Spending Christmas Eve Waiting in Line

I did a good portion of my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve this year. Mind you I did start early in the morning. By around 2 p.m. I had completed almost all of my shopping and I headed off to Northtown Mall (yes, that Northtown Mall) to meet my friend Jessie who also waited to the last second to purchase the remainder of her holiday gifts. With our shopping lists taken care of, we casually strolled around the mall taking in the last hour blitz.

To be completely honest, the mall was not in a frenzy. Anarchy had not broken out. Rather, it seemed very tame and dense as we walked through the center. Of course there was one exception.

We made our way to the upper level of the mall and looked over one of the balconies. We casted our eyes downward and caught a glimpse of what some may call a depressing sight. A line stretched completely around the large North Pole/100 foot Christmas tree display and down a significant stretch of the mall not even in the vicinity of the winter wonderland. Of course this windy, stretched line of adults and children existed because they wanted to get their picture taken with the Fat Guy. At the forefront of the North Pole display sat Santa Claus in his big red throne surrounded by a couple of photographers with those multi colored dust brushes. The line seemed to be moving at an agonizing slow rate.

A small portion of the line. Sorry for the terrible quality. I had to capture it from an Instagram video.

A small portion of the line. Sorry for the terrible quality. I had to capture it from an Instagram video.

Excuse me, but why would all those people choose to get their picture taken with Santa on CHRISTMAS EVE and why would they insist on standing in that line when the wait was probably at the very least TWO HOURS?

This was the point where everyone wanted to get to. Again, I apologize for the photo quality.

This was the point where everyone wanted to get to. Again, I apologize for the photo quality.

Now I know you sense complete hypocrisy as I type out these words. I of course was out on Christmas Eve myself. I decided to procrastinate until the very last minute that ultimately led me to the exact same place that all of those people in line were. Yeah, I am not proud of myself. But I don’t think things are exactly the same.

I got home well before festivities started. I never wasted any of my time standing idly in line.

Why wouldn’t you get your family Christmas photo with Santa well in advance of Christmas Eve? Isn’t the point to show off and send out your photos to others before the new year actually hits? Or isn’t it the goal to let your children see Santa at the very least three weeks before Christmas so you have ample time to use leverage against them to be on their best behavior? Or wouldn’t you want to go earlier in the month so you can help perpetrate the myth of Santa Claus to your kids just a little more? I mean come on, most youngsters have the sense to realize that Santa can’t possibly afford to sit in the middle of a mall in Spokane, Washington, at 3 p.m. PT on Christmas Eve.

But most of all, why would you want to spend multiple hours of your time in a line during the late hours of the afternoon on Christmas Eve? I guarantee that half of the poor souls I saw waiting to see Santa were still waiting in line while I attended Christmas Eve mass with my family. I don’t do well in lines. I definitely don’t do well in lines when I could be out celebrating one of the most joyous holidays on the calendar.

A couple days after Christmas I sat in Santa's throne in Northtown Mall.

A couple days after Christmas I sat in Santa’s throne in Northtown Mall.

However, I definitely know that I could be missing something. I mean heck, out of all the mall trips I took during the holiday season, nothing compared to the one I saw on Christmas Eve. A reason must exist for why people freely sacrifice their holiday to stand around a cheaply manufactured holiday display in a halfway abandoned mall for hours on end…right?

Is it because of tradition? Is it because of the magic? Is it because people want to stay away as long as they can before they have to go over to their relatives’ house? I know I am assuming a lot so if I am in fact way off and narrow minded please enlighten me.

To each his own! I know I will probably hear some answers that will put me in my place. For all I know, Santa Claus might very well be real and he just so happens to take up residence at Northtown Mall while giving everyone who visits him on Christmas Eve lavish gifts and winning Mega Millions tickets. If so, I might find myself in line next year. Don’t Blink.

My Five Shopping Mall Holiday Trends of 2013

I decided to start my Christmas shopping early this year as I ventured out this weekend to knock some people off my list. As Missoula’s Southgate Mall was one of the places I risked my sanity to shop in, I noticed some trends inside that shopping center that also corresponded almost exactly to things I observed while zipping through the Spokane malls during Thanksgiving weekend. For today’s blog post I want to highlight the main five trends I have identified inside malls during the 2013 holiday season.

Cell Phone Cases Galore: With the proliferation of smart phones comes the proliferation of smart phone cases. The malls I have visited have had at the very least two cell phone case kiosks in high walking traffic areas. People want to protect their phones while also adding a little personality as well. Many of these kiosks sell cases with every design, color, sports team, movie, cartoon character, celebrity, etc. that you could want. However, I feel they are a complete rip off. While shopping for someone on my list I spotted a potential cell phone case that would make a good gift. I asked the person behind the kiosk if I could hold it before I made a decision. He grudgingly allowed me to and the second I placed it in my hands I said “No thanks”.

The dingy plastic cover would never protect any phone and the design was not even that cool. Add in the ridiculous price and I would tell most people to not consider purchasing cases from cell phone kiosks in the mall. Seriously, check out www.case-mate.com. There you can personally design your own case while getting a product that will save your phone when you do drop it (just ask me from experience).

Gift Cards: While gift cards have been a mainstay in every holiday shopper’s diet for several years now, I feel it has reached a new peak this year. Not only does every store offer gift cards in 10 different designs with 10 different card holders to choose from, but now there is an added incentive to purchase them in high dollar amounts. Every place (no exaggeration) that I have purchased a gift card from has offered me a deal where if I purchase a certain dollar amount I will receive additional funds for free. The most common example is the $100 gift card purchase. If you go to a clothing retailer or restaurant and purchase $100 in gift cards (either on one whole card or say five cards at $20 each), you will get an additional $20 free to either add on to one of the cards or to just slap it on to a brand new card.

Obviously you get no complaining from me on this one. What is not to like about going to a popular store and buying a $20 gift card for five of your favorite friends and then getting an extra $20 card for free? You can now give a gift to your sixth favorite friend or if you don’t have that many friends you can keep it for yourself (or maybe give it to charity).

Authentic Santas: Something that I have noticed this holiday season is the very visible step up in mall Santas. Each one I have seen has actually looked like Kris Kringle himself. I am talking real full grown white beards, jolly eyes, and white hair flowing from under the back of the hat. Even the suit has looked pristine, with a couple opting to not even go with the traditional Christmas Eve red ensemble but rather a type of outfit that Santa might wear while making toys at the North Pole. Every Santa I have seen could pass for the one from the most recent version of “Miracle on 34th Street.”

I applaud malls for going the extra mile to hire legit looking Santas. Over the years I have seen some cheesy looking Santas with awful looking fake beards and sloppy fitting suits. Obviously the people who take the time and sacrifice to make their actual physical appearance simulate that of the real Santa are going to do the best job and give children the best experience .

Samples: This year when I have strolled into malls I have had to ask myself if I was actually in a Costco. Stores and kiosks are giving away samples like never before. Employees with wide smiles holding trays are encouraging shoppers to try their product. **Well, even though I have no intention of buying your meat tray you don’t need to twist my arm to at least taste it for free**. I have watched in semi amazement as the employees handing out samples will rush from their storefront across to the other side to offer customers walking in the opposite direction a bite of their frozen yogurt or a small trial size of their scent. I have never seen the Costco sample ladies do that before!

Surprisingly Good Deals: Black Friday is long gone but that hasn’t meant that the good deals are too. I was pleasantly surprised with the numerous bargains I encountered while shopping over the past couple days. Sure, I did see my fair share of jacked up scams but I also saw lots of 40% off sales, $10 long sleeve shirts, and buy one-get one free offers. Anyone who took time and care to investigate what was out there could easily find affordable gift ideas. I also encountered many helpful and cheerful employees who were eager to answer my questions and also point me in the direction of where I could find the biggest savings. While I don’t relish holiday shopping by any means, this weekend it wasn’t too painful.


You got roughly nine days of shopping left! Over these never several days when you are out at your local mall don’t be surprised when you notice these particular trends. In fact, I would love it more than anything if you snapped a photo of any mall Santa you happen to stumble across and send it to me. That might be worth a candy cane and a Christmas card from yours truly. Have a great week everyone! Don’t Blink.

The Magic of Santa

Christmas means so much to little kids for so many reasons including: One of the most important times at their church, days off of school, Christmas tree hunting and decorating, specials on television, presents, lots of special sweets, and just that general holiday spirit that fills homes and communities. Probably the biggest part of Christmas though that makes the season so special to kids in a way that adults can no longer feel is Santa Claus. But let me get a little more specific. Kids just don’t enjoy Christmas as much as they do because of Santa Claus himself but rather because of the magic of Santa Claus. Sure, the physical presence of the big fat man in a red suit with an overflowing white beard carrying a big sack of toys is very significant but it is more about the legend and mystique of Kris Kringle that makes the holiday so special.

To this day I still love Santa Claus.

Yes, I used to be one of those children who cherished Santa Claus and who really held a special place in my little kid heart for him. As I grew older and as I stopped believing, Christmas was never really the same to me. Even though I gained a better appreciation for what the holiday truly is meant for, that magic that I am going to keep referring to throughout this post dimmed quite a bit. For tonight, I wish to recall the five aspects of the Santa Claus experience that I still look back on today with very fond and distinctive memories. Why tonight? Maybe because with the conclusion of the Thanksgiving weekend it is now officially Christmas season. Or maybe it is because I just saw“Rise of the Guardians” and am in the Santa Claus mood. Or maybe it was the fact that tonight at church they had the Giving Trees set up, a wonderful opportunity to pass on the magic of Santa to those who are less fortunate. Most likely, it is combination of all three of those reasons. Thank you for letting me share my Santa experiences with you.

1. Santa Letters: Each year once December would hit, I would sit down at our kitchen table and write a letter to Santa. In the very early years I would tell my parents what I wanted the letter to say and they would draft it for me. After I learned to write, I would compose the letter myself with my mom helping me with spelling. I would try to butter Santa up with as many compliments as possible, ask him a couple questions, and then hit him with my list. I would then put the letter in an envelope, simply address it as “Santa Claus – North Pole”, and place it in the mailbox.

Little kids don’t forget. I checked the mail every single day after I sent my letter. Although I would grow impatient, I would always get a response from Santa. Arriving in a Christmas themed envelope and composed on special Santa stationary, I would read the letter over and over (or my Mom would). Having that personal correspondence with Santa made me feel so special, something that I could show to my friends and brag about…until they got their own letter of course. You see, at school we would always write letters to Santa as well. This would come after I had written my first letter to him. Nonetheless, I still loved doing it and still waited in anticipation for a response which also always came. Usually, our response at school came from one of Santa’s elves, making it so Santa wouldn’t contradict himself in the response he had already given me.

As I made my way through elementary school, I later became one of those “Santa’s elves.” Having the opportunity to respond to the letters that had as much love and awe as the ones I sent just a few years earlier provided me with quite a bit of joy. I took the task very seriously and tried as hard as possible to pass the magic on.

2. Fire Truck Santa: When I moved out of Spokane, I felt a sense of shock that not all places paraded Santa Claus around in fire trucks through neighborhoods. One of the most special Santa memories I have was when the Spokane Fire Department would come by my street during their December food drive. With about three Christmas decorated fire vehicles in line (with one carrying Santa in the back), the procession would go through neighborhoods, stopping to let kids sit on Santa’s lap in exchange for a can or two of food.

Santa would always hit my neighborhood when my brother, sister, and myself had been put to bed. My parents would awaken all of us, excitedly telling us that Santa was in the neighborhood. They would quickly dress us in our winter clothes and take us outside where we would join all of our friends and their parents as we waited for Santa to get closer. As the sirens grew louder and we could hear the public address system on the truck announcing Santa’s arrival, we got very excited and a little nervous too. Then, it truly became a sight when the procession would turn onto our street as the flashing fire lights combined with the Christmas lights attached onto the vehicles made for a beautiful Christmas scene.

The unique experience of seeing Santa on a fire truck late at night after already going to bed and spending it with your friends who had also already gone to bed as well will always be fondly engrained in my head.

I try to give as much respect as possible to Santa, even if that means Tebowing in front of him.

3. Santa at Church: The Sunday before Christmas, Santa Claus would always visit my church after all masses. As a kid, it was my understanding that the Santas I saw at the mall, ringing bells outside the super market, and even the one on the fire truck were all “Santa’s Helpers.” I knew they were not the real Santa, just people working for him. However, the Santa who visited my church was different. My parents told me that he was the real Santa and I took my visit with him very seriously. Sitting in his chair in the old community center of my hometown church, he just seemed different and more important than all the other Santas I saw previous to him that year…I knew he was special.

A few things stuck out about the Santa at church. First, he was always the same guy for all the years I attended church there (just a nice, loyal member of the Knights of Columbus I would later learn). Second, I would always get a free polaroid photo with him. I loved getting the photo and shaking it, anxiously waiting for the image to appear. Those polaroids are the only Santa pictures I have growing up. Third, he would always give us a LARGE candy cane. No, he did not give us the miniature candy canes that are always broken, he gave us the big ones! Church Santa was always special and he received a much different level of reverence from me.

4. Awaiting Santa: To go along with my point that this post is more about the magic of Santa rather than Santa himself, perhaps I didn’t get any more excited and involved in the holiday season than during Christmas Eve. Even though I didn’t see him or get correspondence with him, nothing beats the anticipation of a kid on Christmas Eve. I will never forget scoping the skies coming back from our Christmas Eve gathering with my dad’s side of the family to my grandparents’ house where we were staying. Looking for Santa’s sleigh with my brother and sister in the Walla Walla sky was something we always did. When we arrived at the house, we put together a plate of baked goods and wrote Santa a letter. My parents would urge us to go to bed so Santa could come and deliver the gifts. Although I knew in the back of my mind that he would always come, I still felt a sense of nervousness that he might skip us over that particular year. But my excitement definitely overshadowed those nerves and I always went to bed a very happy boy.

5. Christmas Morning: Waking up on Christmas morning was exhilarating. My brother and I would run up the stairs and into my grandparents’ living room where we were lucky enough to see large packages that were not there the night before. We would then look to the fireplace where the plate of cookies/candy had been. The plate would be empty and a reply to our note would be there. Too dumb to know that it was my mom’s handwriting, it would talk about what good kids we were, how more presents would be waiting for us in Spokane, and how he had given the peanut brittle we left him to his reindeer. Knowing that Santa had taken the time to hit our house and deliver gifts while also taking time to write a note absolutely made my Christmas morning and strengthened my belief in him, especially during those early years. Kind of weird, but I would always want to keep the wrapping paper from the gifts that Santa had delivered, thinking it was sort of sacred since it had to have come from the North Pole. I also scoured the area, trying to see if Santa had mistakenly left anything behind or if any strands from his suit had fallen off while in our residence. Although my searches for “extras” went to no avail, I always had a deep appreciation and awe for the amazing Santa.


Every once in a blue moon I will dress up as the fat man also!

To this day, I am very sensitive and joyful around kids who still believe in Santa. I know I have already said this word numerous times in this post but it is just that magic that exists that brightens a whole kid’s outlook on life. Although I obviously still don’t believe in Santa (ever heard of a 26 year old guy who does?) I love everything about the mythical legend of Santa Claus. I love Santa movies, Santa crafts, Santa ornaments, and people who can tastefully and believably dress up as him. You can bet that I have already been searching #Santa on Instagram. Have a great Christmas season everyone, HO HO HO! Don’t Blink.