2014-12-11 / Mainsheet

Santa's Visits Keep Him On the Go All Month

By James Merolla


Two of Santa Claus' many Newport stops each day through Christmas Eve included a drive from Station One (above) to the Rotunda at Easton's Beach on Dec. 6 where he listened intently to about 100 children like Katelyn Varacalli of Newport (left). The night before, on Green Lane, at the Navy Base, Santa met families from the Middle East and elsewhere who told him, "You're the first Santa Clause we've ever seen.' Two of Santa Claus' many Newport stops each day through Christmas Eve included a drive from Station One (above) to the Rotunda at Easton's Beach on Dec. 6 where he listened intently to about 100 children like Katelyn Varacalli of Newport (left). The night before, on Green Lane, at the Navy Base, Santa met families from the Middle East and elsewhere who told him, "You're the first Santa Clause we've ever seen.' If it’s December in Newport and Middletown, the reindeer buck stops here, and there, and there and there.

It was a great privilege to follow Santa Claus around Aquidneck Island last weekend, the humble giant, much taller in person, warming up for the real work that follows on Dec. 24.

The Hibernians know this Santa well, as does the Fire Department, but Mrs. Claus, helping almost invisibly at St. Augustin’s Church Fair on Saturday, insisted on his anonymity– as if St. Nick could possibly remain anonymous.

Mrs. Claus, Susan to friends, cannot even count the years that Mr. Claus has come out of Hibernian hibernation to don one of his three freshly dry cleaned suits, costumes as authentic as he is, to delight children at schools, fairs, festivals, halls, and even the Rotunda at Easton’s Beach.

Susan Claus said her devoted spouse had an important evening stop on Friday, four stops on Saturday, and three on Sunday. Santa, she noted, makes up to seven stops each day in December through Christmas Eve.

That might not be staggering when one considers that Santa must stop and deliver presents in every good child’s home worldwide in just a single evening, but the almost hourly stops in Newport and Middletown are impressive nonetheless.

On Friday, Santa visited Green Lane in Navy housing. “There must have been more than 100 children,” he observed. “There were a lot of foreign students' children. One said to me, ‘You’re the first Santa Claus we’ve ever seen.’”

Santa greeted more than 50 youngsters at All Saints Academy in Middletown the first thing Saturday morning. From there, it was a visit to the St. Augustin’s church fair where he handed out bookmarks to CCD students who volunteered in the kitchen.

“This was a surprise?” he asked one little girl. “Good. It’s great to be surprised.” “You like school?” he asked another. “Are you having fun in school? Are you making friends?” The curly-haired child nodded. “Be proud of yourself,” said Santa. “You are very special. If you are proud of yourself, others will be too.”

Susan Claus secretly winks at her large bearded man bringing such good cheer. “At home, we fill bags up and put tags on the gifts that are appropriate for that age child. We visit family homes and I keep track of everyone’s names and the age of each child,” she said. “He’s so humble. He does this because he enjoys people.”

Mrs. Claus added that her Santa begins growing his winter beard in March. “I hate the beard,” she laughed. “But on the 25th, after he’s all done for the year with his rounds, at 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning, he’ll shave it off. So, it’s nine months with the beard and three months off. But I put up with it. When you see the kids’ eyes and see their eyes in his, you have to believe.”

After St. Augustin’s, Santa races off to Station One to visit the men he worked with secretly for more than 30 years. “These are my old friends,” said Santa, visiting with Chief Peter Connerton.

“Do you remember two years ago, when you had laryngitis?” the chief reminded Mr. Claus. “Oh, yes, I couldn’t speak and ate bananas to get my voice back,” said Santa. “A lot of opera singers eat bananas before they sing. It was hard to read ‘The Night Before Christmas’ at Hibernian Hall that year.

“I tell the kids, ‘You should learn something new every single day,’ ” winked Santa. As he passed the fireman’s pole, someone suggested placing those in chimneys to expedite Christmas Eve deliveries. “No,” said Santa., shaking his head, “I slid down those for 30 years.”

Stop after stop, the suit must not get sullied. Mr. and Mrs. Claus have a rule that children must wash their hands and face, as they did at the Rotunda, so not to smear the outfit. “I can’t get it all sticky. That’s not nice for the next child,” said Santa. “You have to have these suits dry cleaned.”

At noon, firemen escorted Santa to the Rotunda, siren sounding. He waved and chortled at passersby who waved back. Dozens of children were lined up inside and out to greet him, he met with each individually, dispensing advice and listening to their wishes. You could see their eyes in his.

After long hours, he dashed off again. On Sunday, it would be stops at Hibernian Hall, Wanumetonomy Golf Club and the Navy base once more. This weekend, his laughter at Fort Adams.

“He’s done it so long, it’s just routine,” said Susan Claus. “It’s what he does.”

Return to top