Christmas Is Year-Round for This Santa and Mrs. Claus

It’s the season of Santa and Mrs. Claus, and the busy couple seems to be just about everywhere—malls, parades, photo studios, pre-schools, even TV. How in the world do they do it?

“It’s because of the magic of Christmas,” says Santa, during a rare, exclusive interview with Greensboro Lifestyle. “It’s at Christmas that Santa is given the ability to be everywhere at the same time.” 

Good answer. But is it enough to satisfy a toddlers’ endless “whys” and “how comes?”

Not to worry. Santa and Mrs. Claus—also known as Michael and Schotsi Ellington of Saxapahaw—have an answer for even the most challenging conundrums. We were lucky enough to catch up with the world’s most famous couple at a local coffee shop, where they shared some of their wisdom and insights.

The transformation from human to elvish happened soon after the couple married in 2007 when they were both close to retirement. He had been a professional musician and Walmart employee; she a pediatric nurse. Michael says over the years, his appearance changed in the manner it often does for “aging hippie musicians.”

“At some point, we all turn into Santa,” he says, chuckling and pointing at his white beard, bald pate and long locks. (Yes, they are all natural.)

“I told him, ‘You look just like Santa. You should be a Santa,’”  Schotsi says.

She found the perfect outfit on eBay, and thus began their second life. Today, Santa-ing is almost a full-time gig during the holidays. Their authenticity, which extends from their appearance to their warm, gentle personalities, have made them popular throughout the Piedmont. Their favorite venues? Pre-schools. Their least? Malls and shopping centers. 

“There isn’t enough time to engage with the children one-on-one,” Michael says.  “A lot of children are afraid of Santa. They’ve seen him on TV, but it’s different when they see him in person. Some Santas are really bombastic, and they scare the poor children to death. You have to read the child. Every child is different.”

Some of the funniest requests come from the tiniest pre-schoolers, he says. 

One child insisted Santa bring him a tuba. Another, Pluto.

“I asked him, ‘Pluto? You mean the Disney character?’ ‘No! Pluto!’ he says. ‘Yeah,’ his teacher says, ‘He wants the planet.’”

Other questions are more poignant, such as the children who ask Santa to bring back a beloved pet who died, or even a family member.

“You have to be gentle and explain that there are some things Santa can’t do. You never promise anything you can’t deliver. You tell them Santa loves them, and that brings them hope.”

Another favorite venue is York’s Photography Studio in Whitsett, which produces personalized Christmas story books for children. The one-hour photo sessions when the children get to interact, play and talk with Santa and Mrs. Claus in extravagant fairytale-like settings allow the couple to get to know each child.

During the offseason, the couple’s street clothes tend toward the Santa-inspired, which attracts the wonder and fascination of children wherever they go. When out and about, Michael often hears a child exclaim, “Mommy, I see Santa!” which he takes as his cue to approach and present a card reading, “Santa caught me being good!” 

Authenticity doesn’t come easy or cheap, the Ellingtons say. Insurance is a must. Schotsi makes most of their costumes and supplements her creations with purchases from online Santa shops. It’s a competitive field too, with some Santas spending thousands of dollars on gear.

“There’s a lot of Santa envy out there,” Schotsi says.

To sharpen their Santa chops, there are schools. When we spoke to them, the couple was preparing for a trip to the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School in Michigan, which proudly touts its status as the “world’s oldest Santa school.”

The school is packed with cheerful, jolly old souls, like-minded in their love of performance, spreading joy, and especially, making children happy.

Santa’s Secrets

Santa has to be quick on his feet and prepared for a barrage of questions. As a gift to beleaguered parents, he offers these answers to some of your toddler’s most befuddling Christmas quandaries.

How can Santa fly all over the world and deliver presents on just one night?

Santa has been given a gift that happens only on Christmas Eve. And at that time, Santa can be at multiple places at one time. That’s how you may see Santa at the mall and then go home and hear that Santa has been detected on radar in Canada. So that’s how that happens. It’s Christmas magic.

We don’t have a chimney, and the doors are locked. How is Santa going to get in?

Santa has a magic key that only works on Christmas Eve. It was given to me by the elves.

Where did the elves come from?

The elves are everywhere. They’re part of the world. They have instructions to never be seen by humans. They are either invisible or so small that we can’t detect them.

How does Santa know when we’re bad or good?

Here again, the elves are everywhere, and the elves report back to Santa.

How do the elves know how to build a Nintendo?

The elves know everything. The elves are part of everything natural in the world.

How come Santa didn’t give me what I asked for last year?

You may not have believed enough, or it may have been something that was not good for you to have at that time.

My dog died. Can Santa bring him back to me?

I’m so sorry you lost your dog, but no, that is something Santa cannot do. There is magic, and there is beyond magic, and life and death are beyond magic. Santa loves you and wants you to be happy and always have hope.

Why doesn’t Santa ever get older?

Santa is actually 1,747 years old. There came a time when Santa was getting old, but because of all the good deeds he had done, he was granted immortality and the gift of Christmas magic.