mall santaThat’s it. I’ve decided that I’m never taking my daughter to a crappy Santa impersonator again for the rest of her life. All they do is mess up the illusion and inspire a whole lot of unanswerable questions from curious children like mine.

I can understand where the logic comes from. Visiting Santa Claus by the mall food court was a way for doubtful kids to meet the big guy himself and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. It provided an adorable photo op for parents and a bit of holiday excitement for little ones. Win – win.

Unfortunately, there are now white beards and red coats running around everywhere. The entire process has gotten a whole lot more business-like. These guys aren’t reassuring anyone about the existence of a mythical man from the North Pole.

Last weekend, my daughter and I headed out to a movie. (If you haven’t seen Rise of the Guardians, GO!) Afterwards, we decided to walk around the outdoor mall that the movie theater was attached to. It was a beautiful day and my daughter is still looking for a gift to give her dad. That’s when we passed by the food court and it’s big, decked-out Christmas display, complete with smiling Santa Claus. I just couldn’t say no to my daughter, who was so excited to get to go in and talk to Santa.

The line was blissfully short, but that wasn’t enough to make this a good experience. As my daughter was trying to introduce herself to Santa, an irritated-looking teenager walked up and informed me that all children seeing Santa Claus must purchase at least the minimum picture package. It was two 5×7’s and it cost over $20, but my daughter was already trying to crawl into Santa’s lap. I told the young man we didn’t have a problem purchasing the pictures.

When my little girl started talking to Santa, it was clear that his mind was focused on the business side of impersonating this beloved children’s character. She was asking him where his elves were. He was pointing to the camera and asking her to smile. She wanted to know if there were any reindeer around. He kept asking the only question a mall Santa Claus has to remember, “What would you like for Christmas this year?”

I tried to remain excited. I tried to explain away Santa’s brisk answers and the general sense of being rushed through the experience by reminding my daughter how busy Mr. Claus is at this time of year. She asked, “If he’s so busy, why is he just sitting around waiting for kids to come see him?” And so began a long line of questions that I was not equipped to answer.