My 10th Year Being Santa in East Hampton

Santa Cartoon by Dan Rattiner
Cartoon by Dan Rattiner

Please do not allow anybody younger than the age of 8 to read this column. Thank you.

This is the 10th year in a row that I will appear as Santa Claus at the annual East Hampton Village Santa Parade. I will be up there this Saturday morning coming down Main Street at 11 a.m., me and the missus waving to the crowd from high up in our sleigh as the very last float in this parade.

We will be hauled along by eight reindeer (grown men and women from the Kiwanis Club in zip-up reindeer suits pulling ropes) and we will smile and wave to the crowd lining Main Street and Newtown Lane, among whom will be many small children who will likely be staggered by what they see, bursting into tears of joy, grinning, clapping and jumping up and down, while other small children, filled with fear, scurry behind their parents’ legs to then peer out cautiously but wide-eyed at us. He’s real! He’s real!

Well, actually, no. (Which is why I asked that nobody under 8 be allowed to read this.) We are real, in the sense that from way up there at the North Pole we were dressed and spoken to by Santa before we all headed out — tens of thousands of us — to our respective towns and villages around the country.

Fact is, Santa still reads every letter sent to him. He’s incredibly busy just prior to Christmas. And as he says, “I can’t be everywhere,” so we volunteers act as sort of ambassadors for him.

No, that’s not right, we act as sort of a pretending to be him so folks can get a sort of preview of what will happen on Christmas night when, shimmying down all the chimneys, he comes down for real.

I am unburdening myself at this time because I have now completed my 10-year term in this job. Some say there are term limits to being Santa. If there are, I’d like to be told straight up about it. I will be very sad if I have to step down.

Mrs. Claus, Juliette Parker, Board of Directors Kiwanis with Dan Rattiner as Santa , the main attractions for the Santa Parade
Mrs. Claus, Juliette Parker, Board of Directors Kiwanis with Dan Rattiner as Santa , the main attractions for the Santa Parade

On the other hand, I’m not quite done here. I’m to make a second appearance in East Hampton on Saturday, December 10, arriving at noon by helicopter, landing in Herrick Park behind all the stores. You can come to the park to watch.

I’ll be smiling from the chopper window, coming down the ladder, waving to the crowd, and then wishing everyone the best.

After that, I’ll take a siren and flashing light trip in a fire truck around town, visit the movie theater, then reboard the chopper to fly back to the North Pole, where I’ll make a further report about how things went.

Santa himself invited me to do this second visit. He texted me. He said they’d been looking for the paperwork about the term limits and so far they haven’t been able to find any. The files up there are in an underground storage room buried under nearly 15 feet of snow.

It’s really cold. They dig down, look around a while, but then have to come out. They will try again tomorrow.

“I’ll be very sad if you have to leave,” he told me. “We’ve been really proud of how you’ve done. So your second trip this year is special.”

Indeed, I have to go back up to the pole tomorrow for a three-day training session. I’ll be meeting the pilot. Learning how to take over if there’s an emergency. Doing a series of dress rehearsals, touch-and-go landings jumping out with a parachute in case that needs to happen.

“It will be a lot different than when you first came up here for training 10 years ago,” Santa continued. “Back then we had a lot of paperwork for you to sign, we did a background check, had you meet with psychiatrists, undergo a battery of medical tests, get your “ho-ho-ho!” approved, sign off on insurance papers, practice your waving to the crowd and so forth. Now it’s all hands-on, familiarity with the aircraft, running in place, lifting weights, doing stretches and so forth and so on. You ain’t no spring chicken anymore.”

Great sense of humor, Santa.

Mrs. Claus, Juliette Parker, Board of Directors Kiwanis with Dan Rattiner as Santa , the main attractions for the Santa Parade
Mrs. Claus, Juliette Parker, Board of Directors Kiwanis with Dan Rattiner as Santa , the main attractions for the Santa Parade

And as I look back at it all, I have such fond memories. I remember that first year, standing, smiling and waving to the crowd as we made the turn from Main Street to Newtown Lane where, without warning, I bumped my head on the overhead traffic light. Had to call a halt to things there on the floor of the sleigh while I got a little CPR, a glass of water, a shot of whiskey and a new pair of glasses to wear.

I recall in prior years wearing transition lens glasses instead of my regular wire-rimmed glasses. They’d turn dark in the sunshine. Not appropriate. I remember when for a few years we had a middle school elf in the back seat of the sleigh operating a rigged vacuum cleaner that blew sliced potato flakes high in the air to flutter down as snowflakes. They’d collect in my beard and on my glasses so I couldn’t see.

I’ve climbed into big red-and-white Santa chairs so I could hear what the kids whispered they wanted for Christmas while sitting on my lap in the Nicole Miller Store, in the Maidstone Arms, in the Huntting Inn, and one year, right on the white line in the middle of Newtown Lane, closed down for a fair with ponies and apple cider, toys and games on the snowy street.

I also, ahead of time this year, had to buy a new white beard and hair set since the older set I had was getting dirty and raggedy. And I also donated a heavy 7-foot wool-and-feather piping plover costume to the village, which I’d ordered for the Artists & Writers Annual Softball Game.

The costume came from Mongolia — actually northern Mongolia where, at this past August’s game, in 90-degree summer weather, nobody was willing to allow themselves to be zipped up into such a bulky outfit.

Here in the Christmas parade this Saturday, December 3, Mr. Piping Plover will waddle along with the men in the snowman suit, the clown suit, the tin soldier suit and The Nutcracker prince suit.

Anyway, I’ll be here both December 3 and 10. Be there or be square.

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