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Playing Santa during an economic downturn

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The NYT looks at the "Harvard of Santa Schools":

“In the end, Santas have to be sure to never promise anything,” said Mr. Honerkamp, an alumnus of the school who also lectures here. He has devised his own tale about a wayward elf and slowed toy production at the North Pole for children who are requesting a gift clearly beyond their family’s price range. “It’s hard to watch sometimes because the children are like little barometers, mirrors on what the country has been through.”
Even with the economic downturn, not all the Christmas lists have grown shorter. Some children show up with elaborate printouts, cross-referenced spread sheets and clippings from catalogs. “I try to guide the children into not so unrealistic things, and I do tell them that Santa’s been cutting back too,” said Tom Ruperd, of Caro, Mich., who added that parents often silently signal their appreciation.

When questions get more complex, Mr. Ruperd said, they sometimes require “creative answers.” The solutions, it seems, may be beyond what any school could prepare one for, and possibly out of Santa’s reach altogether. “If they asked for something that’s totally impossible — a job for Daddy, say — I usually tell them, ‘Santa specializes in toys, but we can always pray on the other,’ ” Mr. Ruperd said. “ ‘Is there anything in toys that you’d like?’ ”

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