“I am the real Santa Claus,” says the jolly, white-bearded father of three. “Here’s my driver’s license. Here’s my AARP card. Is there anything else you’d like to see?”
As Claus, née Frank Pascuzzi, 60, tells it, there may have once been a line between his real self and his ho-ho-ing character, but there’s not one anymore. He officially changed his name in 2012, much to his family’s bemusement.
“My entire family has embraced my new name, my new role in life, my kids have absolutely no problem with it,” says Claus, whose round-the-year street clothes look includes jeans, suspenders and Christmas-themed T-shirts. “And my wife said, ‘As long as I don’t have to change my last name, go for it.'”
His intense love for Christmas began, as it does for most people, when he was a child. Then, when he was a young adult, his sister asked him if he would dress up as Santa Claus for a holiday party. “I had long black hair, big thick, bushy black beard. I got white spray paint, and…” he was physically transformed. But mentally, too.
“At that moment I learned the lesson that, no matter what is going on in my life, I can still do good,” Claus explains. “Changing my name legally, taking on the real role of Santa Claus, it helps me be the better person that I want to be. I’ve never been the perfect husband, I’ve never been the perfect father. Being Santa Claus just makes it easier for me to be the person who’s in my heart.”
” I had children coming up to me wanting their parents back,” he says intently. “I looked at them and I said, ‘There are certain things that Santa can’t do. But if you think about your dad or your mom, really really hard before you go to sleep, I promise you they will visit you in your dreams. And they will be with you forever.'”
“A lot of people who come see me think I’m just another fat guy in a red suit,” he notes. “Look, maybe I’m not the guy who flies around the planet in one night. I just want to be the guy who lives inside of your heart and makes you happy. I want to give you the Christmas spirit. That’s the guy I want to be.”
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