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Sylvania’s Dave Davis started seriously dressing up and playing the role of Santa in response to what he calls “a spiritual calling.”
In 2005, his sister was undergoing cancer treatment, and while she was in the hospital, she was teased about having Santa as her brother. But when his sister died two days after Christmas, Mr. Davis said he felt a summons to be the holiday icon.
“It was kind of a spiritual calling, and I started doing it,” he said, adding that he does the majority of his work for charity groups.
Mr. Davis portrays three types of Santas wearing three types of suits: a traditional one, a Victorian Father Christmas, and a Middle Earth Father Christmas. He said the traditional Santa is requested at “90 percent” of the events he works. He donned the Middle Earth Father Christmas suit last week, when he was invited to a local bookstore for a party concurring with the opening of the movie The Hobbit.
“The outfit is long, red, with stars and moons, kind of wizardy-looking,” he said.
But Christmas Eve is by far his busiest, he said, adding that it can be a challenge to get from house to house on that day.
“I'm pretty well booked,” Mr. Davis said. On Dec. 24, he said, he’s open only before 3 p.m. and after 11 p.m.
He commutes to each event fully dressed in his Santa outfit, and he says that he gets attention from bystanders.
“I have a Mercury Mariner with two antlers on it and a red nose. They’ll drive up to me and take pictures on their cell phones. A lot of times, I’ll get a ‘Hey, Santa,’ and I wave back, and I have fun with it.”
He said he loves seeing the looks of surprise and fascination on the faces of children.
“Definitely the kids,” he said, talking about the benefits. “It’s really rewarding.”
Mr. Davis said he particularly enjoys working with children who are mentally challenged or autistic, and watch as they “open up and light up,” when they see him.
“The expression of the kids, that’s a lot of fun.”
But Mr. Davis said it is rare for children to question whether Santa is real or not, and rarely is the magic spoiled.
“I’ve had very few questions like that,” he said. “A lot of questions are about the reindeer, and of course, the reindeer can only fly on Christmas Eve.”
And, after all, according to Mr. Davis’ Web site, christmas-lore.com, he is a charter member of the Amalgamated Order of the Real Bearded Santas.
When he visits sites or homes, he usually tells stories or listens as the children tell him what their wishes are, and the children can have a photo taken with him. When he visits Nautica Coffee at the Sylvania Shoppes of Mayberry Square, every Sunday during the season from 6-8 p.m., he participates in a “red-nose singalong” and incorporates reindeer into the theme.
“I just try to make everybody’s Christmas a little more fun,” he said.
“I’m kind of like a Christmas entertainer.”