Sal Lizard was in his twenties when his hair and beard turned white. What might have been a disaster for some turned into the job of a lifetime for the professional Santa. In “Being Santa Claus,” a book about Lizard’s experiences, he reflects on what it’s been like playing the jolly guy in the big red suit for the last two decades.
FOX 411: You write that political correctness over saying ‘Merry Christmas’ irritates you.
Lizard: It’s slacked off a little but I was acutely aware of it a couple of years ago. In Australia Santa had to say, ‘Ha Ha Ha,’ so as not to offend the working gals. In England I was told children weren’t allowed to sit on Santa’s lap because of the fear of inappropriate behavior.
One year the surgeon general came out and said, ‘Santa lay off the cookies and eat more broccoli.’ I’ve never had a child climb on my lap and say, ‘I want to gain a lot of weight and be like you.’
I have people say to me you should say, ‘Happy Holidays,’ and I say, ‘Santa says Merry Christmas’ I’m not against people wishing each other a happy holiday, what I get disturbed about is people so militantly opposed to hearing the words, ‘Merry Christmas,’ and then trying to thrust that on others.
FOX 411: How did you become a professional Santa?
Lizard: It was one of those things where I had the look. A radio station asked me to come do an event, and that led them to asking me to be Santa for the holiday season. I really loved how the children reacted and I kept doing it and it has become a big part of my life.
FOX 411: You say adults get very excited seeing you too.
Lizard: They do. I have a personal belief that we all have great memories of some Christmases and when I get around adults it seems that it brings back some of those memories. It allows them to be a little more childlike and free spirited.
FOX 411: What do you love about Christmas?
Lizard: For some reason people put aside a lot of their pettiness, strangers are more loving towards one another which I think is a great thing. Santa is there to help children remember. I tell kid three things to help them get what they want. Listen to your parents and do your chores, listen to your teachers and do as well as you can in school and when you’re with your friends be kind to each other and if you try to do that all the time you’ll have a pretty good Christmas. Santa reminds children to be good.