Jul 28, 2014

A Word With Santa

Santa and Father Christmas, who looks surprisingly like a Burlington resident, chat with Patch

A Word With Santa A Word With Santa

His bushy eyebrows are white; so are his moustache, beard and long, flowing hair. His hand-made long cape is a rich red. But no red cap. No belly like a bowl full of jelly. No hearty "Ho, ho, ho's."

Santa Claus, or Father Christmas, as he prefers to be called, is meeting children at the Woburn Mall. Some have their picture taken with him.

Some children go right up to him. Others hang back.

Father Christmas leans forward, calmly, quietly, and begins to talk to one young fan.

Cassidy Cudoni gathered up her courage to actually sit with Santa this year. She and her sister, Molly, who live in the Mishawum Road area, came to Santa's castle to put toys in the Toys for Tots box, explained their grandmother, Priscilla Cudoni, who lives in the same house as her granddaughters.

The girls also stopped to see Santa, a.k.a. Father Christmas. Cassidy, 7, told him she wanted a Barbie for Christmas; Molly, 10, told him she wants an American Girl doll.

Why did Cassidy go up to Santa this year and not in years past?

"You grew up," grandmother Cudoni said.

Another reason may be Father Christmas' approach.

"I don't go up to them. They come to me," he said, so his young visitors are in control of their meeting.

This year, children in general are asking for Legos, American Girl dolls and game consoles, according to Father Christmas.

He wants "a new radio" for his special Christmas Eve vehicle, his sleigh.

With his white hair and beard, Father Christmas resembles a resident of a nearby town, Doug Dodge of Burlington. Dodge runs an insurance agency in Lynn.

When Dodge was waiting for a table several years ago at a restaurant at the Burlington Mall, in June or July, "not the Santa season," a family walked past him, he said, parents and a child. The child kept one eye on his parents, Dodge said, and one on Dodge. Softly, the child addressed Dodge.

"Santa?" he whispered.

A long-time Woburn resident with year-round white flowing white hair and beard also closely resembles Santa. Some people think they've seen Bob Eaton at the Mall of America outside Minneapolis, Minnesota for the last two years, or at the Liberty Tree Mall or the mall in Dartmouth, MA.

Eaton is a carpenter by trade. Born and raised in Woburn, he's lived for 30-plus years on Hawthorne Street. Because of his white beard and hair, his grandchildren, ages 8, 5 and 3, who live in Texas, call him "Ho Ho," he said. For the last two years, he's spent roughly 45 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in Minneapolis.

Like Father Christmas at the Woburn Mall, Santa at the Minneapolis Mall of America approaches children gently.

"I've been known to sit on the floor of the mall and read" to children, he said in a special interview with Patch. He wears what he described as "workshop style" clothing, knickers with suspenders, because, he said, the "less formal" style of dress is less threatening to children.

You need to go slowly with children, Santa said. Their parents are too rushed.

Children in Minneapolis want some of the same things as children in Woburn, according to Santa, like electronics.

They also have special regional requests, he said, like farm equipment.

Some children ask Santa at the Minneapolis mall how he gets around the world in one night. It turns out that he uses the International Date Line, he explained, giving him a 24-hour-long Christmas Eve toy delivery night.

When he visited New Bedford, Santa said one child asked for a non-toy gift. The boy asked for shoes for his sister, Santa recounted, because he said she had only one pair.

Both Father Christmas here and Santa at the Minneapolis mall said they enjoy meeting and listening to children.

When children ask the Santa who looks like Eaton if he's real, he said he tells them, "I feel real."

Father Christmas will be at the Woburn Mall from now until Christmas from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6:30 p.m., through Christmas Eve.

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