No, Elaina, there can never be too many Santa Clauses.

This Christmas season, my 4-year-old granddaughter has become totally enamored of Santa. If he's making an appearance anywhere, she has to be there. And if Mrs. Claus has accompanied him, she just beams with happiness.

And it doesn't have to be a planned appearance -- finding Santa at a store while shopping is like hitting the lottery for this child.

I try to remind her that just a couple Christmases ago, she was not a fan of Santa. Getting her picture taken with him proved to be almost impossible. When I tell her that, she just looks at me like I must be crazy or losing my memory (or both) -- there's no way she wouldn't have liked Santa.

We've seen St. Nicholas at breakfast, at lunch, at the store, at church, at parties and at holiday displays. She never grows tired of seeing him -- her joyous smile is evidence of that.

And it's not important that she tell him what she would like for Christmas. She's just happy to see him, to greet him and to tell him Merry Christmas.

Her 19-month-old brother, Carter, surprisingly is almost as receptive to meeting the jolly old man. At that age, that's usually not the case -- as proven by their 19-month-old cousin, Odin, who definitely wants nothing to do with this guy in red. One family holiday picture with Santa shows one of his older cousins hanging on to him as Odin tries to make his escape.

This is totally beyond Elaina's comprehension -- how could anyone NOT want to see Santa?

The only time I saw her resolve break was during a shopping trip with myself and her 7-year-old cousin, Mark. The three of us had just finished ringing the bells as part of the Stow-Munroe Falls Kiwanis' holiday campaign for the Salvation Army's kettle drive.

She spotted Santa on a bench, where a photographer was taking free pictures. However, when she tried to get Mark to see Santa with her, he politely declined with a "No thanks."

Her heart was broken -- how could Mark not want to see Santa? Tears started to flow. She wouldn't go see her favorite guy, no matter how much encouragement I gave her.

So I edged over to Mark and quietly said, "Please?" He recognized it was important to Elaina and agreed to sit on the bench. The tears stopped flowing and I now have a great picture of two smiling kids with the jolly man in red.

But let me be clear -- she's not just about Santa during this Christmas. Jesus' birth gets her singing attention, as she comes home from choir practice and later stands before the congregation.

In today's paper, third-graders from Fishcreek Elementary School share what gift they would like to give Santa Claus. Stella says she would give him "a machine to make every body believe in him . . . and he wants every body to blieve [sic] in him because he's real."

And Haleigh signs off her submission with "P.S. Santa is real."

And seeing that reality through the wondrous eyes of children is the best way to celebrate the holiday.

Worrying about Santa's health

Be sure you turn to Page 20 and read the gift ideas the third-graders had for Santa. I'm thinking their educators will be pleased to read that students are insistent Santa needs a healthy lifestyle, one that doesn't include eating "50,000 [cookies] a year."

While cookies and candy canes appear on the lists, other gift suggestions include treadmills, 2 percent milk, coal to cook healthy chicken over and an exercise room.

One plan is to have Santa's round belly become smaller "like James Bond's stomach" -- interesting comparison!

Even the reindeer are targeted, with instructions for them to keep their carrot diet.

I guess the students have learned those healthy lessons taught in school are just as important for Santa as for the youngsters themselves.


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