Newsday recently caught up with several of his helpers to talk about their stories of playing the role of Kris Kringle during the season.
Santa Claus (legally changed from Frank Pascuzzi)
YEARS PLAYING SANTA 18
APPEARS ATWhite Post Farms, Melville (done for the season) and private parties
MOST REQUESTED TOY iPads
MOST UNUSUAL VISITOR "A leather-clad biker wanted me to sit on his lap."
WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN THEY ASK FOR YOUR SLEIGH? "I say I brought my truck because I didn't want to get called in as a UFO and buzzed down by fighter jets."
HOW DO YOU HANDLE A CRYING CHILD? "I speak quietly in a soft voice and assure them that everything is OK."
HOW DO YOU PROVE THAT YOU ARE REAL? "I show them that my beard is coming from my skin. I take off my hat to prove I have real white hair. I even let them see my driver's license and credit cards."
IN THE OFF SEASON Designs fire sprinkler systems and does barbecue catering.
Ernest A. Johnson
HOMETOWN Benson, Ariz.
YEARS PLAYING SANTA 33
APPEARS AT Smith Haven Mall from 3:30 to 9:30 p.m. (on site today)
HOW FAST CAN YOU MOVE THE LINE? "I can do everything in a 30-second lap per child."
MOST UNUSUAL REQUEST "One kid asked me to bring his presents to his aunt's house in Port Jefferson because his home got washed away from Sandy in the Rockaways."
WILDEST REQUEST "I had a kid ask me for a chain saw so he could cut up the trees that fell in his yard during the storm."
MOST COMMON QUESTION "Are you real?"
HOW DO YOU CONVINCE KIDS THAT YOU ARE REAL? "I let them feel my beard as long as they don't jerk it."
IN THE OFF SEASON "I restore antique wood-burning stoves and make gadgets out of metal."
HOMETOWN Fort Lauderdale
YEARS PLAYING SANTA 10
APPEARS AT Roosevelt Field mall, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (on site today)
MOST REQUESTED TOY Dolls, trucks, cars, Legos and electronic toys
MOST UNUSUAL VISITOR "I had an 89-year-old woman on my lap. When I asked what she wanted for Christmas, she just kept smiling at me. Then her daughter told me that her hearing aid was in her other ear."
FUNNIEST MOMENT "I had a set of triplets on my lap with antlers on their heads."
HOW DO YOU HANDLE A CRYING CHILD? "The trick is not to make quick movements. You have to move calmly."
WHAT DO YOU TELL UNCONVINCED KIDS? "I just say, 'What if you are wrong? Think of all the fun you are missing.' "
IN THE OFF SEASON "I rest."
YEARS PLAYING SANTA 14
APPEARS AT Newsday's Holiday Lights Festival, Thursday through Saturday, and private parties
MOST REQUESTED TOY iPhones, Beyblades, Skylanders Giants and Barbies
MOST IMPRESSIVE REQUEST "One little girl asked me for peace, hope and love for Christmas."
MOST OUTLANDISH REQUEST "Another little girl asked me for a million dollars."
DO KIDS GET SCARED OF YOU? "They either love you or they don't want to come near you."
HOW DO YOU PROVE THAT YOU ARE REAL? "I ask them, 'What do you think?' I present the best image that I can in order to be believable."
MOST COMMON QUESTION "Where's Rudolph?"
HAVE YOU EVER ENDED UP WITH A WET KNEE? "No, but I almost did. Luckily, I caught it in time."
IN THE OFF SEASON Works for Posillico construction