Being a mall Santa involves much more than just sitting in a chair and scaring kids. In fact, based on all the sad things people ask mall Santas for Christmas, it sounds like a position that involves some healthcare benefits and pension plans. Because when you hear about the sad things people ask mall Santas for, you realize this position is basically a therapy session with the couch removed. No mall Santa gets adequately prepared for this type of work, which means sad mall Santa requests can go either wonderfully or poorly depending on how quick the copycat Kris Kringle is on their feet. If children believe Santa gives anything to any good girl or boy who asks, then how does bootleg St. Nick respond to kids who ask mall Santas to bring their parents back together?
"When I was a freshman in college, I got a gig as a mall Santa at a smaller local mall. A little girl came up to me and sat on my lap. I asked her in the most jovial way what she wanted for Christmas. She pulls out a picture of her dead dog and says 'Can you bring my dog back?' The look on her face when I said no was heart-wrenching."
Asking To Bring Back Mommy
"I wasn't Santa, but I was playing the elf role. There was one instance where a little girl came in with her father. She must have been four or five. She sat on Santa's lap and he asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Timidly, she whispered something. Santa couldn't hear her so he asked her again. She said, a little louder 'I want my mommy for Christmas.' The girl started crying and the dad immediately rushed up and grabbed her. He was rubbing her back and saying 'We talked about this honey, mommy's gone to heaven.' And she was sobbing and sobbing and the dad started to cry and he ran with her out of the mall.
"It was the most depressing thing I had ever experienced. I saw at least five or six mothers in line silently shedding tears watching the spectacle."
Kids, Meet Nick Jr.
"A few years back I filled in for Santa at a locally owned toy store. Since I don't quite look old enough to be Santa (and I have a full, lush, gingery, lumberjack beard) I was billed as 'Nick Jr.' and the story was that my dad was Santa and I was in training to be the next Santa. He was having me go and fill in for him at some of the usual stops as part of my training in getting to talk to the little kids.
"Oh man, the kids loved that. There was a rocking chair that I was 'supposed' to sit in, but I sat on the floor with the kids and chatted and it was friggin' awesome. The kids really connected with this idea of a 'trainee Santa.'
"The most heart-wenching story was a little girl, about seven or so, who was staying with her dad and stepmom because her mommy was deathly ill in the hospital. She came and saw me every day that I was there and she just wanted to talk to someone she knew could really understand where she was coming from in her fear. She hoped that she could come visit the North Pole, but understood if it wasn't possible.
"My last day of the gig she brought me a handwritten-in-crayon note thanking me for everything, saying she was glad to have met me and hoping that I grew up to be the best Santa ever. Lemme tell ya, all the feels. I am going to keep that damned note forever."
For Santa To Watch Over His Family
"I am not a Mall Santa, just a nurse on peds ICU. Me being one of the few males, it was my turn to be Santa for the kids in children's hospital. I also like to dress up, mainly as a super-hero, but that's not the point here.
"We are used to some really hard and tough requests kids make, but the one I'll remember for the rest of my life is a kid with few months to live and who knows it. He asked Santa to promise him he'll take care of the family and animals, which is not the first time a kid has asked something like that, but he was very precise and knew exactly what each and every one of them would like and enjoy. He was four-years-old."