I am fairly active on Social Media.
Earlier this year, I hit my 2,000 friend mark on Facebook. Lest anyone think I’m supremely popular, please understand a couple things. One, I am old. Two, I have lived in several communities throughout my life. Three, I have consistently been occupied in fairly high-profile, highly-peopled, occupations. And four, in each of those communities I have been active in my local, business, and church organizations. Actually, I should add a fifth–I’m a little out there, in your face, no holds barred, goofy, unabashed, brazen, unashamed, bold, barefaced, unafraid, friendly, and silly… so I kind of stand out a bit in the crowd, and seem to easily find ways to relate to others. So arriving at 2000 friends in my twelfth year on Facebook and about a half century on earth was not really a huge deal.
Then, a few months ago, I connected with a few Santa Claus Portrayal Artists online…
I currently have 2,672 friends on Facebook. And I have over 100 pending requests (I do vet friend requests pretty carefully). And I have an innumerable list of Facebook suggestions of people I may know. I’ve added Facebook friends at a rate of almost 200 per month. And this flurry of new activity in my “social life” is almost entirely due to my new North Pole-ish neighbors-just a small part of the Santa Community.
The Santa community is comprised of Santas, Mrs Clauses, Elves, and their helpers (agents, suppliers, clothiers, etc) It is a worldwide community that has many different subgroups, factions, forums, schools, guilds, cliques, and the like. Historically, and for the most part, the Santa community is just a bunch of jolly people. However, there has been some fracturing as well. When you portray, arguably, the most popular and beloved figure in this part of the world (next to the One true figurehead of Christmas), and one who often comes with a steep price tag, there is bound to be some differences of opinion, conflicts of personality, and clashes of competition. But as far as I can tell, those are isolated, and frowned upon by the community at large. What I have found in this community is a bunch of really kind (really old and really hairy) guys and gals, whose main focus is on spreading Christmas joy and spirit with others. We refer to ourselves as Brothers and Sisters in Red. It does feel like a very large, very diverse, and very jolly family.
I, myself, now belong to several different groups within this community. Each group has provided me with something different as I enhance the experience I provide as PGH Santa. They have helped with costuming ideas, beard growth, beard whitening, beard care, (many things beard-related), improvisational skills, gig leads, effective question resolution, marketing, compassion, safety, talking points, visit ideas, and confidence. Overall, being a part of these groups has helped me understand a little better who Santa Claus is. And how I can better portray him.
This year this community has been faced with an incredible challenge: bringing a Santa experience to the children of the world in the middle of a pandemic. Not only was the traditional visit with photo and disclosure of wishes potentially fraught with health risks (and the majority of us find ourselves in the highest risk category), but the alternative (virtual visits, as I like to call them) posed significant challenges to overcome.
In the face of this predicament, the members of this community gathered in force, and have helped one another rise above. Considering the demographic of this group (old dudes and ladies), one can imagine how difficult this obstacle could be to overcome. And yet, with the help of some younger, better-looking, less hairy folks, and some of our own who had careers in software development, graphic design, communications and the like, we have established, in almost every group, a way through. In fact, I feel confident that a meaningful Santa experience will be available to any child whose parents desire to make it happen. I have been moved by the collaboration, the sharing of ideas, and the compassion we old fogies have shown one another. I have been touched by the Christmas spirit through the process.
I feel popular!