Fred Snyder

It all started with an ad similar to the one appearing in the Gettysburg Times last week; an ad in search of Santa Claus. It was 1982 and I was news and operations director at a radio station in western Massachusetts when two female reporters from my newsroom teased me about the newspaper ad saying I would make a great Santa. The ad was for a mall Santa, and training would be provided. After much coercing by the ladies, I called, had an interview, and one of the best journeys of my life began.

Two weeks of Santa school, learning how to Ho Ho Ho to feeding the reindeer, with a notebook crammed full of Santa information. When finally donning the special suit I couldn’t believe all I learned; how to speak with children and never making promises, how to hold them on your lap, especially infants, explaining to mom or dad to not force children to sit on Santa’s lap, and so much more. I was taught how Santa carries himself, his movements (always on the slower side), makeup, and of course his origins. Since I was much thinner in the early 80s, I wore the Santa belt with packing that put on about 50 more pounds, and I of course taped diapers on my upper thighs for those children who may get overly excited about sitting on Santa’s lap. I had toy catalogs I studied so I understood what children wanted and could interact on items they might ask for. And so my Santa experience began. After my first year, I was asked to come back for three more years of the best job any man could ever want. When a child approaches you and you see their smile and you open your arms to them, it truly is a heaven on earth experience at least for me.

Fred Snyder is a Gettysburg Times columnist. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper. Contact Fred at or 717-334-1131, ext. 2850. “Around Town” is published in the Gettysburg Times every Tuesday.

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