Turns out that mall Santas are some of the bravest heroes of modern society. They have to sit there and smile when an odd child asks for something gruesome or strange. These poor men probably couldn't fall asleep that night, worrying about the terrifying waves of children they would have to greet the next day. Be sure to check under the bed while reading these stories. These stories have been edited for clarity.
"My dad used to be the Santa at our local Macy's. One time, a kid came in and wanted his brother's cancer to go away. The kid's brother came in a couple of weeks later and my dad (as Santa) wanted to do something for them.
Of course, Santa has no control over these things, but being the Macy's Santa did give my dad some power. He was able to get the store to let the kids come in at a special time and pick out pretty much whatever they wanted from the store. It was magical and he still has the pictures from their visit.
My dad would regularly write to them as Santa up until the boy's death. He even went to visit the kid before he died. He tried to stay in touch with the family after the death, but I think it was just too sad and the magic was gone."
"I used to be a Santa at a haunted house, as weird as that sounds.
I had quite a few people try to sit in my lap and it usually ended with them grinding me. I was chill with the adults doing it, even had a few gals call me 'Santa Baby.' A few guys got jealous and one said he wished I'd take some time from delivering presents to 'join' him and his girlfriend.
One old lady, who was no younger than 65, said she wanted to try my personal 'candy cane,' licked her lips, then left with a wink. On another interaction, she invited me to get the coal for the naughty children out of her 'coal mine.' I wasn't expecting that.
I would always have teenagers try to get a bit too touchy, but I was usually able to avoid it. One time, I remember popping into the line and jokingly asked if everyone was excited to sit on Santa's lap. Four teenage girls immediately whipped around and screamed 'SANTA,' and I knew that was going to be trouble. They came in and I asked the older man with them if they were all his. That poor man said yes and looked overwhelmed. I told the girls I'd leave them cars if they didn't bring home boyfriends and their dad seemed a bit more relieved after that.
Then there was the time I had this preteen girl look at me after the show in front of her parents. She asked me if she could make me a new suit since mine was burned, ripped, and dirty. I said that if she could do that, I'd put her permanently on the top of the good list every year. She looked so heartbroken and said, 'But Santa! I want to be on the NAUGHTY list!' For once, I was the terrified one.
Her parents laughed at her joke, but I felt mortified and immediately excused myself, saying that I had to go check on the elves in the back."
"About four years ago in Brooklyn, I was a mall Santa after I was fired from my regular job. One day, this kid ran right up to me, jumped in my lap, and said, 'I want a dad!' I saw his mom approach me, and it was my ex-girlfriend, Abby.
Meanwhile, this kid was screaming at me that he wanted a dad. I watched Abby slowly recognize me through the veil of my Santa suit, and then just made the most terrified face I had ever seen. She pulled her son off me, looked at him, then looked at me, told him that they had to go now, and practically ran away from me.
We haven't spoken since, but it's awful knowing that I have a son out there and his mother doesn't want me in his life."
"I was a Santa for three weeks during Christmas. One little boy whose name was Stanley (he informed me he was 7) came up to the throne and hopped up on my lap. He smiled at me and very politely said, 'I know you're not the real Santa, but I know you call his cell phone and talk to him every night when you leave. You must have a good memory. I brought you some cookies from Subway. They're chocolate chip. Sorry if they're not good.'
I said that I was very happy to get the cookies from him regardless of what they tasted like and that they'd probably be the best cookies ever. He smiled and I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. I'll always remember exactly what he said. 'Well first I made this for you (hands me a baked ceramic Christmas tree that still hangs on my tree). I promise I'm not sucking up. For Christmas this year, all I want is for my mommy and daddy to love each other again.'
I encouraged him that things would get better, and he smiled. He then said he had one more thing he wanted. I figured it would be a sweet toy or something else but instead it was, 'Can you make my daddy stop hitting me and my mommy?' That was horrendous. I didn't even know what to say as he walked away.
On the flip side, I had a kid about an hour later ask me if I could make his parents get a divorce so that he could have two Christmases. I wanted to punt him."
"My fire department conducts a Santa visit to all the houses in my town. We have a few guys who dress up like Santa and then we drive around town, going from house to house in the fire engines.
I was Santa one year and we went to a house where a married couple and their two kids lived. The wife was clearly pregnant. The daughter, who was probably 10 or 12 years old, creeped me out. I asked the girl what she wanted for Christmas, and she looked at her I assume step-mom and with a deadpan expression, said, 'I want the baby to die.'
I found out that the girl's step-mom was previously the girl's babysitter before her dad's second divorce, so maybe that had something to do with it. But Jesus Christ, kid."
"When I was 17, I got a job being Santa in an inner-city mall close to where I lived. I was a white kid and surprised they hired me, but they were desperate because the previous Santa just up and quit. I actually kind of enjoyed the job. The kids asked me for all kinds of weird stuff, but nothing remarkable (and of course quite a few of them asked why I wasn't black).
The thing that sticks out is that I witnessed something that I will never forget. The Santa platform was facing the food court and I had a perfect view of everything. Well, one day near the beginning of my shift, I heard three loud bangs, then saw everyone scattering out of the food court, screaming and yelling.
I luckily did not have any kids at the moment (it was too early in the day), and I just stood up, having no idea what to do. I then saw one kid chasing another into the bathrooms next to the food court, then a few seconds later, two more shots. One kid ran out of the bathroom (obviously the shooter), and that was the end of it.
I quit my job the next day."
"My ex-boyfriend's dad owned a restaurant and I worked there part-time in my late teens. Christmas Eve was usually really busy, so to earn more money, his wife came up with the idea to pretend to be Santa for a few hours on Christmas Eve and charge something like $2 per kid.
This one dad came up to my ex's dad and paid the money for his kid and then went to the restroom with his other child (a baby), leaving the kid with 'Santa.' My ex's dad asked the kid what he wanted for Christmas, and apparently, the kid whispered into his ear, 'I want daddy to go away.'
He asked the kid to explain why, and apparently, the dad had beaten up the mother a few hours prior and had locked her in the shed in their back garden, before taking the kid and his baby sister out to eat because they had been crying hysterically, and he was worried the neighbors would hear and get suspicious. My ex's dad then quickly asked the kid for his home address.
The dad came out of the bathroom while the kid was still with 'Santa.' At this point, the kid ran back to his dad, and so my ex's dad came into the kitchen and told my ex, who also worked there, to call the police. He told the rest of the staff to act like nothing was going on until the police showed up, but that we also weren't to let them leave the premises under any circumstances.
I think the dad must have seen people looking over because he tried to leave before they'd eaten, but one of the hosts managed to distract him by informing him that he'd still have to pay for taking up the seats. He protested it for a while, and that kept him in place for another few minutes before the police showed up to put him under arrest.
The police had already gone to the house to rescue the mom before they came to the restaurant. When they turned up to arrest the father, a social worker was with them to collect the children.
My ex's family later tried to get in contact with the local children's services a few days later to get an update, but they couldn't tell us anything as the kids lived in the neighboring council, and so the case was being handled in another jurisdiction. But we do know that the father was found guilty of domestic abuse, grievous bodily harm - the highest form of assault in UK law, several child abuse charges, and possession of and intent to sell illegal substances. Hopefully, he is still locked up."
"I was working as a Santa last December at a park where you can walk around and look at Christmas decorations. At the end of the park, there was a small booth where I sat down and took pictures with kids. So this one kid, who was probably around 10 years old or so, came up and whispered in my ear that he would like the full name and address of one of his favorite female online personalities because he was in love with her.
I was shocked by what this kid said, and when I went home, I looked up the name and she was a popular twitch IRL streamer.
That was one weird kid."
"My grandfather played Santa for years. All year long, kids would ask if he was Santa and he'd always smile and wink.
At the American Legion, he'd do their annual Christmas party and gift all the kids stuff bought in advance. One year, the fire department offered to drive him in on the back seat of the truck. All the kids lined up to see him. He never showed up.
You can see where this is headed. The department got a call for a fire in another town. Bad. They rushed over with my grandfather on the truck still. So, there was Santa Claus watching this poor family's house burn down. And he was on the ground, playing with the kids and their dog. Keeping them distracted as their whole lives went up in flames.
He said he lost it when someone came to pick him up. One of the kids asked if Santa could bring them a new home to live in and he didn't know what to say."
"Former mall Santa. I even bought a professional suit because I hated the one they provided.
I once had a little girl, no more than 5 years old, who was screaming bloody murder when it was her turn. Kids get scared of Santa, so this was not that uncommon. Her dolled up mom was having none of her child's tantrum and the elves were pleading with her to not put the girl on my lap. When the girl was placed on my lap, she immediately stopped screaming and just had this look of pure hatred at her mom for the remainder of the photo session. I swear, I thought I was on Candid Camera, it looked so acted out. Attempting to talk to the little terror, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she looked at me and softly said just above a whisper, 'For my mommy to die.' I NOPED myself to a break after that one.
Another time, I had a rather lonely, overweight college student who kept getting in line several times a week to get pictures with Santa. I was in college myself back then and I'm pretty sure she was working herself up to asking me out. Extremely shy, awkward, and had some hygiene issues. She only paid for one of the photos but the elves remember seeing her throughout the week when I wasn't on shift. Apparently, she only got pictures with me.
I was in my 20s at the time and the perverted things the moms whispered into my ear while sitting on Santa's lap were definitely something for the naughty list to be sure. It became so frequent for the younger Santas to get groped, teased, and violated that the elves were told to stay close when adults got their pictures taken."
"I got roped into being Santa once while in college many years ago. It was alright, all things considered, but I always found it ironic given that I'm not even Christian.
I did have one freaky moment when a little kid approached me and asked if I could, among other things, please 'stop destroying America.' Long story short, it turns out that little Timmy's dad/granddad had a regular habit of railing against 'The Reds' who were out to destroy the United States. The kid, in turn, interpreted that red bit rather literally at some point.
I don't remember my exact reply, but it was basically along the lines of calming him down and telling him that Santa loves America and that just because someone's dressed in red doesn't mean they're dreadful bad guys and so on. At the end of it all, he left happy, which was the most important part. And based on a description from someone who was nearby, I gave his mom a look that just about screamed, 'You've gotta be kidding me.'"
"I dressed as Santa for some extra credit in a college class, giving out toys to low-income housing in a nearby city. The kids were actually amazing and would light up when we gave them toys.
The kids were awesome, but their parents were a different story. After four hours and hundreds of kids, I walked out to my car with a 'Santa' hat and had two guys walk up on me, telling me to give them all the toys in my car. I didn't have any toys because they all came from a school bus that came along with us.
These guys tried to jack me up, but a few other people happened to walk out of the building just in time. I lucked out, but I'm still angry that these selfish prick try to ruin Christmas for all those kids."
"I helped organize a Christmas Party for special needs children for three years running as part of a charity group.
The guy we picked to be Santa was this really well built, tall, bald guy from Kent, called Paul. He was a really nice chap though. He was picked to be the Santa for the party. He had his doubts, but we were convinced his well-built frame and height would be convincing. All we had to do was give him a bit of a belly and a costume, and he put on this deep booming voice that completely masked his accent.
The day of the party went really well. We had jugglers, magicians, a mini disco, games, food and of course a Santa's grotto. We had the Santa's sack prop against a false wall which had a hole in it that would let us plant toys in the sack without any of the children seeing it. As it was all special needs schools we had their names and a teacher hid behind the wall and she identified the child coming in.
We had hand picked each toy to the child depending on their disability or special need. Reached that toy into the sack, whispered the name to Paul (Santa) via an in-ear headphone we had hidden on him under the hair and beard. That way when the child entered he could seem all-knowing, and the children were in amazement at this. It added to the magic.
Anyway, to the point. One child came in who was around 7 or 8, but his disability made him very small in stature so he looked about 4 years old, and he had an oxygen tube under his nose. He also had poor eyesight and his glasses gave him these giant sad looking eyes that melted everyone's heart. He came into the grotto:
Santa: 'Why, hello Patrick! Nice to see you again!'
His eyes lit up. Patrick: 'You know my name! You're the real one!?'
Santa: 'Indeed, I am! I came here to make sure you are being a good boy! Have you decided what you want for Christmas?'
Patrick: 'Yes, but it's not a present. I just want to be at home this year for Christmas!'
I am not afraid to admit, my eyes grew very damp. The girls who volunteered that year immediately broke down but Paul held it together remarkably well. He explained that he couldn't get in the way of doctors and that they knew best and he wanted Patrick to be better so he could visit him on Christmas Eve no matter where he was.
Paul then reached into the bag and lifted out a cuddly toy duck. The child ran around with that duck the rest of the day tucked into his jumper. Stroking its head and kissing it now and again, he beamed a massive smile for the rest of the day."
"I'm not a Santa, but I remember being in hospitals a lot as a kid with serious stomach issues. I remember asking a mall Santa if I could 'get better and not die' once when I was about eight or nine years old.
When the mall Santa looked at me sadly and said he couldn't do that, almost in tears, I asked if my old dog that died as a puppy could be brought back as a zombie so 'we could both be dead together' and if I could 'come back as a zombie too so I could stay with my parents so they wouldn't be sad.'
Looking back, that was really creepy, and I think I broke the poor guy's heart."
"My dad was in a hospital with a guy who was the Santa for a few different places in my home state. He seemed like a nice guy at first, would be chatty and kind (seemed perfect for the role), but it soon became weird when he started asking my dad really weird questions about me. He also enjoyed getting to know other patients' kids and would creepily stare at any kid with a school uniform.
My dad would purposely make me stand well away from him and not talk to him because of how creepy he was behaving. We looked him up on the web and it turned out he had served time for preying on children.
Sadly, there weren't any laws about mandatory background checks for Santa actors at the time. I never looked at Santa's the same after that."
"My boyfriend is a Santa for private events and has been doing it for over 20 years, so he has a BUNCH of stories.
The saddest story was definitely when a little kid (4 or 5) crawled into his lap and, with a big, sweet smile, asked Santa:
'Can you make my mommy love me?'
My boyfriend had to hug the kid so he wouldn't see him tearing up and told him that that was a request for a higher power and that he and Mama Claus would pray about it. The kid seemed happy with that response. He still tears up when he tells it sometimes, even though it happened almost 10 years ago now. I hope that kiddo is doing ok."
"A few years back, I filled in for Santa at a locally owned toy store - as I don't QUITE look old enough to be Santa (and I have a full lush gingery lumberjack beard), I was billed as 'Nick Jr,' and the story was that my dad was Santa and I was in training to be the next Santa - he was having me go and fill in for him at some of the usual stops as part of my training in getting to talk to the little kids.
Oh man, the kids loved that. There was a rocking chair that I was 'supposed' to sit in, but I sat on the floor with the kids and chatted and it was AWESOME. The kids really connected with this idea of a 'trainee Santa.'
The most heart-wenching story was a little girl, about 7 or so, who was staying with her dad and stepmom because her mommy was deathly ill in the hospital. She came and saw me every day that I was there, and she just wanted to talk to someone she KNEW could really understand where she was coming from in her fear. She hoped that she could come visit the North Pole, but understood if it wasn't possible.
My last day of the gig, she brought me a handwritten-in-crayon note thanking me for everything, saying she was glad to have met me and hoping that I grew up to be the best Santa ever."