Santa Claus, a mythical elf dressed in red and white with eight tiny reindeer, has been around for a long time — probably since Moby Dick was a minnow.
For generations, children have climbed on his knee, tugged at his beard and whispered into his ear secrets no one else knows.
The fact Santa is here, there and everywhere does not leave a question mark in the minds of little children, who simply accept the jolly gentleman is as much a part of the holiday season as Christmas trees and stockings hung by the chimney with care.
In keeping with the Christmas tradition of Santa Claus, Art Blais of Bentley has willing donned a Santa suit every December for the last five years and turned himself into a walking, talking real live Saint Nicolas.
And, even though Santa Night at Pas Ka Poo Park found him shivering under his Santa Suit and he often finds himself stressed about showing up at the various locations where he is supposed to be on time and not disappointing any of his little visitors, he loves his job.
“A lot of the children still believe,” he said. “That’s what makes you feel great.”
Blais volunteered for the job of Santa because he seemed a natural fit.
“I had the beard and the nose and the glasses. I always try to get them to pull my beard and some of them will,” he said with a Santa-like chuckle.
The children who climb onto Santa’s knee always have a wish list and sometimes they have a few questions of their own.
“The older ones always try and stump me. And that’s fun. I try to engage them in a conversation and it is really quite enjoyable. Most of them just want toys.”
Blais, a member of Rimbey Lions Club, donates to the club any remuneration for being Santa.
“I don’t really ask for any money, but if there is a donation I just give it to the club.”
With the Christmas season drawing to a close, Blais plans to hang up his Santa suit permanently. Unfortunately, as much as he has enjoyed being Santa, family commitments need to come first.
“I have too many other things going on, and it is a big commitment to be Santa. You have to make sure you don’t have a cold, and you have to be there when you said you would. And I don’t have a replacement if something should happen.”
But, for this year at least, children in the area have had the opportunity to climb on Santa’s knee, pull his beard, whisper in his ear and feel confident that, at least for a few brief moments in time, magic can happen.
And Santa does exist!