TRURO — Santa Claus is used to tough questions.
How, demanded one junior superfan, did Santa know to bequeath him a Star Wars figurine? Well, said Glenn Enos, a sergeant with the Provincetown Police Dept. who trades his blue uniform for a red one each December, Santa knows everything. Next?
How can he possibly fit down every chimney? What about small chimneys? What about an apartment without a chimney? Well, said John Slack — a formidably bearded teacher turned balloon artist slash magician slash Santa, in an answer so rehearsed he’s turned it into a video — he uses a magic key, mined by elves. Obviously.
Why is he driving a Honda Accord? What happened to the sled? Well, said Scott Galbraith (an Uber Eats driver, frozen yogurt machine cleaner, and professional magician who realized in a moment of clarity that “during the Christmas season, you get more work if you’re willing to put on a red suit”), the sled can only fly on Christmas Day. The other 364 days of the year, Santa’s like the rest of us — relegated to commercial flights and rental cars. Duh.
“Children are used to being lectured at, talked down to,” said Rhode Island-based Slack, a 15-year veteran of the profession, who contracts through Boston Party Adventures. “When Santa actually has a conversation with them, it stimulates a lot, and they open up in a really remarkable way. So, part of being a Santa is being able to field any question the children throw at you.”
In normal years, those questions span a predictable, if enormous, range. They verge from the magically probing (“Why don’t the reindeers get tired?”) to the entitled (requests for ponies) to more serious stuff. Slack remembers a visit to a women’s shelter at which a little girl asked him to “make Daddy stop hitting Mommy.”
This year, though, most everything about visiting Santa has changed. Hugging, lap-sitting, and photo opportunities sans masks evidently do not align with CDC guidelines. Most of Santa’s encounters have moved online or outdoors.
Slack and Galbraith, who usually travel all over Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and eastern Connecticut, now find themselves Zooming with families from New England to Hong Kong. Enos spent last Saturday morning at Truro Vineyards, greeting children from a safe distance, sporting a blue surgical mask over his beard. “I want to show the kids that there’s nothing wrong with wearing a mask,” he said. “I want to show them that if we all wear them, we can celebrate Christmas next year the way it should be done.”
So, holiday logistics have changed. So, too, have the sorts of answers that Santa has had to prepare. For example: are the elves socially distancing? The jury’s out on that one.
Enos offered a firm yes. “We’re distancing at the workshop,” he said. “We’re using hand sanitizer and all safety precautions at the North Pole, following the CDC guidelines and the equivalent guidelines all countries are providing their residents.” Slack, though, took a different approach. “Elves are immune to coronavirus,” he said. “They’re not human, and we don’t exchange diseases. We’re all very happy about that.” And Galbraith? “There’s no Covid in the North Pole,” he said. “No danger.”
The outlook was clearer for reindeer. All the Santas agreed that there exists, as of yet, no evidence of human-to-reindeer virus transmission, so reindeer can fly together with no worries and play their reindeer games in peace.
How about Santa himself? He is, by definition, a senior citizen and frontline worker with an unforgiving schedule and a weight problem — decidedly high risk. Most children across the country have been cut off from their grandparents this year, with warnings to stay away from the elderly. Have kids been confused about interacting with Santa in person?
“Actually,” Enos said, “I didn’t get a single question about that. They were all just too excited to see me.”