Being Santa Claus

“There’s a lot of mystique about the whole Santa thing and the whole Christmas thing,” said Dennis Simpson.

“There’s an image, a mysteriousness about (it). It’s a mythical time, a mysterious situation. It’s good to keep those mysteries alive and keep those dreams.”

Simpson knows because he is a Santa Claus. His job is bringing smiles and joy to children and their families.

“I got started over 35 years ago,” he said. “I got started being a Key Club adviser. I progressed from there.”

Eventually, he started getting requests to do other things, and he began branching out into being Santa for more and more events until, eventually, he moved into doing the job professionally, he said.

Now, Simpson is a member of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, and formed his own chapter of the organization eight years ago called NORPAC (Santas of the Pacific Northwest).

He’s done events in more than 39 states, all year long. Yes, there are Santa events outside the winter holiday season, he said. Christmas in July is popular; he’s done graduation parties; and he recently spent 11 weeks in New York working in a studio as Santa Claus.

“My favorite parts about the job are just sharing about the kids and families, seeing the smiles on their face and listening to their wish,” Simpson said.

Tim Carter, another Santa, agreed.

“You gotta like kids, that’s for sure,” said Carter. “And you gotta find the enjoyment in the kids. They’re hilarious. I’m laughing the whole time, constantly. It’s a really fun gig.”

Carter is a school bus driver. He’s around kids all the time. And sometimes, they even recognize that their bus driver is Santa.

“I used to (be Santa) at the mall. Some kinds who ride my bus come in and, amazingly enough, they oftentimes don’t recognize me,” Carter said.

“A few of the really young ones do,” he added. “First grade, kindergarten … sometimes, you can see somewhat of a recognition and they’ll kind of look at you like, ‘Is he, or isn’t he?’ ”

Being Santa isn’t all smiles and fun. Carter became emotional when asked what the biggest challenge of his job is.

“Sometimes you get children who ask us (Santas) to help them with situations in their lives that just break your heart,” Carter said. “I remember the little girl who asked me to bring her daddy home safe from Iraq. I also remember the little boy who wanted me to make his daddy come back and live with him and mommy so she would stop crying. These are examples of some of the toughest parts of the job.”

Simpson agreed.

“The hardest part to deal with is when kids ask, they want their mommy and daddy home — they’re in the military — or they want mommy and daddy back together.

“What I tell them is Santa can’t work miracles, but I’d be more than glad to pray for you,” Simpson said.

But even in difficult situations, Santa is there to bring joy to people when and where they can.

“The kids are hilarious,” Carter said. “That’s what makes it. They come up with things that are amazing, some of the stuff they ask for. They’re always so sweet. When you see the real believers, you see it in their eyes, it’s the best feeling in the world.”

Carter got started in the life by being Santa for his children and other children in his family. Then his friends found out he did that, and he was Santa for their children as well. Eventually, he became a professional Santa Claus.

“If you’re going to do it professionally, it takes a few bucks,” Carter cautioned. “But that happens over the course of a few years.

Carter has a few Santa suits that he said cost $400-$500 dollars each. He has real boots — not the shoe toppers some people use. He has a large throne and props like a high-quality Rudolph. He even has a real, antique sleigh he uses.

And, he and Simpson both agreed, first and foremost: Santa needs to look like Santa. Preferably with a real beard.

“I used to shave my beard (to about an eighth of an inch) Dec. 31,” Simpson said. “Now, I leave it long all year round.

“I look like Santa year-round, and I carry a stash of cards I have made that say, ‘Making a list, checking it twice, don’t be naughty, always be nice.’ I give it to those kids in the summer — I could be wearing shorts and a T-shirt, and they’ll say, ‘You’re Santa!’ So I give them this card to reinforce their dreams.”

The best way to become a Santa? Talk to other Santas.

“Talk to a Santa, someone who’s done it professionally for a few years,” Carter said. “Talk to them and learn. It’s really kind of a close-knit group, we all work with each other, talk to each other and learn from each other.”

Simpson said his group NORPAC has an annual convention every November where dozens of Santas, Mrs. Clauses, elves, Grinches and family members get together for “camaraderie and growth,” to learn from each other and learn the latest tricks.

“Most all of us have more to learn, and have the capacity to want to get better,” Simpson said. “I’m constantly encouraging people to call me and talk.”

He added that yes, the job can get tiring, and exhausting, and expensive. But it’s worth it.

“It’s the love and the wanting to share and the willingness to make kids happy, try to bring out some joy,” Simpson said. “I love doing it. I love talking about it, I love sharing, I love encouraging new people to get involved.”

And it’s important.

Carter said, “I think kids need to be kids. We all grow up, and there’s a lot of harsh realities out there, but it gives them a time where they believe in that magic.

“They have no worries, no cares. It’s just a magical time for them. They need that. They need to just be children, and I think that’s what we bring to them.”

To learn more about how to become a Santa Claus, visit

Michelle Beahm is a reporter with the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at

Santa Dennis Simpson, right, with Mrs. Claus and a reindeer.                                Photo courtesy of Dennis Simpson

Santa Dennis Simpson, right, with Mrs. Claus and a reindeer. Photo courtesy of Dennis Simpson

Being Santa Claus

Santa Dennis Simpson, right, with Mrs. Claus and a reindeer. Photo courtesy of Dennis Simpson