation Director Tim Johnson, who has known the Jolly Old Elf for years. Johnson was kind enough to pass the answers along to us.
Q: Throughout the year, how do you prepare to give out all those presents?
A: Great question, because it does literally take all year long. The elves get a little time off after Christmas, but by mid-January, we’re all preparing for the next Christmas.
There are many logistics to work out; some change every year, and some stay the same. We of course have to account for all of the new children born, because we don’t want to miss a single child. We’re already working on the hot new items for next year – never a moment to rest.
Q: What time do you wake up on Christmas Eve?
A: Well actually, because of the different time zones, I’m up for about 48 hours without sleep. But that’s OK. I have great helpers, and I can cat-nap while traveling between continents. It’s so much fun delivering presents to all the great boys and girls that I never realize how tired I am until I get back to the North Pole.
Q: What time do you leave the North Pole to start giving out presents?
A: Right now, my departure time is scheduled for 12:13 a.m. Dec. 24. (It corresponds with the 12 o’clock hour and the year, the formula we use each year for good luck.) That can change if bad weather is ahead, but it’s normally not bad enough to alter the schedule. It actually takes almost two full days to get the job done.
Q: What do you have for dinner before you go flying off?
A: Mrs. Claus usually prepares a nice steak dinner with all the trimmings. She also prepares some sandwiches, fruit, etc., for the long trip.
Q: Do the elves and your wife wave and see you off when you fly away?
A: Absolutely. This is a tradition that can’t be broken, and they provide the magic it takes to get me started. It’s called the “Great Santa Send-off!” The elves are lined up on either side of the sleigh for about 300 feet. Mrs. Claus escorts me to the sled full of toys. Before hopping in, she gives me a kiss on the cheek, and the elves begin cheering wildly. Each elf has magic snow dust, and as I give the order to “dash away” to the reindeer, the elves throw the magic snow dust up into the air, and as it goes up in the air, so does the sleigh. It’s a great celebration, and it really gets me excited about seeing all the children.
Q: How do you reach millions of houses all in one night? How do you travel so far?
A: The different time zones help. For example, while children in Finland are awake, children in Japan are sleeping. However, a big reason it all gets done is magic and can’t really be explained.
Q: Who is your favorite reindeer and why?
A: The reindeer are like children in that I really don’t have a favorite. They are all loved and cherished, as each one has a special gift. Many think Rudolph is my favorite, and he is very important because he lights the way, but the others are equally important, and the sleigh would not operate if any one of them was missing. For instance, Vixen is the strongest, and he can help pull extra load when some of the others get tired, like Comet. He’s the fastest and helps us keep up a fast pace, but he tires quicker.
Q: How do you go into homes that don’t have a chimney?
A: I have a magical key that unlocks the doors of all the good children who don’t have a chimney.
Q: How do you keep the chimney soot from getting on your clothes?
A: With a twinkle of my nose I shrink down to a size a little smaller than the chimney, so if I’m really careful and swift, I don’t hit the sides of the chimney and get dirty. However, sometimes I do get a little soot on my suit, but the wind from flying usually keeps me dusted off.
Q: What are your favorite snacks that people leave out for you?
A: I love everything the boys and girls leave, because I know it’s made and left for me with love from their hearts. Sugar cookies and milk are probably at the top of the list, but it’s nice to get a variety of snacks, like other kinds of cookies, eggnog, hot chocolate, sausage balls and all kinds of Christmas treats. I always take time to eat a little something, although I don’t always get to finish the snacks because we are on such a tight schedule.
Q: What are your reindeer’s favorites snacks?
A: Some children make a mixture of reindeer food, which they love. They also enjoy carrots and apples. It’s also very important to leave some water for the reindeer. Last year, Dancer didn’t get enough water and was beginning to get dehydrated, and we had to make an emergency stop by Holt Lake while we were here in Smithfield. Luckily he was OK, but that was a close call.
Q: Do you have to give out coal to many children, and do you ever feel bad about giving out coal?
A: Once in a while, I do have to leave a little coal as a reminder for those who have not been their very best during the year. But I also leave a toy they have asked for, because all children have good in their hearts.
Q: What’s your favorite Christmas song and why?
A: “Joy to the World,” because it helps remind me of the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus. And it’s a very joyous and upbeat song.
Q: What’s your favorite thing about Christmas?
A: I love seeing the children’s faces light up and hearing their laughter. But the most important thing to remember is that it’s Jesus’ birthday, and that’s the real reason to celebrate.