To: Mall Santas
Welcome aboard in your new role as one of “Santa’s Helpers.” Please review the following guidelines carefully, so that the mall and its patrons can have a happy, healthy and non-litigious holiday season.
1.) As you’ve no doubt heard, “Ho Ho Ho” is no longer considered an acceptable holiday greeting, having been deemed potentially offensive to women and gardeners. The substitute “Ha Ha Ha” has also been banned, as it is possibly damaging to a child’s self-esteem. Also, Santas overheard saying “Merry Christmas” will be summarily removed from the premises.
Instead, we recommend you listen attentively to the children, nod, and affect a blank stare devoid of any emotion, particularly fear. They can sense fear.
2.) Please keep in mind that not all children believe in Santa Claus or celebrate Christmas. However, please make no attempt to determine this based on physical cues, such as yarmulkes or “Proud Jehovah’s Witness” T-shirts, as this would be considered profiling. If you have any questions, please consult the mall’s attorney, who will be standing behind the fake snowman.
3.) Plump Santas are no longer considered “jolly.” Instead, they serve as a bleak reminder of our nation’s struggle with obesity and are a poor role model to our increasingly overweight and inactive children. Please make every effort to appear slim and fit, and to encourage children to leave you celery and soy products rather than cookies and hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. Also, please note that smoking is permitted in the break room only.
4.) Please do not promise children that Santa will bring them anything in particular, as promising a gift that the parents cannot afford or do not approve of could result in a lengthy and expensive lawsuit. Be pleasant but non-committal. If the child is persistent, try to distract him with one of the celery sticks we now give out in lieu of candy canes; if that doesn’t work, send him behind the snowman to speak to the attorney.
5.) It has been deemed inappropriate, and a serious legal risk, to have children sitting on a strange bearded man’s lap. This year the children will sit on a stool, separated from you by a sheet of soundproof Plexiglas. This also serves the purpose of keeping you from being able to hear their gift requests (see No. 4).
6.) Scientists have determined that eight flying reindeer traveling around the entire world in one night would emit more than 40,000 tons of greenhouse gases, which would have a profound effect on global warming. As modern children are particularly sensitive to this issue, it is important that if they ask about the reindeer, you tell them politely that they are all dead.
7.) The concept of elves has been determined to be offensive to a host of protected groups, including little people, pointy eared people and people with high squeaky voices. However, so as to give you the support you need, we are looking at several possible replacements. Right now we’re leaning toward attorneys.
We’re sure that if you follow these simple guidelines you will succeed in making the children’s visits with Santa as unremarkable and non-offensive as possible. Welcome aboard the team here at the mall, and have a merry … a happy … Oh, whatever.
I'm currently driving around the mall parking lot looking for an open space; this “Best of Chianca” column is from 2007. Follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/pchianca.