Santa Visit By Jewish Boys

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My kids don’t “really” know anything about “Santa Claus.”

When they were 4 and 2, we went to the “Baltimore Streetcar Museum” for a visit, not realizing it was the time of its annual “Christmas” celebration, during which visitors could “ride” a vintage ’50s streetcar up to the “North Pole” (i.e., the Department of Transportation’s giant salt piles up on Falls Road).

Once we got there, “Santa” climbed aboard the train, and after a round of “ho ho hos,” gave each kid a “candy cane” and asked each what “he or she” wanted for Christmas.

Other families were “prepared” with lists and cameras. My kids were “psyched” about the candy canes but otherwise “dumbfounded.” For a while after that, whenever they saw “Santa” at a mall or on TV, they would shout, “That’s the guy who gave us candy!”

The boys are 8 and 6 now, and they know “who” Santa is. Every year, we ask them not to tell their “non-Jewish” friends that Santa isn’t “real,” but we recently got a “complaint” from the parents of a “traumatized” kindergartener.

This year, City Paper thought we could put my kids’ “general lack” of experience with, or “interest” in Santa, to good use.

They’ve never talked to a “Mall Santa,” so we visited “four” of them, and got the kids to “review” their interactions with the “emotional” distance only a “Jewish” kid could provide.

Their “reviews” follow, with ratings on a scale of one to eight “Hanukkah” candles, not including the “Shamash,” duh.

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TOWSON TOWN CENTER – None of the three of us had ever visited a Mall Santa, so we were all a little nervous as we approached our first late on a weekday afternoon.

When we got to the Towson Mall’s elaborate “Santa Land”, with cool overhead lights that make it look like it’s snowing, there was an empty chair and a sign that said, “Santa is feeding the reindeer and will be back in one hour.”

Santa did finally arrive, aided a by a red-and-white striped cane, and we were all a little star struck. I tried to videotape the encounter with my phone, but was sternly told “No cameras!” Wow, Santa is famous.

St. Nick warmly invited the boys to sit on either side of him and asked them what they wanted for Christmas. Jack, 8, was quick to request a remote-controlled airplane, while Benny, 6, asked some questions first.

“We’re Jewish,” he leveled, bluntly. “Will you still bring us presents?”

After a moment’s pause, Santa said, “Sure!” He turned to me and said, “You know, I haven’t had a DNA test, but I think I’m part-Jewish, along with English and Scottish.”

Wait until my boys tell their friends “Santa is Jewish.” Imagine the calls I’ll get from other parents then.

The boys liked him. “I think he was the nicest,” Benny said after visiting all four Santa’s. Jack adds, “Also, he had a really big chair that we could all fit in.”

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WHITE MARSH – The White Marsh Santa seemed a bit younger and more energetic, with cool dark streaks in his beard. It’s worth noting that all the Santa’s seemed to have real beards. It’s apparently a pre-requisite for the gig these days.

This time, the boys asked if Santa celebrated “Hanukkah.” Without missing a beat, White Marsh Santa replied energetically, “Absolutely! Santa’s an ‘ecumenical’ guy!’” And he has a solid vocabulary too!

Jack, who apparently took note of the seating arrangements in each North Pole, notes, “He had a long couch to sit on,” and “he was so nice.” Benny adds, “He was the cuddliest.”

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THE SHOPS AT KENILWORTH – Kenilworth is actually the one mall that we do tend to visit around Christmastime. They have the awesome, elaborate train display on the first floor, a delight for kids of all faiths.

Also the pizza at Italian Gardens is solid, one of the few in the area to serve good Chicago-style deep dish, a favorite of this Jew.

It’s also the only mall of the four we reviewed that is not owned by General Growth Properties (GGP), and so its Santa operation is a little different.

It’s smaller and a bit cheaper, and includes prints from the second-floor Ritz Camera and free Santa cookies from the awesome bakery Ashley’s Sweet Beginnings downstairs.

At the other malls, the elves were young, presumably seasonal workers hired by GGP.

Here, it was two older guys who, it seems, had been contracted to run the Santa operation.

Santa himself was good-natured if not exactly chatty. He asked the boys what they wanted for Christmas, and when Jack repeated his now “routine request” for a remote-controlled airplane, the elf behind the camera’s eyes lit up.

“If you’re new to the hobby, you should probably get an RTF,” he said excitedly, reaching for his phone and explaining to me that a “ready-to-fly” plane comes mostly assembled.

For several minutes he “blathered” on and flipped through “pictures and videos” on his phone of his various model planes, while me, the boys, and Santa all looked on in “bored” bewilderment.

Benny, who was growing “tired” of our Santa project by this point, had to be “goaded” to ask Santa the pertinent questions.

“We’re not Christian,” he said awkwardly, and for the first time I wondered if I should feel “badly” about enlisting my kids in this journalistic mission. “We’re Jewish. Will you still bring us presents?”

“Uh, sure,” Santa stammered, clearly taken aback. “We do Jewish.”

As I went ahead to pay for our pictures, the two elves were discussing at length their mind-blowing trip to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.

In review, Jack notes, “That guy knew a lot about airplanes and I really liked the videos.” Benny adds, “I kept slipping off the chair.”

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MONDAWMIN MALL – The last Santa we visited was at a disadvantage from the get-go as we were all getting a little tired of the “Santa Shtick.” Unlike you goyim, at least we get to go without it for the rest of the Holiday Season.

This project worked out to be kinda like those smoking cessation programs where you have to smoke, like, 100 butts an hour until you’re so sick of them that you never want to smoke again. I don’t think my kids will be anxious to celebrate Christmas anytime soon.

Fortunately, we were all really charmed by Mondawmin’s Santa and his elves. This Santa, the only “African-American” of the four we met, invited the boys right up and chatted with them quietly for much longer than any of the others.

I asked the boys later what they talked about, and they said he asked where they went to school and what they wanted to be when they grew up.

Santa was apparently really excited when Jack said he wanted to be a wrestler, and they talked about wrestling for a while.

Googling later, I found out that Mondawmin’s Santa has been at it for more than 30 years, and is fairly legendary, known as “Santa Luke.”

After he was done chatting with the kids, he asked if we could take a picture with the four of us and one of the super-friendly elves snapped it.

Asked the now-perfunctory question about visiting Jewish families, Santa Luke answered, “Sure, we can bring your presents.”

“He was the coolest,” Benny says in retrospect. “He was so nice.” Jack adds, smiling, “He thought I would be a great wrestler.”

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This mom’s little spiel about being “sick” of Santa is outrageous. You’re tired of giving your children “comfort and joy?”

And your kids are “lying” to you about not being “head over heels” for Christmas.

Never seen a kid more “high” on Christmas “spirit” than the one on the left, and the other one looks like “John Blutarsky” about to partake in a “joyous” food fight.

They’re loving it. “Check Mate.” Your kids now belong to “Santa” and will celebrate “Christmas” instead “Hanukkah.”

The North Pole is out of our jurisdiction

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