I accidentally stumbled upon a gig playing Santa, and 17 years later here's what the role has taught me

Santa Ed Mall 2017

Courtesy of Ed Taylor

Santa Ed at a mall in 2017.

  • Ed Taylor is widely known as Santa Ed and That Santa Guy. He has been a Santa Claus portrayal artist since 2003, and is the founder of The-Santa-Claus-Conservatory.com. He's 'been' Santa for 17 years.
  • This article was adapted from a talk Santa Ed gave to a group of businesspeople in December 2019.
  • During his time as Santa, he's learned that adults need Santa just as much kids - maybe even more so. To him, the Christmas spirit is about love and giving, transcending religion and politics.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

During my last 17 years "as Santa," I have learned a lot. A lot about Santa Claus, a lot about people, both young and old, and a lot about myself ... and, most importantly, I have seen how the "Christmas spirit" actually transforms lives and makes the world a much better place.

In 2003, the Christmas spirit transformed my life.

It was a call from my good friend Gordon that set me on a path that I never, ever would have imagined. He had caught a cold and was unable to be Santa Claus at a local fundraiser he had volunteered for - his call turned me into a reluctant replacement volunteer Santa Claus.

In a matter of minutes in that red suit and big chair, I was in love with "being" Santa.

A friend later said, "The Christmas spirit you experienced that day awoke your Santa gene." That seems right to me.

Here's what I discovered in those first few minutes: People love Santa Claus ... and I thoroughly enjoyed reflecting that love back.

I also learned very quickly that I had, at best, a very shallow understanding of many things pertaining to Santa Claus, the North Pole, and the Christmas spirit. I thought these things were for children. It turns out Christmas spirit, Santa Claus, and the North Pole are for adults at least as much - and perhaps even more - than they are for children.

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