TAMPA, Fla. — You can hear him coming by the jingle bells on his boots. Santa Bob Elkin has the real white beard, rosy cheeks, and the charisma that welcomes Christmas cheer anywhere he goes.
We know Santa Claus is very busy this time of year, leaning on his helpers across the globe to meet with children. Elkin is a pretty unique Santa with the titles he holds.
In 2017, he was inducted into the Santa Claus Hall of Fame. Less than 100 people have been awarded such an honor, as it's the highest award a Santa can receive.
"It's not just being a Santa, it's having accomplished something in the Santa world," said Elkin.
According to the Santa Claus Hall of Fame website, candidates are considered for as long as 18 months over the following categories:
- Overall career
- Service to their community
- Range of appearances
- Contribution to the Santa world
- Length of service
- Uniqueness of career
Elkin is the only Santa in the Tampa Bay area to hold a doctorate in Santa Clausology from the International University of Santa Claus. Like any other P.h.D., Elkin had to write and present a dissertation to receive his degree.
There is a long list of topics to choose from, Elkin focused on how to make the most of home visits as Santa Claus.
"Santa comes walking through the front door with a bag of toys over his shoulder, those little eyes are so big," Elkin said. "It's probably my most favorite thing to do."
With the fun of the holiday, Santas also get faced with some pretty difficult questions too. Children can ask for a passed loved one to return, for their parents to be in better health, or enough money to keep food on the table.
While a Christmas wish can't fix everything, Santa Elkin offers this: "What we can say is a little prayer." Elkin said he will hold a little child's hands and say a short prayer with them for all their wishes to come true.
Elkin meets children all the time. He brings the magic to every visit by making them feel appreciated.
"With children, I think the real secret is when I see that child approaching me, that's the most special child I've seen," Elkin said. "And I do everything I can to make that child feel that way."
He also has to deal with some comical situations too. Oftentimes, kids can get nervous meeting Santa and forget what it is they'd like for Christmas. Elkin said in one case, he was talking with a little boy. He could tell his mind went blank and he was thinking so hard to recall what it is he wanted under the Christmas tree.
"He just couldn't remember, and all of the sudden he says, 'A VACUUM CLEANER!' He jumped down and ran off."
Being Santa Claus brings magic to others, but for Elkin, he gets out just as much as he puts in.
"It just gives me such a purpose, such a wonderful value that I can bring to people by being Santa Claus," Elkin said. "I hesitate to use the words, 'gives me a reason to live,' but it really in a way does. I turn 80 years old this year. How many 80-year-olds get to have as much fun as I have."
Santa is often asked a lot of tough questions to explain the magic of his job. So, Elkin says grab the kids and share these fun facts with them:
How do you get into someone's house if they don't have a chimney?
"Oh, we have magic keys! We have a magic key that will unlock any door, anywhere."
How do you make the sleigh fly?
"That's the magic of the elves! When chief elf Benard and other elves built the sleigh many many years ago, they made it magic. Did you know any animal that is hitched to the sleigh can fly?"
How do you get to every single household all in one night?
"Well, there are 31 time zones. So it's really not one night."
When I see Santa, where are his reindeer?
"Right now, the reindeer are at the north pole practicing taking off for flying, getting ready for the big day."
What's your favorite type of Christmas cookie?
Elkin focuses his time on offering at-home visits with Santa. If you'd like to learn more about bringing the Christmas magic to you, you can find his website here.