THE NORTH POLE — He’s made his lists, checked them twice and has a full grasp on who deserves placement on his “nice” list.
And with the big night but 24 hours away, Santa Claus took time from his hectic schedule for a brief telephone interview with the Register.
Delivering gifts to children worldwide requires a coordinated effort among Santa and his helpers at the North Pole as well as others placed strategically around the world, he said.
Santa touched on a number of issues, such as the current state of Christmas spirit, his favorite snacks (diet soda is a particular delight) and just how he can make it into a house without a fireplace.
His answers, edited only for style, follow:
Iola Register: With your trip rapidly approaching, how are things looking in terms of supplies? Toy production? Are you ready to go?
Santa Claus: We’re almost there. We’re putting together a few last-minute items, but everything is pretty much in place. The toys are made. We’re ready to go full throttle ahead.
IR: What are your most popular gift requests, aside from the old standbys, such as Barbie dolls and footballs?
SC: Electronic gifts, such as iPods have become quite popular. I’m also hearing a lot of requests for Zuma Pet toys, things like that.
IR: Does it make it more difficult with such a wide variety of requests?
SC: We’re used to it, and we expect it. Each year, there’s something different.
IR: But does the intricate composition of an electronic iPod make it more difficult to manufacture so many on time?
SC: It does take some added training, and the costs for supplies go up every year. But I have a dedicated crew of elves that I wouldn’t trade for the world. They know how to get things done.
IR: Once Christmas Eve gets here, just how do you get from one house to another on time.
SC: We have it down to a pretty exact science. I have helpers around the world making sure I get from place to place without any difficulty. We also get air space cleared through NORAD. And don’t forget, we have 24 time zones to work with and we gain an hour with each one, so it makes the night last much longer than you realize.
IR: Homes no longer rely as much on chimneys and fireplaces for heat, which must make it more difficult for you to gain entry into some kids’ homes, doesn’t it?
SC: Not really. Usually, I just use the front door.
IR: Any hazards into going into houses in such a stealthy manner?
SC: Dogs can be an issue. I bring along an emergency supply of doggy treats to keep them calm.
IR: Such a trip must be hard on your reindeer. What about your sleigh? Aren’t you required to have snow for it to work best?
SC: Not with advances in today’s technology. I have the Cadillac of sleighs and I have a couple of elves who know how to keep it running on such a long trip. As for the reindeer, we have plenty of carrots and vegetables to keep them fed and filled with energy.
IR: What about yourself? That’s a pretty grueling night you have ahead of you. How do keep your strength?
SC: I’ve been doing some weight training. Mostly, the biggest boost comes from the supplements I get throughout the night, usually chocolate mlk and cookies.
IR: Do you have a favorite cookie? Drink?
SC: I love diet soda, and you can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies.
IR: Obviously, you must have extra gifts left over in case you need spares. What happens to those if they aren’t needed.
SC: I’ve taken some to Oprah for her to give them away. Some just go into storage for next year.
IR: Some people think that Christmas has become too commercialized and that many people forget the reason for the season. What about you?
SC: There’s no doubt there’s plenty of commercialism, but plenty of people understand the true meaning of Christmas.
IR: Is there a shortage of believers around the world? Any fears that you may become irrelevant?
SC: I think everybody believes in some manner. Yes, most of the truest believers tend to be the youngest children and the elderly. They all usually come back to believing at some point.
IR: After Christmas Eve, do you and the elves just unwind for a while? Sleep?
SC: We get a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation, before it’s back to work. Plus, we have places that celebrate Christmas in July, so it’s not like we don’t have things to do in other parts of the year.
IR: You’ve been very popular for a long time. Any thoughts of retirement?
SC: Not at all. I love what I’m doing, and my elves and reindeer enjoy their roles. I don’t see myself retiring anytime soon at all.