Wednesday, January 5, 2011

I. Am. Santa.

On December 14th, I became the embodiment of joy and happiness in the world. I became Santa Claus. I was told weeks before that I would being playing Santa Claus for a local kindergarten. Soon after, my Kyoto Sensei told me that another kindergarten had requested my thespian skills. That's right, I was in high demand.

The morning of the 14th, my Kyoto Sensei picked me up from school and we traveled together to the first kindergarten. We were greeted by a very nice lady who escorted us into the conference room. She gave me the costume (including eyebrows and beard), then left to let me change. The costume fit fine. It was the beard I was struggling with. It would not stay above my ACTUAL beard. I worried that the kids might see my brown beard beneath the costume...and Christmas would be ruined. I went over my lines for the show one more time, drank some hot tea, and mentally prepared myself for what was about to come.

I stood outside the auditorium with one of the kindergarten teachers. When it was my time to enter, the teacher started shaking some bells to simulate the sound of Santa's sled. I could hear the children's screams through the door. As I entered, a giant spotlight was cast upon me and the children WENT INSANE. As a Jew, I never really experienced the joy of Santa, but I could just imagine. These kids were literally thinking, "Oh my god!!! Santa is here! Santa is here in MY school!!!"

I said all the typical phrases (ho ho ho), waved to the children, then took my seat at the front of the room. The kindergartners' uniforms are over-sized aprons. They looked adorable! After I sat down, I answered some of the questions posed by the teachers (for the students). The questions included:

Where do you live?
How did you get here?
How old are you? (apparently Santa is over 100 years old)
What do you do all year?
Will you come back next year?

The kids then lined up in front of me to receive their presents. I actually had a big, white bag full of presents for the kids. Of course, the presents were provided by the school. The teachers were my helper elves. When the bag was empty, they started to just hand presents to me. Each child received one. They smiled, said thank you, and moved on. Some kids even said "thank you" in English. It was so cute!! Often, some children would get their gift, say thank you, then STARE at me. They were just too astounded that Santa was in their presence. With these kids, I gave them a hug to help the awkward situation deflate. That made them smile even bigger. Hugs are the miracle cure, really.

Santa said his goodbyes and told the kids, "I'll be back next year if you are all good boys and girls." The teacher translated and the kids, once again, lost their minds. I waved, said the same typical lines, and exited the room. Take a breath, one more Kindergarten.

My visit to the 2nd kindergarten went almost exactly as the first, but with one key difference: it was a lot bigger. The room at the 2nd kindergarten was had at least twice the amount of kids as the first and was decorated far better. There were Christmas lights, posters, and some of the teachers were wearing minimal costumes. I handed presents to 150 more kids. My arms were starting to fall off.

After the "ceremony," my kyoto sensei and I were asked to sit in the guest room. It was basically just a room with couches and pictures of past principals. The principal joined us soon and began to sing my praises. Apparently (no ego here), I was AMAZING. Considering their last Santa Claus was my predecessor, I don't blame them for being so excited. The principal gave me some nice polo socks as a thank you gift. She also gave me sweets and some small Japanese paintings. She told me the paintings are omiyage (gifts) for friends and family back home.

I was pretty tired when it was over. It was all worth it.

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