Behind Santa’s beard, Spreading Christmas cheer

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They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Therefore, Santa Claus should be proud of how Mike Sebastian has assisted in sharing holiday cheer in Winters for over three decades. As holly as he is jolly, in and out of character, Sebastian reflects on his time as Winters’ resident Saint Nick.

Many years ago – in a time known as 80’s – Sebastian put on the big white beard and red coat for the first time waving customers into a Christmas tree lot. Seeing how well the Santa persona fit, Sebastian didn’t hesitate to accept another offer that followed shortly thereafter.

“After the Christmas tree gig, I went to Waggoner Elementary as Santa every year until about 10 years ago,” Sebastian said. “My mom worked there, and she’d take me to each classroom and I’d pass out candy canes to the kids. Around the same time, they asked me to be the city Santa as well. So I did that, helped light the tree at the Christmas tree lighting, then walked to the gazebo and listened to dozens of kids.”

A full-fledged seasonal Santa, Sebastian spread holiday cheer like glitter. In fact, he even turned his personification of Saint Nicholas into a business.

“I used to go to people’s houses and load my bag with toys. I’d take it in the house and the kids would go nuts,” Sebastian explained his holiday house-calls. “I’d read The Night Before Christmas to them and give them toys too. At one point I was up to 12 houses on Christmas Eve. I’ve given out engagement rings, keys to cars, it’s cool that Santa gets to do that and just see what’s going on.”

Although Sebastian’s enterprise seems simple enough on paper, doing it for over 30 years yields a generational clientele. The children’s Santa once visited grew up and had children of their own who would also get to enjoy a visit from him. It’s the decades of smiles, laughter and happiness that kept Sebastian suiting up.

“When the kids open the door, the look on their faces was just priceless. They say ‘oh my God, Santa’s here!’ I tried my best to keep the persona, even if I knew the family. Sometimes people would say ‘Hey Mike!’” Sebastian mused over the memories. “There were a few times I went to see really poor families, they’d open the door and the kids would be crying because Santa brought them a toy. It’s gratifying to bring joy to these kids’ lives.”

After years spreading smiles as Santa, Sebastian finally hung up the beard due to health issues. His memories as Santa, however, warm his heart like a cup of hot cocoa on Christmas Eve.

“It means the world to me to have been Santa for 35 years. I brought joy to so many people and myself watching these kids,” said Sebastian. “To see these families for all these years and watching their kids grow up, and then they have kids, it’s just very fulfilling for me to be a part of their Christmas’ and bring joy to the kids and the families.”

Although he’s retired from being Santa, the smiles and joy he perpetuated for years will live on in fond memories of those he visited.

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