Rural Missouri - December 2011 - (Page 32)

N E I G H B O R S I’m in full garb, bag, reindeer bells and all.” At churches, there’s often a crèche set up during the Christmas season. ost people see Santa At the end of his talk, Mike often Claus and St. Nicholas will take several children over to the as two different vercrèche where they kneel by the mansions of a Christmas ger holding baby Jesus. icon. One has taken on the commer“I want to show the connection cial aspect of Christmas, while the between Christ and Santa Claus,” other strives to present the religious says Mike. side of the holiday. But to historian According to the St. Nick emisMike Currier, Santa and St. Nicholas sary, the red-clad man has gotten a are nearly one in the same — both bad rap lately because he represents had the goal of giving. the commercial side of the holidays. “People have either forgotten Whenever he portrays St. Nick, that St. Nicholas was real or they’ve Mike’s goal is to include the signifinever known. He’s not just the redcance of giving into his portrayal. cloaked Santa that Coca-Cola recre“Whenever I have a kid sit on my ated,” says the self-proclaimed Claus knee, you’ll never hear me ask ‘What crusader. do you want for Christmas?’ I ask Currently the administrator ‘What for Lake West Christian Academy are in Sunrise Beach, Mike has been a you scholar of all things Santa for nearly going 50 years. But he attributes the start to give, of his interest in protecting the rep• or do, utation of St. Nick to his mother. Versailles for your Mike Currier makes it his mission mother for to share how Christmas was origiChristmas? nally celebrated — and how it’s a Your little holiday to give, not get. brother? What are you doing special “When I was 10, Mom gave me a for someone else this year?” little ceramic Santa on a swing. Little One of Mike’s most memorable did I know the profound effect that stints as Kris Kringle took place in would have on my life,” says Mike, Kansas where he delivered presents now 68. “I thought it was kind of a (given to him ahead of time). corny gift back then, but it’s one of Mike Currier holds a small ceramic Santa Claus ornament his mother made for him At one home, a grandmother my favorite possessions now.” when he was 10 years old. He credits the gift as the start of his love of all things Santa. with 12 or 13 grandchildren When Mike, who lives in Verwatched as Mike placed gifts under sailles, began teaching in 1965, the the tree. To get the presents, each school needed a Santa for the kinkid had to sit on Santa’s knee. But dergarten kids, so they asked him one 7-year-old boy said he didn’t to play the part. Standing 6 feet, 2 believe in Santa. inches and weighing 120 pounds, “I happened to know that his the 22-year-old padded up for the teacher was out with a broken hip, role. The suit, he recalls, was “just so I asked, ‘Billy, how’s Miss So-andhorrid,” but he was hooked. The so doing? She told me she’s anxious experience taught him the joy only to come back to school.’ Santa can bring to a child. “He knew he hadn’t told me Mike played Santa at various his teacher’s name, so his eyes were venues during the Christmas season huge as he tried to figure out who I was,” says until the 1980s. While he reveled in the children’s Mike. “Then I said, ‘Billy, I still believe in you. I joy, something was amiss. After his son, Merrill, think you’re real.’ And that inspiration has stuck was born, Mike decided to quit playing Santa. with me all these years.” Instead, he decided to become Santa. If Mike were a boasting man, he’d probably “Anybody can play Santa by putting on a suit tell of pre-empting Sesame Street while portrayand saying, ‘Ho, ho, ho,’” says Mike. “I just didn’t ing Santa for a Kansas television station, as well as want to play Santa any more. So I began studying the nine years he spent as the Santa for the Texas Santa and took on the persona of Santa.” Rangers baseball team, back when George W. Bush Through a program he calls “Mythstery,” Mike was co-owner. gives presentations to churches, clubs and youth Today, the little Santa his mom made has hungroups dispelling the myths of Santa Claus — dreds of Claus friends to hang out with in Mike’s such as why he wears a red suit, why he used reincollection. “I quit counting at 400,” he says of his deer instead of horses and who St. Nicholas, the accumulation. “Let’s just say I’m easy to buy for.” man who really started holiday giving, really was. Mike hopes one day to write a Claus-inspired He then shares the transformations the character book titled “I Believe in You.” He also would like has gone through over the years as well as the to host a Santa training institute for those who roles Santa can play in our lives today. wish to bring the real St. Nicholas back into the “I’m trying to bring Santa back as the religious holidays. Until then, Mike chooses to keep spreadfigure he started as,” says Mike. “Jesus is real and ing hope and joy to others, just as St. Nicholas St. Nicholas used to be a real person, too. I want did, throughout the year. to reconnect that in people’s minds.” Mike usually begins his presentations donned Mike Currier portrays Santa at an event in 1987. The You may contact Mike Currier by e-mail at in casual attire. “As I give my talk, I put on various boy on his lap, his then 3-year-old son, Merrill, had or by calling 573-569-0888. pieces of St. Nicholas’ suit. By the time I’m done, no idea the jolly red fellow was his own father. M by Heather Berry Claus Crusader Santa ambassador Mike Currier wants to know what you’re giving — not getting — this year photo courtesy of Mike Currier 32 WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP http://WWW.RURALMISSOURI.COOP

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - December 2011

Rural Missouri - December 2011
Table of COntents
Giggin’ on the Gasconade
A historic rumbling
Bent on perfection
Out of the Way Eats
Christmas country church tour
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Of two governments
Best of rural Missouri
Around Missouri

Rural Missouri - December 2011