Is it time for a high-tech Santa Claus?

Published 12:32 am Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Red suit, white beard, black belt — he’s been the same for decades.

It was editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast who many credit for the creation of our modern-day Santa’s appearance. Nast drew the bearded belly for an 1860s edition of Harper’s Weekly.

And the modern-day Santa isn’t much different than the 19th century one.

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The advent of computers, video games, toys that flash, bing and bang and more have done little to change Santa’s look.

He’s one of the few things, it seems, that time hasn’t touched.

Ten children passed Santa Claus and his elaborate display at the Natchez Mall Tuesday night during his last hour on duty.

Four of them noticed him.

The other children either didn’t care, didn’t believe or had other things on their minds.

Three primary school girls got sidetracked by the neon lights, sweet smells and eye-catching snacks at McKenzie’s Popcorn before even glancing in Santa’s direction.

A preschooler came barreling through the mall doors and made a beeline for the flashing, buzzing coin-operated cars just to Santa’s right.

And what appeared to be a brother-sister duo crossed directly in front of Santa twice without so much as a peek.

All the while, the big guy let out occasional messages of “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas,” and, in his boredom, he checked his watch.

If it weren’t for the adults passing by, poor Santa might have felt ostracized.

“I want a Lexus,” one man well past his 50s called out as he waved to Father Christmas.

Other adults looked up to wave and smile at Santa as they passed, and some shared a “Merry Christmas” in return.

Children these days aren’t like me and you were. Just ask their teachers. High-tech toys, computers and video games have stimulated the eyes and minds of our young people so much at such an early age that it simply takes the whiz bang to interest them.

A walk through Disney World’s original theme park, the Magic Kingdom, followed by a day at the much newer, high-tech theme parks like Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios show that Disney has learned to change its ways.

Why hasn’t Santa?

A string of flashing lights around the brim of his hat, his cuffs and his waistband would be a start. A new setting in a room complete with wrap-around screens blasting 3D images of the North Pole and shooting snow into your face would be better.


But what about the four kids who did stop, look and grin?

The first three were certainly brothers — bearing the same smile and the same glowing eyes. The littlest one lingered when the trio turned to exit the mall.

He pivoted on his feet. His hand shot above his head as his jacket-sleeve slid down.

“Bye-bye Santa Claus.”

The toothless grin that followed must have been enough for Santa to feel he’d put in a good day’s work.

And the fourth child? It was a little girl, 4 or 5, whose mom opted to pay the big bucks for the official Santa portrait.

As mom pulled the photo from its envelope to show her daughter as she began to walk away, the little believer giggled, grinned and took one last look over her shoulder at the real thing.

She’ll surely remember what his lap felt like every time she stares at the photo of that big man in the red and white suit.

For Santa’s magic isn’t plugged in. It’s not projected onto a screen or jazzed up by 3D effects.

His low-tech look has delivered happiness and hope for decades, and here’s to hoping he’s got many more to come.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or