The Battalion. (College Station, Tex.) 1893-current, December 10, 1987, Image 19

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Eshenbaugh says. “A lot of
them come up and say they
love Jesus. I like knowing they
know the real meaning of
The fun and festivity of the
Christmas season is present all
because of the birth of Jesus,
and Eshenbaugh believes it is
important to be sure the
children do not forget this.
“The best part is seeing every
child happy and I try to be sure
they know what Christmas is
about,” he says. “I don’t say
anything (about Jesus) unless
they bring up the subject. But if
they do, I will relay to them
what it is all about — the birth
of Christ.”
One particularly touching
situation occurred when a
crippled girl came up to him
and he could sense her joy.
“She was about 10 or 11
years old and her parents got
her picture taken with Santa
each year,” Eshenbaugh says.
“They put her on my lap and it
brought tears to my eyes
because she couldn’t hold her
head up. Then they whistled
and she smiled. She was so
happy. ”
Being Santa Claus is a
learning experience for
Eshenbaugh and a lot goes in to
his preparation for each day’s
To prepare himself, he goes
to the community room at the
mall and meditates.
“I pray for about five minutes
and then get dressed up and go
out,” he says.
In addition to mental
preparation, Abshier had to
explain to his six-and seven-
year-old children (who still
believe in Santa) what he was
“We sat down and discussed
it one night because we knew a
problem would come up,” he
says. “We told them that Santa
has a lot of elves since he can’t
be everywhere at once. We said
we (Abshier and his wife) gather
the information and send it to
When a child has been to
another mall, he may wonder
why Santa is in both places. For
Abshier, the best answer is to
tell the child that the Santas in
the malls are elves.
“We have to figure out what
to say so we don’t contradict
what their parents have said, ”
he says. “As long as we are
general with them, we don’t
conflict much.”
Although Eshenbaugh’s five
children are older, he does have
a three-year-old grandson, who
doesmot know his grandfather
plays Santa, y v/.v • v/.v/
“When they first brought him
up he was scared and ran
away,” he says. “There was no
way he was coming up. But
we’ll try again later.”
This reaction was not
different from the reactions of
many children. Almost
everyone can remember being
frightened of Santa Claus at
some time or another, and
Abshier is no exception. He
says parents should not force
their children up to Santa
before they are ready.
“If they are scared, don’t
push them, ” Abshier says. “Let
them witness others on Santa’s
lap and visit him several times
before they actually sit in his
“If they have time to walk
around the mall, the child is
usually calmed down within two
or three visits. ”
Both the photographer and
the helper who takes him up to
Santa can help distract the child
so that a good photo can be
taken of a scared child.
The only thing Abshier
dislikes about the job is pushy
parents with screaming
children, because if the parents
insist on pictures, they have an
obligation to hold them.
“When parents shove the
kids up to us, they cause
problems for the Santa, the
child and onlookers, ” Abshier
Schwager says children
between the ages of IV2 and 3
are usually scared of Santa and
his jolly “Ho, Ho, Ho. ” By
watching the older kids their
fears seem to go away.
Eshenbaugh remembers one
particular Santa who made a
lasting impression on him as a
child and he tries to be like this
“I was a big boy and I always
told Santa I was too heavy to sit
on his lap,” he says. “The thing
that got me was when one
Santa said ‘you’re not that big,
so come sit on my lap.’ I tell the
kids now that I’fn'hig enough
and I can hold them all. ”'
As a child, Schwager’s father
was a captain in the Merchant
Marines and was rarely home
for Christmas. So when he got
back home they would
celebrate Christmas in
February, March or whenever
he came home.
“We couldn’t wake up to
Santa (on Christmas morning),
but we celebrated when he
came home, ” Schwager says.
“We’d have a tree and Santa
would come ring the door bell
and we’d find presents on the
porch. ”
Each year children must
prepare a list of gifts.
Eshenbaugh says most children
see Santa as someone who
brings them presents, so they
like to visit him. Children really
enjoy Santa Claus.
“When I walk out into the
mall, I am always surrounded, ”
he says.
Although most children ask
for toys, Eshenbaugh had an
unique request earlier this week
from one little girl.
“She said ‘I love you, Santa
Claus, and I love Jesus.’ She
wanted love for Jesus and love
for her family for Christmas, ”
he says. “I think that is
fantastic. ”
Schwager had one little boy
ask him for a paddle for
“When I asked him why, he
said, ‘so I can paddle myself
and my parents won’t have
to,”’ Schwager says. “Another
kid asked for $2 so he could go
to Pizza Hut.”
Abshier believes almost all
kids want toys, but they usually
forget which ones they want by
the time they visit Santa. When
this happens, he tells them to
write a letter to Santa.
“I tell them to write a letter so
I won’t mix their toys up with
other kids’ toys, ” Abshier says.
“By doing this, they list exactly
what they want and allow their
parents to know what they
want. ”
He thinks children look at
Santa as superstar figure.
“They look up to him like
"It's great to know that in this cruel
world with all the imperfections,
there is still something the kids can
believe in. You really nave to
believe in yourself, because you
are Santa."
— Bobby Schwager, junior Russian
they look up to Superman or
some hero,” Abshier says.
“They want to know how he
gets down the chimney or if the
beard is real. The best defense
is to take the offense and ask
them if their hair is real. ”
Schwager says the kids
believe what Santa Claus says
means more than what their
parents say. Santa works with
the parents to remind the
children to behave all year.
“When I go to the houses
and know specific things they
have done all year, they believe
Santa really does know
everything, ” Schwager says.
“Santa is a big power. The
parents say, ‘see, he does
know. ’ They really do look up
to you. ”
Schwager can’t foresee the
Christmas when he will not play
“I will keep doing it for as
long as I can, ” he says. “I will
probably do it for my own
Abshier has enjoyed being
Santa this year and will
probably do it again.
“I enjoy the photography
work more, though, ” he says. “I
also enjoy taking them up to
Santa. The helper who puts
them on his lap can make or
break the kid’s attitude. If they
are approached right from the
beginning, any screaming child
can be calmed down. ”
Because four Santas
alternate at Post Oak Mall,
Abshier and Schwager do not
have to work as often as
Eshenbaugh, who is at his job
six hours on weekdays, 10
hours on Saturdays and three
hours on Sundays. Beginning
on Dec. 16, Eshenbaugh will be
at the mall from 10 hours a day
on Monday through Saturday
and three hours on Sunday.
“This gets hectic, and
sometimes you really need to
get up and stretch the old legs, ”
he says.
Schwager believes being
Santa is not for everyone
because the job requires a lot of
“You can only get out of it
what you put into it, ” Schwager
says. “You are Santa and you
have to live up to the
expectations. I get a lot out of it;
it is real enjoyable. ”
Being Santa involves a lot
more than simply attaching a
white beard and stuffing a red
suit with pillows. A love for
children and patience are
necessary to live up to the
expectations of the children.
Those people who decide to
play this role certainly believe
the reactions of the happy
children make the entire task