Extol Magazine

OCT-NOV 2016

Extol Magazine Celebrating Southern Indiana is a local publication that covers stories about businesses people places or events throughout the cities of New Albany Jeffersonville Clarksville Sellersburg and Louisville KY

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"My daughter's kindergarten class needed a Santa for a holiday party," Shaw recalls. "My wife came along as Mrs. Claus, and we fell in love with it. The following year, my wife said, 'How can we do more of it?' So we started calling other schools in the area." "My wife was working for a local healthcare clinic," McCutchan recalls, "and a social worker there thought I'd do well around the kids because I have an open personality. I'd done a little theater work in college, so maybe that helped me get into character. We found it rewarding." A reward that cannot always be measured in money. Rewards in Hugs, Smiles and Surprises "My wife and I did an appearance at a Head Start program for low- income children," says McCutchan, referring to wife Puddy, who always plays his Mrs. Claus. "When we were finished, the young lady in charge gave me some money and I handed it back to her. She hugged me so tight I thought my neck would break." "We're not able to do a whole lot, but there are ways ever yone can give back to the community," says Puddy McCutchan. "This is our way." "I did a Santa appearance at a local hospice," says Owens, "and went up to talk to a woman with Alzheimer's disease. I introduced myself and her daughter said, 'She doesn't talk, she just sits and looks at the floor.' I got down so she could see my face and said, 'Merry Christmas, how are you doing?' She looked up at me and said, 'Santy, did you bring my kids their presents? They've been really good. My little girl makes quilts for the community.' " Owens looked up and the daughter had tears in her eyes. "She's talking about me. She hasn't talked like that in years. Thank you!" Jolly Old Soul The Santa Claus figure has evolved over the years, as an elf and a spirit, even a woodland sprite, a different-looking figure in the various European cultures, Father Christmas, St. Nicholas and Kris Kringle, usually avuncular but sometimes also spooky and severe. Shaw says the modern picture of Santa Claus began to emerge with the 1822 Clement Moore poem, " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas." "The beard on his chin was as white as the snow. . . He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly." But the image we all have of Santa Claus today was solidified by a Coca-Cola advertising campaign in 1931, using a portrait created by illustrator Haddon Sundblom (who also, by the way, created the man on the Quaker Oats box). Suspicion and Litigation Sadly, some things have changed for that jolly old elf as our culture has changed. For example, Owens says schools don't always welcome Santa Claus anymore. "Some schools have issued a blanket refusal," he says. "Some parents don't want their children participating, and some principals are afraid parents will be offended." Apparently, he says, they feel Santa is too closely associated with the Christian religion, which might be offensive to other religions and the non-religious. Another problem, says Shaw, "is that we live in a suspicious and litigious time. When I started, there were no background checks. Today, we need performer's insurance, because if a wriggly kid gets dropped, we'll get sued. "We started wearing white gloves because when you're handling little children on your lap. The parents want to make sure they can see where your hands are." Another potential lawsuit stems from seeing bruises on a child or having a child tell Santa, "Please make my daddy stop hitting me." "You can be legally responsible," says Shaw, "if they can prove you knew of or were suspicious of abuse and didn't report it." e adults, all members of the Hoosier Santas organization, were photographed at Wild Eggs, 1450 Veterans Parkway, in Jeffersonville. If you're interested in hosting your holiday party at Wild Eggs or have a catering need, call 812.913.4735. 53

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