WARNING: Spoiler alert below. Like, right below. This next line.
Santa's made up. Your parents were buying you that shit the whole time. Whether you learned this at age four or earlier in this paragraph, the fact there isn't a reclusive fat man secretly monitoring your children's behavior, hiding from polar bears, and enslaving a brainwashed race of little people should come as something of a relief.
But the little 'uns still like the idea of Santa Claus. And -- exactly one time per year -- parents like the thought of planting their kid on some stranger's knee and getting a picture taken.
Kid loves stranger Santa and gives him a big smile? Great photo! Kid terrified of stranger Santa and cries hysterically? Even better!
In a sentence it's hard to believe is being written in 2016, the Mall of America is welcoming its first "Santa of Color" in the 24-year-history of "The Santa Experience." The Jackie Robinson of Mall of America Santas is a retired U.S. Army Veteran from Texas, and he seems like a genuine delight.
Larry Jefferson tells the Star Tribune he started playing Santa at 12 years old, taking over after his father suffered a back injury. He's been doing the jolly fat man job as a paid gig since 1999, and still today often winds up as one of the few non-white guys working.
Jefferson was recruited to come to Minnesota when another local St. Nick met him at a Santa convention in (wait for it) Branson, Missouri; Jefferson was the only black man out of 1,000 Santas there.
He's at the Mall of America for a limited run, just through Sunday, and by appointment only, so get your open minded-but-greedy kids to the mall posthaste if you want to get a picture with Jefferson.
As Jefferson told WCCO, some kids seem surprised to encounter a Santa whose cheeks aren't bright pink. He says they usually get over this if you're cheerful and/or bribe them with a candy cane.
"Kids are just kids, they're very innocent, and they just love Santa," Jefferson says, adding, "HO HO HO HO!"
Hey, kids: Life is going to do everything it can to drain you of that spirit. Hold onto it long as you can.
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