Each year during the holiday season fat men in red suits trimmed in white make appearances in parades, at malls, and on TV. Rumors about this man who is called by a variety of names including Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus, or just Santa, abound. The interviews and research conducted for this “Christmas Day Exposé” look at whether this purported bringer of “good cheer” is fact or fiction.
For nearly 200 years, tradition has told us that Santa lives at the North Pole and through some form of magic, delivers gifts around the world to good boys and girls. There are even rumors of some sort of massive database that tracks child behavior and called the “naughty and nice” list. Is this man real or is this a massive con game run for some unknown purpose?
Hank Phillippi Ryan (www.hankphillippiryan.com) is an award-winning author as well as an investigative reporter with 27 Emmys and 10 Edgar R. Murrow Awards for her work in journalism. She has followed this story almost from the beginnings of her journalism career. “Years ago, as a general assignment reporter, I covered many a Christmas story watching kids open presents—and, interviewing them, they certainly believed they were from Santa. Who could argue with that? Kids know, right? Now, as an investigative reporter, I’ve learned to rely on what I see, what I hear, what people tell me, and tangible results. And of course, as a journalist, I have to give both sides of the story. Ah—Are there two sides to this one?”
Freelance writer and Founding Editor of the California Journal of Women Writers Jennifer Carter (journalwomenwriters.wordpress.com) said, “My daughter has been a key witness to Santa’s appearance during the holidays. Not only has she had the opportunity to meet him, but she has also received several gifts on her wish list that she explicitly wrote for Santa’s eyes only.”
If anyone would be willing to argue the facts for this article, it would be an attorney. Leslie Budewitz (www.lawandfiction.com) is an attorney and the author of “Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure.” Budewitz’s passion is helping writers portray the law and legal proceedings accurately. She said, “Santa — fact or fiction? Fact. Definitely fact. Because facts go beyond what is literally true to the metaphoric truth. In each of us, there’s a fat man in a red suit who flies around the world on the darkest night of the year, bringing good cheer and hot cocoa to us all . . . And I’m a true believer.”
Eyewitness accounts are notoriously inaccurate, so the most compelling evidence of all comes from the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which tracks Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. Their website says that “media from all over the world rely on NORAD as a trusted source to provide updates on Santa’s journey.” As of the writing of this article (Dec. 24, 9:30 a.m. PST), their monitoring shows Santa in Ahmedabad, India.
The NORAD website (www.noradsanta.org) describes how the Santa project started. “The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa.” Sadly, NORAD’s first Santa tracker, Col. Harry Shoup, passed away in 2009. However, his legacy lives on as men and women in the organization volunteer their time to answer phone calls and emails from children around the world.
According to Carter, Santa may also have multiple modes of transportation. She said, “On more than one occasion I have personally seen Santa Claus—at the mall, the car dealership, even behind the wheel of a ’71 Ford Pinto.” While I’ve never seen Santa in a Ford Pinto, maybe the Christmas spirit is real, alive, and well. I hope the fat man in the red suit comes again next year—I’ll be waiting.
Terry Ambrose (terryambrose.com) is a mystery author with an interest in scams and cons. In the spirit of the holidays, his recently published anthology, “Life’s Shorts,” is available free on Christmas day on Amazon.com. The anthology is a collection of short stories and vignettes on life, Hawaiian style, and is peppered with a twist of grumpy.