View from the Sleigh: Santa Claus Comments on EH’s New Reindeer Costumes

Santa's reindeer, old and new, in East Hampton
Santa’s reindeer, old and new, in East Hampton, Photos: Dan Rattiner

This article should not be left around where children under the age of 6 can get ahold of it.

For the last six years, I, Dan Rattiner of Dan’s Papers, have played the role of Santa Claus in the annual East Hampton Santa parade. I sit up high in the cockpit of a shiny red sleigh with Mrs. Claus beside me and smile and wave to the crowds of people who come out to see us as the final float in the parade, the float they have all been waiting for.

Eight not-so-tiny reindeer pull this sleigh while standing upright on their hind legs. They are indeed grownups in reindeer costumes, one-piece pajama suits that are brown, furry and zip up the back—the zippers are hilariously visible from the perch in the cockpit—and these eight volunteers pull the sleigh along on its hidden-underneath wheels slowly down Main Street, to the cheers of the crowd, and then on up Newtown Lane to an ending by the East Hampton Y on Gingerbread Lane.

I mention this because in the first five years, these reindeer costumes were of high quality. Just below the base of the zippers was a white, furry tennis-ball-sized tail that would wiggle back and forth as these folks would plod along. I should also mention they wore reindeer helmets with fulsome antlers, almost as large as racks, sticking up. They would bob up and down as they went.

Last year, however, 2018, was a shocker. The sleigh was there for us, the reindeer people were there at the front. But the costumes were different. They were crummy. The little tails in the back were just tiny, flat, saggy things three inches long, same color as the suit. The fabric and fur were thinner. The antlers were smaller and stiffer, as if some cardboard were inside.

I don’t know. I should not be the one to complain. But somewhere between 2017 and 2018, some persuasive reindeer suit salesmen sold the Town of East Hampton on the need for new reindeer suits—if you think about it, they get used for an hour once a year, so what the hell—and then proceeded to sell them a cheap imitation of what they had before.

It has made me wonder if the Town asked for cheap suits because the Town is experiencing hard times, which it isn’t, or if this was just some bait-and-switch business. Pay the same amount but the salesman goes in the back and tells the stock boy, We got a live one, bring ’em the cheap suits, and out they come all packed up in their boxes, and nobody gets to see them exactly beforehand.

And so last year the volunteers wore cheap, crappy reindeer suits. Perhaps it was as funny to some in the crowd as before, but to others, perhaps not. In those prior years, it was clear to me the makers of these suits enjoyed themselves to the fullest when they sewed them, bent on creating eight glorious reindeer who just happened to walk on their hind legs.

I am rather hoping (for this is written the week before the Santa Parade) that the grand older suits were just misplaced somewhere when the time came, and so somebody ran out and bought these use-’em-once suit throwaways in the belief that in 2019, the beautiful old ones would surely be found and be put back in use again.

Well, we’ll see.

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