Do you believe in magic? The lore of the ‘Smokey Mountain Santa’
Standing in the lobby of North Canton Elementary School last Friday morning, one could hear and witness the frenzied nature of students and faculty alike, all eager for the upcoming holidays. And though Christmas is just around the corner, one might think otherwise with the unusually green front lawn and warm sunshine cascading across the mountains of Western North Carolina.
Passing by doorways full of smiling faces, the cinematic sounds of “The Polar Express” and Christmas music echo down the hallways. Turning into Mrs. Christina Roberts and Mrs. Carol Harkins kindergarten classroom, the teachers are wrangling all 15 of their students that day in preparation to get the space in order for their special guests.
“Can you guess who is coming to our classroom today?” Roberts asked.
“Santa,” the children all shout at once.
Like a cacophony of little chirping chicks, the kids are abuzz with excitement, with innumerable youthful voices spouting out their deepest Christmas desires, whether it be specific presents or simply some snow and time well spent with family and friends.
“And maybe I can ask him for a kitchen mixer,” Roberts chuckled in response to her students.
The kids zip around the room, cleaning up their tables, chairs and floor. And not a moment sooner, for the sound of sleigh bells are heard from somewhere outside the classroom door and down the hallway. The kids huddle onto the nearby carpet play area in anticipation for their arrival. They’re quiet, the kind of silence that comes from sheer wonder and pent up exhilaration. Entering the classroom, Santa (aka the “Smokey Mountain Santa”) and Mrs. Claus wave hello to the children.
Eyes as wide as dinner plates, the students jump up and rush towards Santa and Mrs. Claus. They tug at his large red coat for his attention. And as he sat down in a rocking chair, they surrounded him, waiting for him to say something, anything.
“Your teacher called and said she had some very special boys and girls this year,” Santa smiled.
The guest appearance by the couple (Dennis and Deborah Reed) was due to their granddaughter being one of the kindergarten students in the classroom. One-by-one, a little boy or little girl strolled up and whispered their hopes and dreams into Santa’s ear, an unspoken bond of magic and generosity that resides in the presence of jolly ole Saint Nick.
“Remember, the more you help people, the bigger your heart gets,” Santa told the classroom. “And the bigger your heart gets, the more likely one day you can wake up and become one of Santa’s elves.”
After each student secretly told their wish to Santa, the couple handed out candy canes and a coin to each child, with the words “I was caught being good” printed on both sides. To conclude their visit, the room burst out into a sing-along.
“We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” the voices sang.
And as quickly as they appeared, Santa and Mrs. Claus said goodbye to the little smiling faces, onward to the next holiday engagement. The cacophony of little chirping chicks waved fare well, the sound of sleigh bells slowly disappearing into the late morning air.
“It’s a joy to see them come in, and the kids get so excited,” Roberts said. “I love seeing the smiles on all their faces. It’s about bringing some joy to all of the kids here and knowing they’re all on the ‘good list.’”