Shimmying down the chimney isn’t Santa’s only route to the tree on Christmas Eve and enduring the sometimes epic lines at malls and pop-up bazaars isn’t the only way to get a personal audience with the jolly old elf himself before the big night.
Santa is making ho, ho, home visits this season, serving up songs and stories with a side of cookies courtesy of Mrs. Claus.
Tualatin brothers Rick and Curt Caffall, with their wives playing Mrs. Claus and Rick’s granddaughter, Ella the Elf, are among the growing number of Santa Clauses who’ve taken the act out of public Santa Lands and into living rooms to give kids a quieter, more personal experience.
Their North Pole Enterprises is a family affair grown out of the brood’s deep love for the holiday and built on Rick’s eight seasons of playing the big guy.
This year they’re leveling up the magic by making house calls on Christmas Eve, when kids can catch Santa red-handed, or white-gloved, slipping presents under the tree.
“Obviously, we do not come down chimneys,” said Rick’s daughter Brittany King. “But they catch him and talk with him and have that moment before he tells them that they need to go back to bed.”
King works as a behind-the-scenes elf, helping manage bookings for the family’s seasonal business.
And her dad and uncle, with their fluffy white beards, twinkly eyes, goofy dad humor and easy demeanors, are naturals in the role.
“At first, I thought it was going to be hard,” says Rick, who got his start as mall Santa after friends and family encouraged him to play the part.
He was nervous at first, but he fell into character easily.
“You just show respect to the kids,” he said. “Love them and treat them like they’re your grandkids.”
The key is showing up with a sac full of dad jokes and easing into visits by letting kids come to them.
“I see it as a privilege. It’s a responsibility. You’re a part of these kids’ memories and lives growing up, and some of the hopefully good memories of childhood they have,” Rick Caffall said.
It’s also something his family loves doing together.
The Caffall brothers grew up with the scent of Christmas lingering in the air for weeks as their mother baked and cooked to prep for the big day.
Rick’s wife, Tami, carries on the tradition with equal enthusiasm. Playing Santa and Mrs. Claus together has made the holiday extra special for the couple, he said.
During the hour-long Santa visit, he sings songs, tells jokes, gets down on the floor to play with the kids, reads stories, and listens to their wishes.
Legos and Barbies, those timeless classics, continue to be among his most frequent requests.
Rick’s iconic red suit has a shinney key dangling from the thick, black leather belt. Santa’s magic key, he explains to kids, opens the door to houses that don’t have a fireplace. But it only works on Christmas eve.
Rick, who belongs to The International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, has made his way into the coveted place on the mantel in many family holiday photos, and he often sees the same kids year after year.
This year is Curt’s first in the role. His beard is grown to the requisite fluff, his mustache curled, he’s brushing up on reindeer factoids, and his brother Rick is there to help him through the pre-show jitters.
“Just be a grandpa,” Rick told him over coffee, “You’re good at that.”
After the last gift is placed gently under the tree, and the last wide-eyed child has been hurried back to bed, Santa Rick, Santa Curt, and all of the Clauses will retire to their homes, just a few houses apart on the same street, to stuff the matching home-knit stockings that have hung for decades in their family and celebrate together.
For information on home visits, booking and prices, visit Santaclausrick.com.
Catch Santa around the area:
Tualatin Historical Society: Sat. Dec. 10 tualatinhistory.org/events/christmas2022.
Cabela’s: through Dec. 24. One free to customers who provide email addresses. Additional photo packages for purchase. Reservations recommended.
Bridgeport Village: through Dec. 24, by reservation only. Silent Santa will be available for sensory-sensitive and special needs children. Nov. 27, Dec. 4, 11, & 18. A $20 reservation fee can be applied to digital photo purchases. For reservations and information: bridgeport-village.com/event/Photos-With-Santa/2145555136.
Washington Square Santa Headquarters: through Dec. 24. (Closed Nov. 23-26, 30 & Dec. 7). Visit shopwashingtonsquare.com/santaphotos for more information on pet photos night, Dec. 4, sensory Santa visits, story times, and reservations to avoid long wait times. Visits are free, photo packages available for purchase.