Publisher’s Note: Longtime Folsom resident John Voelz is known as “Santa John” proudly donning the red suit and representing the big guy in our region to insure youngsters have an opportunity to share their wishes. As he performs this important role locally, he enjoys the experience as much as those he entertains and has shared a collection of his favorite “Santa stories,” for Folsom Times readers to enjoy. 

I like to believe I am a nice person even when it’s not the holiday season. I like to imagine I am a good listener. I like to think I am approachable. But, no one is a better, trusted conversationalist than Santa. 


It’s been 3 years since I first put on the Santa suit and I am well aware that my interactions with people are more than enhanced by the stature the suit affords. I may be a nice guy, but a Santa suit elevates a normal human being to angelic status. 

On any given day during the holiday season, any of us can walk down the street in civilian clothes and brighten people’s day with a smile, a nod, and well wishes. If I do the exact same thing in the Santa suit, I often find myself deep in conversation with people who share their hurts, joys, memories, pain, laughter, wishes, and confessions. 


Here are a few tender, memorable moments from this year’s Santa outings . . .


There was a continuous line at the school Christmas party for photos with Santa. The party went on for 2 hours so Santa had permission to have long conversations with the children.


Near the end of the 2 hours, a boy and his mom approached. The mom stood about 6 feet away within hearing distance.


Santa asked the boy if he was excited about Christmas. “Yes, I am Santa.”

Santa likes to tell the children they are on the Nice List. Sometimes, I “call in” to the elves to have them check the list and report to me. It’s always fun to see the kids jump up and down excited when they get the news.


This young man did not get excited. When Santa told him he was on the Nice List, he shrugged his shoulders.

He said to Santa, “Well, I really could have been better this year.” Mom’s eyes widened and her face was priceless.

“How could you have been better?” Santa asked. “I really need to listen more,” the boy answered. Mom mouthed the words, “I can’t believe this” to Santa.

“Listening is a great skill!” Santa said. “I think it’s wonderful you want to listen.” 

The boy added, “There are some other things too.” “Go on,” Santa said. “I really need to be kind to others. I want to be better at that.” Mom’s jaw dropped and then she got a huge smile and started to tear up.

“Santa is so proud of you. And, your mom is too. You ARE on the Nice List because you WANT to do better. You want to love people. All of us make bad choices every once in a while. But working on being better and loving people is a wonderful thing.” The boy shook his head, yes.

“Would you do Santa a favor? It could be my Christmas gift from you!” The boy shook his head yes with enthusiasm. “Would you tell someone in your family you love them tonight?” The boy smiled. “Yes. I will.” And, he gave Santa a hug.

The mom wiped tears from her eyes and gave her son a big hug. They walked away as mom whispered, “Thank you” to Santa. 


Santa has an opportunity to go to a few “breakfast with Santa” events during the season. At these events, children will often come talk to Santa by themselves while moms and dads hang out over breakfast.

Two boys about the age of 7 came to talk to Santa about everything from Pokemon to Monster Trucks. They were super chatty and asked a lot of questions about the North Pole and life with the elves. Santa assumed they were best friends. Lots of laughter. They looked and talked very differently from one another, but they had so much in common.

Santa asked them what they were most looking forward to at Christmas and one of them said, “I’m just happy we are getting along.” To clarify, I asked him who he was happy to be getting along with.

He pointed at the other boy.

I asked them if they were surprised to be getting along and the other boy said, “Actually, we aren’t supposed to be hanging out together.”

Santa asked, “Who said you can’t hang out?” They answered, “Our principal, our teachers, and our parents said we can’t be around each other. We fight a lot and we’ve even got in a fistfight.”

Santa asked them why they think they fight and the first boy answered, “We were just talking about that. We don’t know why. But, we don’t want to fight anymore.”

Santa told them that his biggest wish for Christmas was that they would continue to be kind to one another and he was very proud of them. They both smiled.

One boy patted the other on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go tell our parents.”

Santa got a little teary.


The party was full of adults in festive wear with children running all around. Besides handing out gifts, Santa’s main objective at this party was to make the rounds and chat with as many children and willing adults as possible.

As Santa was walking from room to room, he noticed a group of older adults chatting around a small table in the kitchen and went to talk with them. They introduced themselves as the grandparents. We exchanged stories of Christmas and laughed together.

Santa then noticed a man in his 40s watching the conversation take place. The way he was standing back and looking on reminded me of a child standing in line to get his chance with Santa. And, come to find out, that’s exactly what was happening.

He saw a break in the conversation and stepped up to talk to Santa.

“Santa, I’ve been waiting years to tell you a story about the most magical Christmas you ever created for me.” Santa couldn’t wait to hear about it. Especially because he had been, “waiting years” to tell me.

“Do you remember the one Christmas I sat on your lap and asked for an electric train, an army tank, a garbage truck, and a jet airplane? It was a lot to ask for.”

I told him I remembered it very well and that I remember being impressed at how specific his list was.

“Well, do you remember what you did on Christmas Eve?”

I told him I remembered, but I really wanted to hear him tell the story.

He began to tell me a story with the passion of a 7-year old boy. “I came downstairs on Christmas morning and there weren’t any gifts wrapped under the tree. BUT, flying from the ceiling was a big jet airplane. And, going around the Christmas Tree on an oval track was a big electric train. Off to the side, there was a big toy garbage truck and a giant metal army tank. 

Do you remember setting all that up for me?” he asked with little tears in his eyes.

Santa replied, “I do remember. It was a very special Christmas.”

“Thank you for what you did. It was the best Christmas ever,” he said. And, he gave Santa a hug with a huge smile.

Who knows what events were playing out around that Christmas so many years ago. Since the man was so excited to tell Santa and he had “waited years” to tell me, I assumed he no longer could thank the person responsible. Perhaps a parent had passed on. Santa was very blessed to get a peek into the experience of a little boy who had a very special Christmas morning curated by someone who loved him very much. And, I feel like telling Santa, “thank you” closed a chapter in his soul.


A woman approached Santa at a party and said she was watching me interact with kids and adults. She said she was impressed. I thanked her for her kind words. 

It became clear that she wanted to have a longer conversation with Santa and, Santa never breaks character at a party. She tried to throw Santa for a few loops and then said, “I give up. You aren’t breaking character. You MUST be the real Santa.”

Then the conversation got a little deeper. The woman began telling Santa about her experience with Santa growing up and when she stopped believing. This Santa loves these moments. His biggest job is to listen well and ask good questions. We talked a bit more about the hurts she had growing up and how hard Christmases in two households was for her. Her childhood experience with Christmas had cast a shadow over the season.

“My mom was a _________ (enter expletive) mom. There were many men in and out of our house. Every time my mom would bring home a new boyfriend around Christmas, I noticed the handwriting on the packages from Santa would change. I brought it up to my mom and she ignored me.”

I told her she was right. All those boyfriends were posers. She chuckled and thanked me for confirming her suspicions. 

At the end of the conversation, she told Santa it was going to be a good year because she once again believes that Santa is real. She thanked Santa for his time and said, “It’s going to be okay, Santa.”

Throughout the rest of the evening, she brought friends and family up to meet Santa saying, “This is the REAL Santa. You can tell him anything you want.


Santa finished a very long appearance that was also a bit of a performance (running an auction) and he was exhausted. He headed right to the nearest coffee shop with a drive-through. It happened to be Dutch Bros.

Dutch Bros. has two sides to drive through and Santa drove the F250 sleigh to the side in the direction he was heading. When I pulled up to the window, mass chaos ensued. The 3 people working inside jumped up and down with excitement. And, facing Santa in the drive-through across from him, was a truck full of children screaming his name through the Dutch Bros. windows.

Santa asked if he could go say hello to the children. I got out of my truck and walked around to greet the screaming children and wish them Christmas happiness.

When I returned to my truck, the young lady at the window asked Santa what drink he wanted. I ordered an iced Americano with a straw (the beard). She asked Santa if he wanted any cream or sweetener. Santa laughed a big Ho Ho No and told her he had plenty of sweets with the elves at breakfast. She giggled like a 6-yr-old.

The young lady told Santa she wanted a Tesla for Christmas because she is trying to be good and save the planet. I told her not to think bad of Santa for driving a vehicle that leaves a much larger footprint. “Santa, all the good things you do for others erases your footprint!”

Santa told her she was very kind and she was on the nice list. Santa told her she is worthy of good things at Christmas. Then, something happened I didn’t anticipate. The young lady started to cry.

“Santa! You’re making me cry. You are fulfilling one of my childhood dreams right now!”

She told Santa that she was buying his drink for him and wished him a very Merry Christmas. I thanked her for the gift and wished her the same. Then, the entire group of workers jumped up and down screaming, “Merry Christmas, Santa.”

As I drove the sleigh away, every child in the drive-through was hanging out the windows of their cars waving. It made Santa want to visit every drive-through he could on the way home.


Assisted living facilities have people of all different ages, needs, and abilities. Ages typically range from early 60s to late 80s and it’s not uncommon for Santa to visit facilities where there is a 25 to 30-year age difference between some residents.

At one such facility, Santa observed a woman who appeared to be around 80+ years old, walking around and talking to other residents who weren’t as able-bodied as her.

She was especially concerned with one woman who was sitting in a wheelchair waiting to be taken to her room. She leaned over and said, “Don’t worry. Someone will be here soon.”

She went to another woman and asked how she was feeling that day. She asked if there was anything she could get for her and returned with some candy.

She wandered around helping people walk, get out of their chairs, and brought people small plates of snacks.

She approached Santa and asked, “If there anything I can get you today?” Santa replied, “I’m doing wonderful, thank you. I don’t need anything.”

She continued to help others with tasks. About 15 minutes later, she returned with two chocolate kisses for Santa and asked if he could eat sugar. Santa answered, “Yes! As long as he’s smart about it.” And, I thanked her for being so thoughtful.

At one point, Santa heard a noise that sounded like someone whimpering. Sure enough, a woman was in the back corner, crying. Right by her side was this beautiful woman, consoling her with her arm around her. Santa was amazed at her constant display of love for her neighbors. In a home where she herself was to be taken care of, she knew she had a role. She wasn’t on the payroll, but she was working with the passion of an employee of the year.

As Santa was getting ready to leave, this wonderful woman brought Santa a small plate of cookies. Even though Santa didn’t want the cookies, he felt it was rude not to accept them–especially from this kind woman. Santa told her, “If you ever want a job as an elf, I have some openings.” She smiled.

Passing through the door to leave, Santa overheard her talking to one of the employees telling her story.

“I used to be a nurse, you know.” The employee smiled and said, “Barb, I didn’t know that about you.” Long since retired, Barb continued to do what she has always done–care for people.

Santa smiled to himself remembering that, while the red suit carries with it a special magic, some people wear a suit of sorts every single day. Their suit is a smile, a kind word, a helpful spirit, and an obvious love for people. That’s the real Christmas magic.

For the last three years, this Santa has published multiple stories online about his experiences with beautiful humans. You can read those stories by following

John Voelz
Author: John Voelz