Working in a winter wonderland

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By Raylyn Rollins

By Raylyn Rollins

If you hear the loud sounds of screaming children and jingle bells, don’t worry. It’s not a scene out of “Freddy Kruger’s Christmas on Elm Street” – it’s just Santa’s workshop.

Being one of Santa’s helpers is an unusual seasonal job. Without the labor of each of Santa’s “elves,” those embarrassing pictures many children have screaming their heads off while sitting on the lap of a big man in red would never exist.

Although some may believe that because the workers at the Galleria at Tyler cannot be serious “elves” because they do not wear pajamas and pointed shoes, do not be mistaken — these people take their jobs seriously. They are there to take pictures, assist Santa Claus and help parents.

Santa set up shop in the Tyler Galleria on Nov. 11 after a “Breakfast With Santa” celebration. He sits down in the mall waiting for eager – or sometimes not so eager – children to come down and visit.

The atmosphere on the Tyler mall Santa photo set is one of great energy. Employee Emily Saville says that it starts with the set.

“Our set is a cubicle of spontaneously combusting Christmas spirit,” she said. With a giant reindeer covered in real candy, lighted Christmas trees and giant, uniformed sheep on the premises, the Christmas spirit seems to follow.

But apart from mere decoration, being one of Santa’s helpers requires a great deal of dedication and energy.

Santa Claus enjoys all of the enthusiastic help his helpers show in Riverside.

“My helpers in the Pole love to work. They work their lives away. I must stop them to feed them,” he said. “These helpers are far friendlier and they don’t talk back.”

A typical day in the life of one of Santa’s helpers does not necessarily exist. Because no child is the same, a helper must be prepared to deal with all types of children – from answering questions for inquisitive types to trying to calm down a screaming child.

Saville’s first thought when a child bursts into tears is “Oh no! Take a picture!” She quickly rushes to the camera and tries to get a picture before Santa Claus gets kicked or the child hops off the lap, off the set and down the mall.

The inquisitive children ask everything to how Santa gets around the world in one night, to how the reindeer fly, to where Mrs. Claus is at. She’s at the North Pole, if anyone was wondering.

Another job Santa’s helpers must do involves keeping every one entertained – including Santa.

“Santa’s helpers help me by keeping me from getting bored,” Claus said.

Common tactics to keep the spirit alive are singing carols, ringing bells or even performing a special Christmas cheer during slow times. The helpers even occasionally break out into dance amidst giggles and energy.

As the season goes on, the helpers are prepared to face the large numbers of eager children and mall crowds.

The season may start off slow, but as Christmas approaches the line gets longer and the customers often get more impatient. But Santa’s helpers try to keep smiles on their faces and cool heads in spite of the sometimes stuffy mall temperature.

Employee Ashley Slater is ready because of the feeling on the set between workers.

“It’s exciting because everyone gets along,” she said. “It can’t not be fun; we’re all full of joy and happiness.”

Working for Santa can be a stressful job, but it has its rewards. Not only are the children each different and entertaining in their own ways, Saville admits to getting free candy, too!

Those workers with Santa, although not clad in the typical “Elfin garb,” work to get the best smile out of each person who visits the set. The real point is making enjoyable experiences and lasting memories, even if it means the occasional Christmas cheer or learning every verse of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”

Christmas Elves come in all shapes and sizes. Though the workers at the Tyler Galleria do not wear jingle bells or striped suits, they still have a job to entertain and make every child’s Christmas special.

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