Warrenton Santa Adjusts to the New Normal
Photos by Travis Rogers
The coronavirus may have impacted our ability to get together with family and friends during the holiday season, but it will never stop us from celebrating the biggest holiday of the year and inspiring us to spread peace on earth and good will to men. Christmas may be only one day of the year, but there’s a special person who makes it his mission to celebrate it year-round.
Meet Warrenton Santa, whose rock-hard beliefs in Christmas prevented him from revealing his real name to us because he was unwilling to ruin the magic of Santa for the children. Initially, this hard-working veteran and father of four felt it was a calling for him to put on the Santa suit for the first time in 2012 to help out his church. “I thought it was the greatest thing on earth. I enjoyed it because I was in the military for 20 years and I wasn’t always home for Christmas. My kids spent a lot of time at Christmas without dad at home,” he explained. In 2014, Warrenton Santa expanded into a business, appearing for parties, holiday gatherings, and home visits with kids.
Warrenton Santa is dedicated in his professional development with an impressive education from the International University of Santa Claus, multiple outfits and costume pieces, and most importantly, a deep-seated desire to impart Christmas spirit and spread his message of joy and kindness. His busiest day of the season has always been Christmas Eve, where he’d be racking up serious mileage with his driver for twelve hours visiting as many children as possible at their homes in Fauquier County and some parts of Culpeper.
After receiving word that many of his usual Christmas-related events and activities were canceled this year, Warrenton Santa began developing new, innovative ways to connect with children amidst the current environment to ensure that nothing, not even the coronavirus, would stop Christmas. Unable to do his usual at-home visits, Warrenton Santa had to get creative to offer modified in-person and Santa photos in the most socially distant, COVID-conscious manner possible.
For example, On December 5th, the nondenominational New Life Christian Church is hosting ”Christmas Through the Ages” at Piney Branch Elementary School in Bristow. This is a drive-through Christmas lights event in which families drive through a designated path, observe the beautifully decorated cars, and see Santa at the end. Warrenton Santa will be there to chit chat with families, answer any questions, and pose for pictures while families remain seated in their cars.
“The idea is that cars will drive up and Santa walks up to the vehicle within a six-foot boundary where he will spend a few minutes greeting the kids and spreading joy. This is to give kids a sense of normalcy during COVID restrictions,” noted Warrenton Santa.
Warrenton Santa knows children will be disappointed to not see him in person, so he decided to host Christmas Book Read-Alouds at the North Pole, a.k.a. a dedicated room in his home. He purchased a professional microphone setup and created a warm office environment with attractive Christmas props. He also brushed up on his technology skills and spent the month of November recording himself in full attire reading aloud from select Christmas books, designated as appropriate by children’s book publishers including Scholastic and Penguin Random House.
Warrenton Santa plans to broadcast these pre-recorded videos and offer Facebook Live presentations of new Christmas Book Read-Alouds throughout the month of December on his business Facebook page. “On Sunday nights, I’ll try to do Advent and talk about the lighting of the four candles. It’s a big Catholic tradition. There’s a significance of the candles,” noted Warrenton Santa.
So, this year, the services Warrenton Santa is offering are phone calls and video calls with kids, instead of his traditional one-on-one chats. He’s also offering his “Sneak and Peek” service, which superimposes a stand-alone photo of Warrenton Santa unloading gifts onto a parent-supplied photo of their own living room so children can see photographic proof that Santa visited them.
In-between modifying his services to make them compliant with state restrictions on gatherings and getting ready for the Christmas season, Warrenton Santa has also found time to write. He has two separate book projects in progress: a children’s book and a nonfiction book about Christmas that features the history of Catholic Christmas traditions and incorporates how St. Nicholas became the modern-day Santa Claus.
Warrenton Santa works exclusively with locals to help him offer his services, and he would like to offer thanks to Rusty Von Keller and Lisa Smith from the Fauquier Book Rescue program, local author and elementary school reading teacher Jennifer Kristin Armstrong and illustrator Michelle Heiser for permission to read from their children’s book, Mother Nature’s Christmas Tree, and Travis Rogers from Reformed Photography. By adjusting to the new normal and changing the way he will do business this year, Warrenton Santa and his helpers are successfully keeping true to his steadfast beliefs in the power of sharing his Christmas spirit with the local community as much as possible.