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Jackie Hope: Desperately seeking Santa

By Jackie Hope, Our Town Columnist

Know who’s in town? Santa, that’s who! He arrived on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and plopped himself into a big red chair, smack in the middle of Prairie Hills Mall.

Who is his acting CEO at the North Pole? Who is checking the lists and checking them twice? Who is wrangling the elves and exercising the reindeer; or exercising the elves and wrangling the reindeer? And if Santa is here, who is that imposter sitting in the big guy’s chair over at Kirkwood Mall?

A Google search for Santa Claus turns up 117,000,000 hits in .31 seconds, and our website friend, Wikipedia, is the frontrunner in that race. Skipping over the wonders of Wikipedia and surfing to another of Santa’s websites,, we learn St. Nicholas was born on an island near Turkey, became a Roman Catholic bishop and was canonized after his death on Dec. 6, 343.

Legends then grew, recounting St. Nicholas’ good deeds and kindness to children.

St. Nicholas followed the early colonists to America and, in 1809, Washington Irving gave him a makeover as an elf-like Dutch burgher in “Knickerbockers History of New York.”

Irving’s elfish St. Nicholas was not a “Lord of the Rings” hunky elf like Orlando Bloom. He was more of a John Rhys Davies/Gimli guy.

By 1823, Clement Clarke Moore had given us “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” also known as “The Night Before Christmas,” with a “jolly old elf” who smoked too much, ate too much, wore a grungy soot-covered suit, and did home invasions every Christmas Eve. Don’t know about you, but I’d rather see Orlando Bloom under my Christmas tree.

So what about the 21st century Santa Claus? Who is that dude out at Prairie Hills Mall? Let’s go visit him, and find out.

Here we are at the mall, where the town’s second-biggest big-box store is gleefully blasting Christmas music because, hey, nothing gets you into the buying spirit like “Silent Night” pushed at 100 decibels.

Its playlist must be on “shuffle,” because “O Holy Night” is chillingly smooshed up against “Frosty the Snowman.” And “Blue Christmas,” “White Christmas,” and “Cowboy Christmas” all are lined up, but not alphabetically or according to age, or even by megabytes of music. Now shuffle has moved to “Hard Candy Christmas,” which is a bite-sized music byte. What is shuffle up to? Is it shuffling without a full deck?

Well, there are more important questions to be answered. Like, “Where’s Santa?” and, “How many kids are in front of me in the Santa queue?” There’s Santa’s snowy enclosure — a Claus corral — way down the concourse, just beyond the sausage stall and the pretzel emporium. Oooo, do they have bacon-stuffed pretzels? And cinnamon? I want a cheesy one and a cinnamon one and … oh yeah, Santa. Gotta ask Santa for a whole bag of pretzels, the big fat ones with half-carat salt crystals on them.

Look, there are Santa’s snowy trees! And there is Santa’s snowy fence! And there is Santa’s snowy gate! And there is Santa’s big red chair! But Santa’s big red … uh, big red … um … Santa’s big red self is not sitting in Santa’s chair!

Where is Santa? What gives? Is this like a “Where’s Waldo?” and we have to look around the mall for some guy in a red stocking cap?

Bummer! A sign says Santa will be back later. Did he leave for Thanksgiving break? Did the big guy split, to go home and eat turkey with the family, then watch some football on the widescreen? Hold on, it’s a heck of a commute from the North Pole. Maybe Santa couldn’t find a hotel room in Dickinson. They are pretty scarce sometimes. Or maybe he had to bunk down with his reindeer at the boarding stable. Nah, that’s another Christmas story.

Dang, who is gonna listen to our Christmas lists? Who is gonna believe we’ve been good all year? And who is gonna put that bag of pretzels under my Christmas tree?

Or, more importantly, who is gonna put Orlando Bloom under my Christmas tree?

Santa, you got some ’splaining to do!