It’s not all cookies, all the time for Santa Claus these days.
On a busy day for the big guy, with appearances scheduled all around the Midlands, Santa began his day Saturday with a “hearty ... but heart-healthy” breakfast at Historic Columbia’s Robert Mills House.
“Santa insists upon eggs,” he said, along with organic whole milk, fruit – preferably locally grown, when possible – and a large glass of water.
And of course, “Santa’s kind of an old codger, so he likes coffee,” Santa said. “But he’s also modern, so he likes cappuccino with a sugar substitute in it.”
He would need all the caffeine he could get for the day and week ahead of him, filled with lots of letter-reading, photo-taking and lap-sitting children confiding in him their hopes for Christmas morning.
Seven-year-old Lorinea and 5-year-old Kifer Cameron cozied up on Santa’s lap after breakfast. Kifer told Santa he’s wishing for a big monster truck he and his friends can ride, while his big sister asked for a Barbie truck she can ride in with her stuffed animals.
“I love the fact that the kids can tell Santa what they want with excitement,” said their mother, Joy Cameron. “Just the magic of Santa is amazing.”
Santa said he has heard a long list of gift requests from children this year, from bicycles and dolls to socks and shoes. But one child’s request stood out to him.
“He said he didn’t want anything. He just wanted Santa to make sure that he helped the poor children this year,” Santa said. “Children seem to be more in the Christmas spirit than last year. Maybe it’s a change in the way people are thinking generally this year rather than last. ... I don’t know what it is, but there really does seem to be a spirit of generosity.”
Energized from his healthy breakfast, Santa was ready for a long afternoon of smiles, hugs and photos at EdVenture Children’s Museum.
In between making crafts and eating gingerbread men (Santa might be going heart-healthy, but someone’s got to do something with all those cookies), 5-year-old Guy Martin greeted Santa with a hug and asked him for a blue “Star Wars” light saber so he could be like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
And if Guy gets his wish on Christmas morning, how will he feel?
“Good,” he said.
Later in the afternoon, Santa leaned back in a plush chair at the S.C. State Museum, thinking about all he has to do between now and Wednesday night.
“I have to let my reindeer rest so that they’ll be able to fly Christmas Eve,” Santa said.
“I have Mrs. Claus working getting things kind of lined up while I’m down here in Columbia, South Carolina. It’s a good bit warmer here” than at the North Pole, he joked.
And Santa’s already thinking about what he’ll be doing after the Christmas rush has ended.
“I’ll take a day or two off, and then I’ll start trying to anticipate what’s going to be requested next Christmas,” he said. “And then I’ll start rebuilding my chest of toys.”
But that’s after Christmas Eve. And, Santa said, there’s always something special about that night.
“Christmas Eve, from the time I’ve been a child, has always been a magical time for me,” Santa said at the Robert Mills House. “But even today, when I’m coming into town on the sleigh, it seems to me that somewhere between 8 and 9 p.m. and thereafter, all of Columbia is a much more peaceful place than it normally is.
“There’s just a kind of feeling that overtakes the place, that speaks of peace on earth and goodwill toward all people. That’s an important message, I think, for all of us.”