During my parenting days, I had tried to steer clear of the Santa Claus myth. I had mixed emotions about perpetuating a story that isn't true. All children eventually learn that their parents and others had misled them. I can remember how I felt when children at my elementary school were saying that Santa Claus wasn't real. I was a bit precocious for my age, so I decided to look it up in the encyclopedia, where I discovered that what those other children were saying was indeed true.
However, when you are in the Peace Corps, you must be flexible and try to conform to the culture in which you reside. Thus, it made sense for me to be Santa this year (last year, a woman on the village council had played the role). After all, not only am I the only white guy in village, but I also have a big belly and a white beard—how could I refuse? Plus, I enjoy the children of my village immensely, so I knew it would be a good thing to do. In fact, I had a great time!
The Santa Claus outfit included a fake beard and wig. I decided that I could get by with not putting a fake beard over top of my real beard—I would just go “au naturale.” This would also ease my conscience about the Santa myth, because my students would not need to try to guess if that was me playing Santa Claus—it would clearly be me inside Santa's clothing. They had already been commenting at school about my similarities to Santa, so hiding behind a wig and fake beard would have been pointless.
The only thing that went slightly wrong was that the Santa outfit was designed to be worn with black shoes—of which I had none. The idea was that you would wear black shoes, and the costume included some black, calf-length leggings that would make it appear as if you were wearing black boots. Since this was a last minute discovery, I opted to be a “Caribbean Claus” and just wear my sandals. Because of the boot leggings, the pants were trimmed just below the knee. However, that just made it seem as if Santa was wearing “beachcombers,” the three-quarter length pants that were around when I was young. It all worked out.
We took pictures with Santa for many of the youngsters that attended (along with several who were just “young at heart”). You can see all the pictures by clicking here.
Eventually, I took my black plastic trash bag full of candy and allowed each child to grab a handful. They were excited to reach into the bag and get their goodies. A good time was had by all!
By the way, the very next morning I trimmed my beard back. I'll have plenty of time to grow it back if I need to reprise my role at next year's party.