Last Christmas Eve, I took on the part of Santa for a friend's homeowners association. They invited me back this year, and naturally I accepted. This year's gig was very similar to last year's.

The most unique part is riding on the fire truck! Santa rides in the rescue basket with a fireman and tosses out candy to all the waiting kids. Luckily, they leave the basket down. It's still quite a thrill! After all, how many people do you know who got to ride on a fire truck?

This year I ran out of candy to toss, I'm afraid. But that's not so bad, because the kids at the last stop get to come inside and meet Santa. My friend hosts the Santa Court, where she sets out milk and cookies, eggnog, and candy. The kids all get to sit on Santa's knee and tell me what they want.

I can't wait for next year!

Getting dressed always makes me sweat. I wear an extra T-shirt to avoid embarrassing Santas everywhere. My friend helped out by cranking the air conditioning low, which helped a lot, but I've always sweated easily. This year we had to give the Santa wig a haircut; next year perhaps we'll get something different. I wonder what the theatrical people use. I'll probably need new gloves next year, too, since these ones are getting dirty.

After the costuming, we board the van; I have to duck like I've been abducted to make sure the illusion isn't accidentally shattered for some poor kid.

Eventually the fire department shows up (they try to make the appointment time, but they do have a more important duty than carting Santas around) and we circle the neighborhood. Then we go inside to hold Santa Court, and I sweat my way through 10 minutes or so of asking kids what they want in a deeper, kinder voice. After that, though, I get acclimatized and the sitting gets easier. There was only one surge of kids this year; next year we'll probably cut the Court by 30 minutes or so. I just got over a cold, too; I hope I didn't pass it on to any of the kids. At least, I didn't cough on any of them.

Afterwards, they throw a family Christmas Eve party. Santa has to "go to the fire station to get the reindeer ready". I actually duck into a bathroom to change back into normal clothes and wash the corn starch out of my hair and eyebrows. (I wonder again what the theatrical people use.) Then I show up. It's nice of them to invite my family to dine with theirs.

In a few more years, we'll have this gig perfected.