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Meet Santa Cecil, a Santa Claus for hire offering variety of Santa services 

click to enlarge NAUGHTY OR NICE? Santa Cecil is available for live events, video calls, personal letters, and more. Check out slosantaclaus.com.

Photos Courtesy Of Slo Santa

NAUGHTY OR NICE? Santa Cecil is available for live events, video calls, personal letters, and more. Check out slosantaclaus.com.

In case you haven't heard, between the U.S. labor shortage, COVID-19, and higher than normal demand, there's a big Santa shortage this year, but never fear: Santa Cecil has you covered. The former elementary school teacher recently joined the ranks of the "Santa Industrial Complex," the worldwide business of being a commercial Santa Claus.

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Before you groan about the further commercialization of Christmas—which, come on, is commercialism incarnate—it's important to know that Cecil's journey from teacher, youth baseball umpire, and champion power lifter to professional Santa Claus was born out of love for his grandkids. It all started last year in the midst of the pandemic.

"It's been quite a journey, actually," Santa Cecil recalled over his dining room table. "COVID, of course, hit, and it affected all of us. Last year as Christmas was coming, I had a brand new granddaughter, and I realized she wasn't going to get any Santa pictures. So I decided what I would do was order a cheap Santa suit off of Amazon, dress up, and be her Santa."

He let his beard and hair grow, and took photos with all five of his grandchildren.

"It was fun, and I was enthralled by this whole persona of Santa Claus and what Santa Claus represents to our culture but also to me and my childhood. It kind of sparked something in me, and I started to investigate a little further about what being Santa was all about. That's when I realized there were actual Santa schools, quite a few of them."

Cecil had already reinvented himself many times: a school custodian who returned to college to get a teaching credential to become a teacher; a 30-year veteran youth baseball ump selected to call prestigious CIF championship games at Dodger Stadium; a casual gym rat who became a champion power lifter. Sadly, after COVID-19, all those vocations were no longer available, but the Northern Lights Santa Academy in the metro-Atlanta area awaited Cecil's newest reinvention from lovable retiree and grandpa to Jolly Old Saint Nick.

"[Becoming Santa] seemed like something that would really fit me—someone who's been in education for so long, who's worked in the community for so long, and my wife, Laurie, and I started looking at these Santa schools, and I said, 'You know what? I'm going to go to Santa school.'"

At the time, Santa Cecil had no idea it would lead to a new career.

"My whole intent was to be a volunteer Santa," he said, "but the deeper I got into it, the more I started connecting with other Santas and started to learn more about the Santa community, not only nationally but globally. I started to fall in love with it and started to realize there are possibilities for volunteerism as well as making money as Santa.

"In order to actually be an effective, well-trained, professional Santa and the investments we make in technology, in Santa suits, in travel, in schools—you know, reaping back some of that money is OK as well."

Santa Cecil, a former reading teacher who's done a lot of storytelling, is doing some Santa volunteerism this year. On Saturday, Dec. 4, he's the volunteer Santa for the Grover Beach Holiday Parade beginning at 10 a.m. followed by Santa's workshop for photos and meeting kids. Two weeks later, on Saturday, Dec. 18, he'll be doing an appearance and story reading at the Grover Beach Library starting at 11 a.m.

On the paid side of things, he's got some office parties and other events booked, and he's hoping to book a lot more.

For the record, Santa Cecil's "good" Santa suit, belt, and boots set him back about $2,000, and he's always adding and updating his wardrobe. He also continues his training. He found another online school—the Worldwide Santa Claus Network—run by Santa Ed Taylor.

"It has, I think, around 4,000 members, so I got connected even further now," Santa Cecil explained. "Santa Ed has members from Australia, Europe, Africa, Canada—all over the world—and we have these Zoom meetings and these conversations and these learning experiences. I've been absolutely amazed at the love and the sharing and the giving these people have. This community of Santas has just been an amazing ride."

click to enlarge JOIN THE CLUB The North Pole Club ($70) includes yearlong greetings from Santa: an heirloom letter, a membership coin, a Nice List certificate, a postcard in the summer, and a personalized birthday card. - PHOTOS COURTESY OF SLO SANTA
  • Photos Courtesy Of Slo Santa
  • JOIN THE CLUB The North Pole Club ($70) includes yearlong greetings from Santa: an heirloom letter, a membership coin, a Nice List certificate, a postcard in the summer, and a personalized birthday card.

Santa Cecil studied the history of Santa, including the origins of our particular American kind of Santa, and part of his ongoing training has been to create his own Santa Cecil backstory, which has been aided by his Zoom conversations with the Santas of the Worldwide Santa Claus Network.

"When you're sitting in an environment and somebody asks you questions, how are you going to answer those questions in regard to who you are and where you came from?" Santa Cecil mused.

"It's fun for me," Santa Cecil's wife, Laurie Johnson, interjected, "because I can listen in from down the hall and hear all these Santas, and it's really fun to hear how they all have taken their own approaches to creating a persona."

If you visit Santa Cecil's website, slosantaclaus.com, you'll discover his wide variety of products. Yes, he makes in-person appearances, but there's so much more—such as video greetings and personalized letters. For instance, as a child, I would have loved to have been a member of the North Pole Club ($70), which includes an heirloom letter from Santa, a Nice List certificate, a membership coin, a postcard from Santa on his summer vacation, and a birthday card.

The form parents fill out asks for information like the names of pets and friends, the child's interests and hobbies, even information about a gift the child wants but isn't getting, which Santa can make an excuse about: "Let's wait until you're older for that Xbox. Instead, I hope I can bring you ... ?"

As far as Santa Cecil knows, he's the only operating commercial for-hire Santa in the area, but with the ongoing Santa shortage, who knows? Next year Santa Cecil might have some competition. Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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