NPR Story
2:34 pm
Mon January 27, 2014

What Santa Does When Christmas Is Over

Content Advisory: If Santa is real to your kids, this story may not be suitable for them.

It’s a month after Christmas, and in parts of the nation, the Santas are gathering for some rumination. From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Phoebe Judge of WUNC has the story of what professional Santas do when Christmas is over.

It was a normal night at the Golden Corral Buffet and Restaurant off Highway 65 in Durham, North Carolina. Men and women just getting off of work were there to have their dinners, with families taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat dessert line.

But in the rear of the restaurant, in a private room with the windows papered over to protect the identity of those inside, are the Triangle Santa Buddies. They’re meeting for the first time since the big day. What do a bunch of professional Santas have to say to one another? A lot, it turns out.

We need a month to recover because it is really strenuous.
– Santa Billy Davis

The Triangle Santa Buddies has been around for the last 10 years with the purpose of providing resources and support to the men who spend a portion of each year as Santa.

They make sure that anyone in the area who wants a Santa can have one. It’s like a network. If Santa Jim is booked for a company Christmas party, he can call Santa Bob to go down to the local tree lighting ceremony. Most of the Santas in the room tonight are exhausted.

“We need a month to recover because it is really strenuous,” says Santa Billy Davis from Garner. “A lot of times you are sitting for two or three hours. You are worn out from lifting kids. You need some time off, you know. So we wait about a month and then we come back and we sort of debrief.”

Tonight’s meeting is being led by Santa Al Capeheart, who seems to exude all the qualities of Santa — from round belly to red cheeks — so perfectly that I had a hard time remembering that this man does not actually live in the North Pole but in a small town called Pittsboro, just down the road.

Santas often work 13 hours days, six or seven days a week, the full month of December. But it’s not just the time investment, it’s also financial. Colleen Yueker, who also happily goes by Mrs. Claus, is married to a professional Santa.

“Right now he has a minimum of four suits, I have my outfit, plus he has his boots, he has gloves, he has his makeup and, well, you have to have your hair done,” Yueker says. “So yes, there is some money involved in it. But that’s not — it’s just the pure joy that he gets from doing it. That is his Christmas present to himself.”

As a group, the Santas work through issues, like how to guarantee parking right outside a venue, how not to get sick and how to deal with difficult parents who won’t rest until they get the perfect smile.

Some bizarre things also come up during the meeting. One Santa relates a story about a girl who asked for a guinea pig and a snake so she could feed the guinea pig to the snake, and another shares a story about an 8-year-old girl who asked for puberty.

But they take their jobs really seriously. For example, they debate which dry cleaner best cares for the delicate fur on a Santa suit. The Triangle Santa Buddies meets on the third Wednesday of each month all year long. Next month there will be a presentation by a mechanical and aerospace engineer about how Santa pulls off his worldwide flight each year. After that, on April 16th, there will be a tutorial on how to pose more successfully in photographs.

But really, the overwhelming sense is that this group of men are just trying to figure out a way to make it through the doldrums of May and August, anxiously waiting for the Christmas season to come around again.

Reporter

Copyright 2014 WBUR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.wbur.org.

Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

It's a month after Christmas, and in parts of the nation, the Santas are gathering for some rumination. OK, my most sincere apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, but HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, WUNC's Phoebe Judge does have the story of what professional Santas in North Carolina do when Christmas is over. And, fair warning, if Santa is real to your kids, let them hold on to the magic a little while longer. This story may not be right for them.

PHOEBE JUDGE, BYLINE: It was a normal night at the Golden Corral Buffet and Restaurant off Highway 55 in Durham, North Carolina. Men and women just getting off of work were there to have their dinners, with families taking advantage of the all-you-can-eat dessert line. But in the rear of the restaurant, a private room with the windows papered over to protect the identity of those inside.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Ho, ho, ho. Ho, ho, ho. Ho, ho, ho.

JUDGE: It's the Triangle Santa Buddies, meeting for the first time since the big day. What do a bunch of professional Santas have to say to one another? A lot, it turns out.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: The first thing I had to do is trim my mustache. I wouldn't have food all stuck in it.

LEE HUMPHRIES: My name is Lee Humphries. I'm from Oxford, North Carolina. I cut mine back. And then in June or July, I'll start growing it again.

JUDGE: The Triangle Santa Buddies have been around for the last 10 years, with a purpose of providing resources and support to the men who spend a portion of each year as Santa. They make sure that anyone in the area who wants a Santa can have one. It's like a network. If Santa Jim is booked for a company Christmas party, he can call Santa Bob to go down to the local tree lighting ceremony. Most of the Santas in the room tonight are exhausted.

BILLY DAVIS: Yeah. We need a month to recover, because it's really strenuous.

JUDGE: This is Santa Billy Davis from Garner.

DAVIS: A lot of times, you're sitting for two or three hours. You're worn out from lifting kids, and it's just - you need some time off, you know. And then - so we wait about a month, and then we come back and we sort of debrief.

JUDGE: Tonight's meeting is being led by Santa Al Capeheart, who seems to exude all the qualities of Santa - from round belly to red cheeks - so perfectly that I had a hard time remembering that this man does not actually live in the North Pole, but in a small town called Pittsboro, just down the road.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: I, Santa, will seek knowledge to be well-versed in the mysteries of bringing Christmas cheer and goodwill to all the people that I encounter in my journeys and travels.

JUDGE: Santas often work 13-hour days, six or seven days a week, the full month of December. It's not just the time investment. It's also financial. Colleen Yueker, who also happily goes by Mrs. Claus, is married to a professional Santa.

COLLEEN YUEKER: Right now, he has a minimum of four suits. I have my outfit. Plus, he has his boots. He has gloves. He has his makeup and, well, you have to have your hair done. Just like a lady, you have to have your hair done. And he has a certain makeup. So, yes, there is some money involved in it. But that's not - it's just the joy, pure joy that he gets from doing it. That's his Christmas present to himself.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Problem: Finding parking near the entrance to a venue. Solution: Ask client to put a traffic cone in a space near the door.

JUDGE: As a group, the Santas work through issues, like how not to get sick.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: I make sure that I walk, exercise regularly between sets. And I take vitamins. And I try to keep the children away from - at least six or eight inches away from my beard and my face.

JUDGE: And dealing with difficult parents who won't rest until they get the perfect smile.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: That is not a smile. Give me a real smile. And, of course, the child is having the time of his life. He's so excited. And the time the parent browbeats them to death about their smile, I mean, they're depressed. They don't even want to see Santa anymore. And that is - dealing with that is difficult.

JUDGE: There's also bizarre things that come up in the meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: I had a little girl give me a letter. And I'm reading her letter, and she goes, Santa, this is all I want for Christmas: a snake and a guinea pig. And I go: What are you going to do with a snake and a guinea pig? Knowing what she was going to say. She says, I'm going to feed the guinea pig to the snake.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: And I'm going, wow. We can't do that.

JUDGE: Which was immediately followed by this.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #6: There was this little girl come in, 8 years old, cute as a button. So she sits on my leg and I said: What would you like for Christmas? And she crosses her arms, and she starts going like this. And she goes, I'm not really sure of all the things that I might want this year. But there's one thing I definitely want. She looks at me straight-faced and she goes - just 8 years old - I want puberty.

JUDGE: But they take their jobs really seriously. For example, they debate which drycleaner best cares for the delicate fur on a Santa suit. The Triangle Santa Buddies meet on the third Wednesday of each month, all year long. Next month, a presentation by a mechanical and aerospace engineer will be explaining just how Santa pulls off his worldwide flight each year, and after that, on April 16th, a tutorial on how to pose more successfully in photographs.

But really, the overwhelming sense is that this group of men are just trying to figure out a way to make it through the doldrums of May and August, anxiously waiting.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: I hate for it to close.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #7: So - but we - I just have so much fun doing it.

JUDGE: For HERE AND NOW, I'm Phoebe Judge, in Durham, North Carolina.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus right down Santa Claus Lane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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