First person: Santa’s coming to town

CNJ staff photo: Liliana Castillo Jim Craven has donned a red crushed velvet suit and a matching red hat to fill Santa’s shoes for 11 years.

Jim Craven has donned a red crushed velvet suit and a matching red hat to fill Santa’s shoes at Roden-Smith Pharmacy and about 40 other engagements during the Christmas season for 11 years.

Wanted: Santa: Eleven years ago, my brother was Santa in Amarillo. He was having health issues and was getting to the point where he couldn’t be there every day. So I grew out a beard, but by the time I started to look like Santa, I had so many bookings I couldn’t help him. I was Santa in Amarillo for six years and have been Santa at Roden-Smith for the past five years.

To be Santa: If you want to do this job, you have to like kids. All kinds of kids. You must look like Santa, and you must act like Santa.

Kids say the darndest things: I really enjoy the kids being Santa. It’s so precious what they tell you. Some things are very funny, and some aren’t. Some things you shouldn’t know, but they want to tell Santa. There is such a soft side to a child. Santa can find that soft side, not always, but usually Santa can find it.

One girl asked me why I wear such a big belt. I told her it was to hold up my big pants. One boy sat on my lap and said, “You aren’t Santa, you’re Uncle Mike.” I happened to know Uncle Mike, and he had just walked up, and I said “No, that’s Uncle Mike.” The boy had the most astonished look on his face.

One time me and my wife went out to dinner and she had dark hair, and the waitress came over and said a little boy was worried because I was out with another woman. We went home that day, and my wife threw out all her hair dye and became Mrs. Claus.

Year-round profession: All year round I have kids wanting to tell me what they want for Christmas. I’ll never deny a kid because I look at it more as a ministry. They need to know what Christmas is all about. It’s not just Santa, it’s also about Jesus. Sometimes, I’ll have a kid tell me their dad has cancer and they want to me fix it. I tell them there is a higher power than Santa and I will talk to him about it in my prayers.

Summer Santa: During the summer me and the wife take a cruise, play golf. Just try to relax. I have Santa bookings from the Sunday before Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve. For the first few days after Christmas, I just put my feet up.

Compiled by CNJ staff writer Liliana Castillo