Being Santa: How one man brings magic into children’s lives for 20 years

Jack Warren has been playing Santa Claus for over 20 years in the Cleveland area. He talks about his experiences as the man in red, and how his thoughts on how to be the representation of Christmas.

Jack Warren is preparing backstage. Looking in the mirror, he combs his hair back, and brushes out his full, white beard. Going into his makeup kit, he pulls out a stick of bright red facepaint. He puts the tiniest amount on his finger, and lightly applies it to his cheeks and nose, giving a touch of ruddiness. “This makeup is probably twenty years old,” says Warren. “it doesn’t take much.”

Warren is about to put his costume on and step out the door to perform. But he’s not a leading man in a play or movie. He’s getting ready for a role with a unique set of demands. He’s about to play Santa Claus for over a hundred excited, awestruck and (potentially) nervous children.

Years of making memories

Having played Santa Claus for over twenty years, Warren knows what to expect. Although every time is different, his experience has given him the skills to relax and engage with each child. He started with a fake beard and borrowed suit as a “Mall Santa” in Elyria at the Midway Mall, and went onto be a “roving Santa” in various department stores. Having fully embraced the seasonal role, his genuine beard and inviting demeanor made him an in-demand Santa. He’s been presiding over the city of Solon’s outdoor lighting event for ten years, as well as one of the “Mr. Kringle’s” found at Kringle’s Inventionasium at Tower City in downtown Cleveland.

“I love Christmas.” smiles Warren. “I love putting up the tree, the singing, the decorations. The one thing I don’t like to do is shop. I’m always that last minute shopper.” Even Santa procrastinates on the gifts.

“People who play Santa Claus have a responsibility to let that magic carry through for young people as long as they possibly can. I want to make sure that when kids see this Santa, they are engaged and appreciated, and they actually feel some love.”

You can hear Jack Warren’s stories from his years on Santa’s chair in our video above, and check out more about what’s going on for Christmas fun on our Holiday Event Guide.