A local couple’s impromptu idea goes on to become a tradition for 20 years.
Not a parked car in sight, but the Parsons’ garage is adorned with snowflakes, wreaths, twinkling lights and signs directing people to the North Pole. It’s like a Hallmark movie moment.
The local Mr. and Mrs. Claus say they are ready to sleigh the town this Christmas season with an avalanche of joy.
From St. John’s, to Mount Pearl, Paradise and Holyrood, for 20 years Richard has donned the red suit and white beard, transforming himself into Santa Claus.
His wife Margaret Parsons, who is also his business partner in their seasonal Santa’s Helper Services venture, doesn’t mind going by Mrs. Claus.
Being Richard’s right-hand, she is in charge of event bookings and their custom-made costumes.
“Sometimes there’s a candy cane stuck on the fur, but that’s OK,” said Mrs. Claus.
Margaret says families and event organizers start calling as early as June. The couple begins preparations in October for the busy Christmas season that’s ahead. And once that’s over, it all repeats again for the following year.
“Our work really should end on Christmas Eve but doesn’t end on Christmas Eve,” said Richard, sharing a laugh with Margaret.
“You almost feel like you’ve become a part of this family.”Richard Parsons
For Richard, the Santa journey began with a simple wish from a friend.
“Many years ago, we were at a friend’s house and they said they’d love to have Santa come visit their kids,” said Margaret. “I told him (Richard), ‘You could probably do that, you’re so good with kids!'”
“So, I went to Walmart,” said Richard, “and bought a $69 Santa Suit.”
Remembering how it all began, he shone a nostalgic grin.
Little did the couple know a spur-of-the-moment decision would snowball into a heartwarming tradition that has touched countless lives over the past two decades.
For seven years, a family has invited the couple into their home during the month of December. Richard says witnessing the kids grow up a little more each time he visits is special.
“With every visit at their house, I see my pictures with the kids from previous years on the mantelpiece,” said Richard. “You almost feel like you’ve become a part of this family.”
Now retired from being a personal care attendant, Richard says he understands the value of compassion and spreading joy by any means possible.
Having a special needs child of their own, Margaret understands how some children can react differently to new faces, colours, or environments.
“Despite the gifts and laughter, I make sure Santa gives extra time to the special ones who need it,” said Margaret. “Every child is so unique.”
“Now don’t let the laughs and candies fool you,” said Richard pointing at his plush, heavy, red-velvet suit.
There are days he is drained after hours of wearing the heavy costume, but he says somehow the children’s energy channels into him and he’s able to continue to pose for photos or distribute gifts.
“…as soon as the attire comes on, he becomes Santa. It’s magical. Just like a movie.”Margaret Parsons
“Running this small business feels more like a hobby,” said Margaret.
Even though her kids are grown and the hours can be long and schedules hectic, she says Santa’s Helper Service lets her spend time with kids.
The couple remembers a time when their 17-year-old son was a small kid accompanying them to one of their Santa visits.
Richard says he had to get out of his everyday clothes and get into his costume in a small room, all in his son’s presence, and his kid’s reaction stayed with him forever.
“Our son couldn’t believe what he just saw,” said Margaret. “After that day he told everyone ‘Santa is real! Santa is real! Santa is my dad.'”
For Richard, becoming Santa is more than donning a velvet, red suit with a black belt around the waist.
“So many people tell me my cheeks are plain, normally,” said Richard. “But as soon as my jacket, my beard, my hat comes on, they get glistening rosy (red) and my voice changes, too.”
The suit, said Margaret, is magical.
“Not a word of a lie, he can’t do that Ho Ho Ho without his suit,” said Margaret.
Whether the rosy cheeks come from being bundled up in all the red velvet or if it’s one of many miracles that happen as Christmas draws near, is a matter that only someone at the North Pole can answer.
“It’s magical. Just like a movie.”