By Katie Collins
News Eagle Reporter
The holidays are typically a time of tradition, family and peace. But with the recent tragedies in Connecticut, it would not be a surprise if just about everyone’s holiday spirits were ruined. That is anything but the case with three people who have chosen to volunteer their time, playing Mr. or Mrs. Claus to ensure others’ holiday season are the most joyous they could be.
For 65 years, Ann Morgan has played the role of either Mr. or Mrs. Claus at various venues during the holiday season. Initially Morgan took on the role, following in her mother’s footsteps because she was learning about the importance of helping the less fortunate. Today though, Morgan continues to shine in the role because she said she loves hearing children’s stories and just being with them.
To Morgan, Christmas is very holy. She explained that she has always had wonderful Christmases, not because of playing a character’s role, but rather because "the religion part was not forgotten and why we celebrate Christmas." Today, Morgan said she does not like how commercialized the holiday season has become. When she is in her role as Mrs. Claus, Morgan said it is an opportunity to make sure the "kiddos are taken care of" by hearing what they have to say and letting them know that there are people who listen to them.
Aside from visiting with children, Morgan recently visited the Hawley Senior Center with Ernie Seagraves as Mr. Claus. Morgan said she "gets as much joy out of doing it with the seniors as you do with the kids," she added "it’s just outstanding."
The popular gifts of the year, Morgan said, were technological gifts. Years ago though, she said children wanted trains and dolls, but this year, children were asking for items she had never heard of. Although she was not sure if it was the insect or not, Morgan said there was a large request for butterflies.
One boy admitted to Morgan, that he knew that Santa was going to give him coal. To cheer the lad up, Morgan told him not to feel bad because Mrs. Claus had gotten coal one year too.
It is not uncommon for children to have questions about Santa and how he does his job. Some questions of the year, because Santa is "pretty fat, how does he get down the chimney?" Morgan’s response, "he uses your backdoor." Of the children, Morgan said "they ask the best questions."
For the past two years, Donald Kyzer has played Santa Claus at the Hawley Winter Fest with Mayor Kevin Hawk as an elf. Kyzer said he and Hawk have more fun than the kids. A surprise this year, Kyzer said there were about 10 older couples that wanted their pictures taken with him.
Now that he has two years under his belt, Kyzer said he hopes to continue playing Santa because he enjoys the expression on the children’s faces and listening to what they have to say.
To Kyzer, he said Christmas is about families spending time together. As for his role as Santa, Kyzer said he considers it an honor to have been asked to be Santa Claus. He added, "I love Christmas, it’s a great time of year."
This holiday season was the first time Pat Jennings took on the role of the man in the big red suit for the kindergartners at Wallenpaupack’s North Primary School. A grandfather of three, Jennings said he "just enjoys the kids" and seeing the smiles on their faces. Calling himself a "happy-go-lucky guy" Jennings said he was nervous at first because he had never played such a role. And because this was for kids, "I believe in the kids, that’s the truth of it" because of children’s "innocence" and how they believe in Santa Claus, it made the role special.
Of the two shows at the school, playing Santa Claus, Jennings said was "just something, words can’t describe." For two weeks, Jennings rehearsed his role and ultimately he greatly enjoyed it. A slender man, Jennings had to stuff pillows into his costume to fit the role.
His favorite part of playing Santa, Jennings said is "seeing the kids… the expression of the children." With the children, Jennings sang and danced. He said it was "breathtaking" because the children’s expressions were "priceless, totally priceless."
To Jennings, Christmas means children because "they believe…adults, we don’t believe." He explained that with children, "there is still a spark still kindling, there’s truth and belief."