For 28 Years, Carl Anderson Has Heard It All As Santa Claus

Carl Anderson has been Santa Claus at the same Dallas mall for two decades.

December 22, 2010, 12:40 PM

Dec. 22, 2010 — -- Carl Anderson has heard it all.

For the past 28 years, Anderson, known by most as "Santa" or "Mr. Claus," has welcomed child after child up on his knee to whisper their holiday wishes in his ear.

But this year, Anderson decided to turn his years of stories -- which up until now he has recorded in nearly 30 journals -- into a blog:

"For years, when kids have said something I want to be sure to remember, I've jotted it down," said Anderson, 57. "Of course they think I'm writing down that they want this doll or that truck but I'm not."

"Some of the things they say are so touching or so funny," he said.

He's heard from little girls who want their parents to get back together, and little boys who promise to leave him Cheetos and beer, instead of milk and cookies on Christmas Eve.

"One little girl gave me her list and said that she wanted a little chair for a little desk so that she could write a little diarrhea," he said. "Of course she meant diary, but the misspeaks are pretty funny sometimes."

Anderson says he realized on his very first day of work that being Santa wasn't always going to be easy.

"The first words I heard from a child was, 'Daddy left us and moved and so I guess he doesn't love us anymore,'" remembers Anderson.

"That's when I knew I'd hear more than 'I want a Barbie for Christmas,'" he said. "Kids see Santa as someone they can confide in and care share their secrets with."

Anderson has served as Dallas' NorthPark Center Santa for 22 years, and before that served six years at another area mall. When he's not dressing the part, the licensed psychologist is a professor at the University of Texas-Austin. He has no children of his own but says it's OK because he's "in the middle of lots of childrens' lives in many ways."

He's been a Santa through several wars, financial ruin and five U.S. presidents. Kids' wishes, says Anderson, often reflect what's going on in the world.

"After 9/11, I had one kid tell me to take toys to the children of the terrorists so that they 'wouldn't hate us so much,'" said Anderson.

"It's often more reflective in terms of their immediate family circumstances," he said. "Like the little one who wanted money to help mom pay the bills because she worries so much."

It's Not Always Easy Being Santa, Anderson Says

Asked what the hardest part of his job is, Anderson said the sheer intensity. The majority of his work as Santa is packed into four or five weeks of extremely long days.

"There is wear-and-tear on the body and on the psyche," said Anderson.

Anderson says he doesn't let some of the sadder requests get to him too much; most of all he's touched by the hope the children have. They trust him, he says.

"I feel for them a lot," said Anderson. "I do have difficulty when kids ask me to get their 'mommy and daddy to love each other again' or when they want someone who is sick to recover, but I just tell them I can't promise them anything but I will make it my wish for them. And I do."

"Santa is a symbol of hope and kids relate to him," he said. "They know he'll always be there and care about them and want the best for him."

Just the other day, Anderson said the father of a little girl he'd met last season came back to tell him that his daughter's wish had been granted.

"Last year she had come to me and asked for relief of her symptoms from this ongoing illness she had," he said. "I told her that it wasn't something I could do but that I'd bring her something very special."

"I guess she took that to mean I was going to cure her," he said, "Because two weeks after Christmas last year her symptoms went into remission."

"It's just that kind of hope and belief, the spontaneous love and affection, that makes me love what I do," he said.

Dallas Santa Fields Requests for Everything Electronic

Anderson says it's not hard to play the part when it comes to looking like Saint Nick. He keeps a big white beard year around -- in case he's called in on an emergency Santa appearance -- and has had white hair for years.

"I'm a natural Santa," he said. Anderson weighs in at 250 pounds and is over six feet tall.

"It's just my routine now, I have a classic red and white suit and a custom-made leather carved belt," he said. "I don't wear a hat and gloves so the kids can see it's really me, and I think it helps them be a little less scared."

As for what Santa wants for Christmas?

"What do I want? I want kids to realize that even though we may have darkness at times, that the sun is always going to shine," he said. "I want kids to know that they're loved and cared for and special."

"And a little milk and cookies, chocolate chip of course."

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