Playing Santa Claus for Ark City’s “Merry Monday” is something my family and I look forward to every year. My wife of course portrays Mrs. Claus and my son takes on the role of Elf Ebenezer Sugarcane. 

Each year a special essay contest is held. The subject is always, “What Christmas Means To Me” and the winner will throw the switch to illuminate the community tree and all of the downtown decorations. 

The contest winner, Santa, Mrs. Santa and their elf, are picked up by a beautiful horse drawn carriage, and transported to the stage downtown. It’s always an exciting moment as we do the countdown and all of the holiday lights suddenly come to life in a blaze of glory. 

Once that ceremony is complete, we take our place in a special reserved area to visit with the children and pose for photos. Talking to the children is always our favorite part. My wife lives for the opportunity to hold and cuddle the babies. 

We never know what to expect. Something new and different happens every year. As I was leaving the stage; a young boy stopped me in my tracks, shouted my name and demanded answers. He wanted to know why I came to Ark City every year, and why I spent so much time here instead of the North Pole. He also wanted to discuss the scientific impossibility of being able to travel around the world in just one night. I was actually glad that I had to cut that visit short. I could see he was going to back me into a corner with his questions, and he was going to require concrete proof for any answers I would give.

The children are so much fun. Some come running to you and literally throw themselves into your arms. Others stand shyly at a distance, not quite sure whether to trust you or not. Some scream in terror when their parents approach me, and do everything they can to escape. 

I don’t like to frighten a child. That is not what Santa is about. It always bothers me when a parent will take a child who is obviously terrified, and try to force them into my lap for a photo. I do understand your desire to have a photo of your child with Santa, but it is not worth causing the child so much distress. 

Each year I discover that I really need to work harder to stay informed on the current popular toys. My youngest is about to turn 19, and even my grandkids are teenagers. I don’t know anything about the toys that small children play with. When the children tell me what they want, I have to pretend that I know what they are talking about. 

Most of the time I have no clue.

Video games, computers, cell phones and hover boards are always high on the list for many children. Most are quick to tell you what they want, and some have very long lists. One child walked up and without a word, handed me his list. 

Others are hesitant, or simply don’t know what they want. I was surprised at the number of children who stood contemplating the question for what seemed a long time, and then told me they didn’t know. Perhaps seeing Santa, the number one giver of gifts, the big guy himself, just overwhelms them. 

A lot of children asked for horses. I lost track of how many times that night I had to discuss the logistics of giving large animals. As I explained, I am unable to bring anything that won’t fit in the bag on my sleigh, or is too big to go down the chimney. We also discussed the mess those animals would make in my sleigh. I had to go over the same statistics again when a young lad requested a new tractor for his dad. We discussed the load limits of the sleigh, and the maximum pulling power of the reindeer and then agreed that it just would not work.

One young lady wanted a dragon. We didn’t bother to discuss the fact that real dragons do not exist. We did consider the dangers of having an animal in the house that breathed fire. She finally decided it would be best to settle for a small toy dragon. 

There are always children who tug at your heart. Every year I find myself wishing I could do more than just pretend to be Santa and pose for photos. One small boy asked for a few small items, and then asked if I could bring his grandmother back. When I asked him where she was living, he told me she’d had a stroke and he wanted to have her back the way she was before. All I could do was give him a hug and tell him I hoped she would be better soon. 

One small girl, who appeared to be all by herself, quietly approached us. She requested shoes, nothing else. Just shoes. My wife wanted to know what type. She said she wanted tennis shoes, because hers were full of holes. 

They were in pretty bad shape. If we could have known who she was, her size and how to get them to her, we would have personally granted that wish faster than a reindeer can fly. 

We also had several teenagers visit us. They were having a good time, and we laughed along with them. But then one young man quietly told us that the only thing he wanted was to be loved. He said his family loved him, but he didn’t have many friends at school. 

For my wife, my elf and myself, the worst part of Merry Monday is when the line of children waiting to see us is finally gone, and the evening comes to an end. We look forward to the event all year long, and it is here and gone in a matter of minutes. We can’t wait until next year. I think instead of just a Merry Monday, maybe we should have a whole week of merriment. 

Mrs. Claus and Elf Ebenezer Sugarcane would probably agree.

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or

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