Each holiday season, when the boys have their annual encounter with Santa Claus, Sam very seriously studies the Big Guy and reports back to me. "It's a fake beard," he'll murmer surreptitiously, out of the corner of his mouth. "I can see the elastic behind his ear. Definitely not the real guy." Other years, he says: "Hmmm...that's a real beard. I can tell. Maybe that's really Santa." His pure yet astute observations always touch my heart.
That's why - on a Holiday Wishes assignment - I was tickled to learn that there is an actual group called The Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, committed to making dreams come true. The 1300 members take an oath, promising to make all of their visits with children good and memorable experiences.
The "Real Bearded Santa" pictured recently made an appearance at the Franciscan Life Center's annual Christmas Fair in Meriden.
"I think it's very magical. The first time a child really gets up on Santa's knee and talks to him, that's the Santa that they always remember and cherish," he said. "And, it's our job to make sure we do a good job."
Sometimes this St. Nick sees 15,000 kids per year!
Members of the group, which was established in 1994, get together at conventions and "Red Suit Round Tables", making for an excellent photo-op!