Being ?Santa? generates lots of questions and patience



For the past three weeks, Don Chamberlain of Hillsboro has been spending his weekends listening to what children want for Christmas, posing for photographs and ho-ho-hoing to a lot of people.

Chamberlain, now in his seventh year of playing Santa Claus, said he does it because he looks the part.

?I look like (Santa) with my full white beard,? he said, also grinning at his belly.

In addition, he said he enjoys interacting with children and their parents whenever and wherever he is asked to take on the Santa persona.

When he?s not on a Santa assignment, Chamberlain works at the Hillsboro Ampride where, during the holidays, he may not be in his suit and boots but will sometimes wear a red hat.

?One little feller, who has Down syndrome, used to come into the store a couple of years ago, and when I was working around Christmas he would ask if I was Santa.

?When I said, ?yes,? he would hold his belly and say, ?ho ho ho,? and then ask me for a hug.?

With 50 or more appearances as Kris Kringle in his seven years, Chamberlain is familiar with the experience.


Tough questions

Although some people might think being Santa is easy, he said he gets asked a lot of questions in addition to finding out what a child wants for Christmas.

Chamberlain said he knows what to say when he?s asked about life at the North Pole.

?I say Rudolph and the other reindeer are doing fine.?

He often names Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen in his conversations.

?When I am asked about the elves and Mrs. Claus, I will say, ?Oh, they are all working at the North Pole.??

Some curious children even wonder how Santa got to Hillsboro, so Chamberlain offers an explanation.

?I will tell them I took a train or bus because there is no snow here yet and it?s not cold enough.?

Every so often, a child will ask if he is the ?real? Santa.

On one such occasion, Chamberlain said the little boy?s mother decided to answer the question for him by saying he was Fred, Santa?s brother.

Putting children at ease

Even when he?s dressed in a Santa suit and black boots, Chamberlain said some children are still skeptical of him.

?Some are even scared, but usually parents will sit there and try to get on my lap with them,? he said.

As for requests, Chamber?lain said some children have asked for ponies, horses and other unique gifts.

?Whatever the request, I always say I will see what we can do.?

Chamberlain said he never promises the children anything, but normally the parents are looking and listening to their child?s wish list.

A good outlook

One important element of playing Santa, Chamberlain said, is having a good attitude by being jovial and caring.

?I have had whole families sit on my lap and it?s fun,? he said.

Chamberlain couldn?t even begin to guess how many children have sat in his lap over the years, many with their parents.

?It?s more than 100 children and parents posing for photos,? he said, ?and I imagine some of those pictures end up on Facebook.?

Chamberlain said he doesn?t remember ever visiting as a child with Jolly Old Saint Nick.

?That might be a reason why I do it, but I also look the part so I might as well play the part,? he said. ?I will keep doing it because it?s fun, and one way to spread the Christmas spirit.?

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