Yahoo! asked writers from Yahoo! Contributor Network to interview Santa--he of the mall or other festive location. Here's one Q&A we published.
In LaGrange, Ga., an hour south of downtown Atlanta, I went in search of a mall Santa and a story. He's normally in a central location in the LaGrange Mall, but Santa changed gears this year by setting up shop in a former Friedman's Jewelry, complete with a workshop background and photo option for portraits, ranging from $4 to $20. Special events included pictures with Santa, kids, and even pets. He agreed to an interview between visits of delighted kids.
"Do you want me to use your real name, or an alias?" I asked.
"An alias will do," the mall Santa replied, his Georgia accent subtle, but still noticeable.
"So what should I call you, then?" I inquired.
He thought about it. "How about the alias that Superman uses?"
We settled on "Clark Kringle." Let's call his younger female co-worker, the photographer, "Holly Day."
Q: What ages of kids stop by? Who are the oldest kids you get and who are the youngest ones?
Clark: The usual age we get is about 7 to 8 years old. Sometimes we find some as young as 4, but younger than that and they get pretty scared. After 9, they stop believing or wanting pictures, but you'll find a few over 18 who want to get in pictures, if they're with their friends.
What are the hours like during the holidays? When do you start and when do you finish? Do you have to work longer on Christmas Eve?
Clark: We work here more than nine hours, afternoons through evening throughout December, even on weekdays, from 11 a.m. on Christmas Eve, though we only work until 6 p.m.
Why did you decide to become a mall Santa? Do you have any memories of mall Santas?
Clark: I do it because I love the kids. I remember coming here when I was four or five years old, around the time the mall opened. Back then, it was called the West Georgia Mall Commons. But I still remember seeing Santa there.
Holly: I even remember coming to the mall when I was a kid too, about that same age.
Do you have a favorite holiday movie? Do you like the movie "A Christmas Story?"
Clark: Nah, I like the one the kids like: "Polar Express."
Holly: My favorite is "Miracle on 34th Street," the one in black and white.
What are the types of requests you get? Do you get asked for unusual things, or traditional presents? Ever get any heartwarming pleas?
Clark: Usually I get kids asking for horses or ponies. If they have a modern-style gift, they ask for specific [ones], like a certain type of Nintendo Wii. One time, a kid whispered to me that he wanted his family back together again. I wasn't sure what to say, but I said Santa would see what he could do.
Just then, we saw two parents and their child walking past. The mom tried to get her daughter to see the mall Santa, but she ducked behind her mom's leg.
"She looks like she's about 18 months or so," Holly observed.
Finally, Mom and Dad gave up, and walked on. As the little girl to glance back one last time, the three of us waved. She gave a quick little wave, then joined her parents. You could see why the two seemed to enjoy their work, for the Christmas moments like those.
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