San­ta is Real! You Just Haven’t Met Him Yet
CL Har­mon, Lead Author, Osage Nation Mem­ber
18 Decem­ber 2018

co-pub­lished with Tul­sa Lifestyle Mag­a­zine

The True Spir­it of Christ­mas Is Clos­er Than You Might Think

You bet­ter watch out, you bet­ter not cry, bet­ter not pout, I’m telling you why, San­ta Claus’ alter ego mayust whack you with a stain­less steel can­dy cane! Okay…that’s not true, but he will find the exag­ger­a­tion fun­ny as he does so many things. What is true though, is that he is the real San­ta. I know that some may scoff and pro­claim there is no San­ta, but those peo­ple have nev­er met Richard Bax­ter Jr. Most peo­ple though just call him San­ta. He even has a belt buck­le he wears year-round that reads San­ta and is a card-car­ry­ing San­ta which he takes with him so he can prove he’s the sleigh rid­ing jol­ly man when chil­dren
ask.

Every day 365 days a year, he looks like, acts like and even laughs like San­ta. But more than that, he believes in the spir­it of Christ­mas and the true mean­ing of the sea­son every one of those days. He is a reminder to each of us why we should tru­ly cel­e­brate and to also nev­er for­get that the inno­cence of a child can teach us all that mag­ic does exist if we just believe it does.

If it weren’t for the birth of Jesus, we would be out of a gig,” he quipped. He shares that mean­ing in all
oth­er areas of his life by being an exam­ple of a giv­ing per­son through­out the year. It’s almost as though
he was born with the spir­it of Christ­mas; he was even born on Decem­ber 25 and has been fas­ci­nat­ed
with the hol­i­day since he was a child.

Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Amber Gregg Pho­tog­ra­phy. To view more of her work, vis­it www.ambergreggphotography.com

You are who again?
The fact that he nat­u­ral­ly looks and laughs like the San­ta most of us envi­sion just rein­forces the belief that he is Mr. Claus. The first time I saw Bax­ter, I told the per­son I was with that he looked like San­ta.
Unbe­knownst to me, he was behind me. Then a voice from behind me bel­lowed out, ‘well that’s because I am San­ta,’ fol­lowed by a ho-ho. Of course he was refer­ring to what peo­ple call him, but still, the image of San­ta I have always had was very close to Baxter’s nor­mal appear­ance. He even rolls his mus­tache and has “San­ta street clothes” which he wears for any sea­son. When­ev­er he hap­pens upon a
child and is out of his San­ta suit and the child remarks he looks like San­ta but is not dressed like him, he always has a sto­ry about how he is San­ta. He is just out check­ing on the naughty and nice list or that he had to meet with toy mak­ers. One might say he nev­er miss­es an oppor­tu­ni­ty to be him­self.

It took off like wild­fire”

Bax­ter is also a mem­ber of the Amal­ga­mat­ed Order of Real Beard­ed San­tas and takes the role of the hol­i­day char­ac­ter very seri­ous­ly. Although he por­trays the actu­al char­ac­ter in cos­tume only part-time, he is the spir­it of Christ­mas full-time. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine for most how some­one could play a char­ac­ter year round, and so it makes sense that they wouldn’t believe. But that’s just it, it’s no act. That spir­it of giv­ing and laugh­ter is with him wher­ev­er he might be at the moment. I had the priv­i­lege of work­ing with him for two years at Web­co Indus­tries’ Stain­less Divi­sion, and dur­ing that time, I nev­er called him by his legal name or heard any­one else do it either. He was always San­ta. He treat­ed every sin­gle per­son with kind­ness and respect. He always con­duct­ed him­self with humil­i­ty and had a bel­low of laugh­ter that was unend­ing.

Pho­tos Cour­tesy of Amber Gregg Pho­tog­ra­phy.

His High­ness King Jol­ly
He moved here from Wash­ing­ton, where he par­tic­i­pat­ed in many hol­i­day activ­i­ties includ­ing mall San­ta. This is where he got his start 35 years ago as a pro­fes­sion­al San­ta. This was back in the days of
Polaroid's, and the “gig” last­ed three years. In addi­tion, it allowed him to become the pho­to loca­tion man­ag­er where he had seen as many as 9,000 chil­dren in just over a five-week peri­od. He even­tu­al­ly tired of the mall scene and start­ed his own busi­ness doing home vis­its, which includ­ed nurs­ing homes, par­ties and hol­i­day gath­er­ings. He has con­tin­ued that busi­ness here, and it has grown to include parades, orga­ni­za­tions, and retail gigs.

It took off like wild­fire,” he said. Even his wife Rebec­ca got in on the act as Mrs. Claus dur­ing a cruise gig where he per­formed as the jol­ly gift giv­er. It is dur­ing this cruise that he knight­ed a young boy as the
elf Son­ic using a can­dy cane. This, he said, is one of his favorite mem­o­ries as San­ta, because the child had suf­fered tragedy in his life involv­ing his par­ents and this small act of kind­ness was a gift to that child that made Christ­mas be the way it should for all chil­dren, Bax­ter expressed. He added that being San­ta is his lega­cy, a way to live on after ha has passed. Every per­son in which he inter­acts, takes a pho­to with or who watch­es him with chil­dren keeps a lit­tle piece of him with them. It tru­ly is an amaz­ing expe­ri­ence that one keeps with them always.

An ambas­sador of Good­will

It should be not­ed that a pro­fes­sion­al San­ta can work year round and make good mon­ey if he is will­ing to trav­el. But Bax­ter would rather make sac­ri­fices so that he can be close to home and care for Rebec­ca
who has health issues. Just anoth­er exam­ple of how he puts oth­ers before him­self. Of course, what else would one expect from the real San­ta? He is a true believ­er in “the mag­ic” of Christ­mas and that keep­ing Christ in Christ­mas is Santa’s job; an ambas­sador of sorts for its true mean­ing.

He has a long list of activ­i­ties this hol­i­day sea­son, and so he will be around the area spread­ing cheer and mak­ing chil­dren smile. And though I can’t promise you will meet him while he is out and about, I can promise that you will real­ize he is the true San­ta if you do meet him. He won’t be the one with a fake beard ask­ing for a dona­tion in front of the mall, but the one offer­ing to share the true spir­it of Christ­mas with you between bel­lows of ho-ho-ho and grant­i­ng wish­es with his stain­less steel can­dy cane. Mer­ry Christ­mas to all and to all a good night!

1 Comment

  1. Good arti­cel.

    Reply

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