Entries in Santa Claus (9)


Is This the Real Santa Claus?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You could call him St. Nicholas, Jolly Old St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, the man in the big red suit or even the man with the white beard, but the only name one New York man will answer to is this: Santa Claus.

That’s because it’s the name on his driver’s license and the only name he’s answered to since he legally changed his name last March.

“There are so many problems in the world today. I want everyone to be happy, even if it’s just for a moment. I want to make you remember what it’s like to be a child,” Claus told ABC’s New York station WABC.

For 54 years, Santa Claus was known as Frank Pascuzzi, a construction worker and caterer in Copiague, N.Y., according to the New York Post.  He is also a father of four. His son was born on Christmas Day and was thus given the middle name Yule.

Lest any nonbelievers think Santa Claus, who with his long white beard and jolly nature has been told his whole life he resembled the famous guy, is not real, he showed his New York State driver’s license to WABC to prove he is indeed Santa Claus.

“My wife is very happy that I don’t have to change the marriage certificate, so it still has my old name on it, but she said it was a little weird to go into her boss to change the medical insurance because her husband is now Santa Claus,” he told the station.

Claus had to undergo a background check before a Supreme Court justice in Suffolk County would approve the name change, the Post reported.

Once he passed, with flying reindeer and jingle bells, of course, the state issued the change and Claus continued his tradition of showing up at Christmas parties and spreading holiday cheer.

“”It’s tons of fun!” he told the Post.  “Everyone wants to talk to me. Everybody wants to be my friend. My Facebook page has gone insane.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secret Santa Society Spreads Money, Cheer

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Members of the Society of Secret Santas participate in holiday "sleigh rides," but they don't get involved with reindeer or trips through the sky.  Their sleigh rides consist of traveling to places around the country to hand out $100 bills to people in need.

The head of Secret Santa, known only as Elf 32A, recently went to the Topeka, Kan., area, where two police officers were killed last week.  He quietly distributed $100 bills to law enforcement people and the families of others who have been injured or killed.

"It's amazing how much little things like that take people by surprise in a pleasant sort of way," society spokesman Pat O'Neill told ABC News.

The society is based in Kansas City, Mo., where Elf 32A is an anonymous "local businessman, very low key," according to O'Neill.

The group was founded by Larry Dean Stewart, the "original Secret Santa" who died in 2007.  O'Neill estimates that Stewart donated about $1.5 million over his 20 years going on sleigh rides.  His identity was only revealed after his death.

Elf 32A, a friend of Stewart's, took over the group when he died.

The number of members of the society ebbs and flows year to year, depending on people's financial and personal situations.  The informal group consists of "dozens" of good Samaritans each year.  Stewart said the primary Secret Santas hand out between $10,000 and $50,000.

The head Secret Santa trains members on how to move quickly through crowds in order to avoid being photographed and how to read people's facial expressions, looking for sadness or stress.

After Superstorm Sandy, Elf 32A traveled to New York and New Jersey to distribute $100,000 to people who suffered from the storm.  He sported a red cap with the word "Elf" stitched in the back.  He allowed some press on the outing, but they were prohibited from photographing or videotaping his face.

"Are you serious?" asked one surprised shopper when he handed her a $100 bill.

"I'm serious.  Merry Christmas," he said.  "See if you can do a little bit more shopping today.  Buy something a little bit more than what you would have bought before, alright?  Just kind of pass the kindness on down the road."

The $100 bills are stamped with "Larry Stewart, Secret Santa" in honor of the group's founder and they come with a note that asks recipients to "pass the kindness on to somebody."

The society says they're not just about the money.

"There's a million different acts of kindness that can take on any shape, size or form," O'Neill said.  "We're just trying to remind folks of their humanity and that any random act of kindness is appreciated."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secret Giving: ‘Secret Santas’ in NC Give Cash, Man Pays for Toys in Arizona

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- ‘Tis the season of giving, and this season, some generous people are giving in secret.

Three unidentified people dressed up as Santa Claus handed out an estimated $10,000-worth of $100 bills to strangers in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday.

“I’m shocked.  Oh my gosh, this is amazing,” Regina Brady told the Charlotte Observer newspaper as she received her cash.

The tradition of handing out money in Charlotte around Christmas started in 2008 with an anonymous local family calling themselves the Secret Santas, the newspaper reported.

But the Charlotte Secret Santas aren’t the only kind-hearted benefactors. In Anthem, Ariz., a man who wished to remain anonymous walked into the local Walmart and paid off the balances on several customers’ layaway items.

The man first came into the store on Nov. 29 and said that he wanted to settle layaway balances -- particularly for people who were paying for toys, Joe Malinconico, the store’s manager, told ABC News affiliate WKNX-TV in Phoenix. The first day, the Good Samaritan paid off three customers’ balances.  He returned the following day and settled the bills for 17 other customers -- to the tune of about $1,600.

At first, customer Patty Hiner found the good fortune hard to believe.

“When they called, I think I asked them three times, ‘Are you serious’?  Because I just didn’t believe that, you know, somebody had really came in and paid off my layaway for me,” she told WKNX.

According to Malinconico, the secret Santa said his own children were older and paying off the layaway balances was his way of helping people who were struggling.

“I have a feeling he’ll be back, I do,” Malinconico said.  “I’m hoping so.  He’s touching a lot of lives.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man Dressed as Santa Blamed for Christmas Day Massacre

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(GRAPEVINE, Texas) -- A Santa-suited gunman who killed six people on Christmas morning was the estranged husband of one of the victims and the father of two teenagers who died in the massacre.

Aziz Yazdanpanah, 56, showed up to his estranged wife's apartment on Christmas morning dressed like St. Nick and opened fire shortly after the family had unwrapped presents.

Yazdanpanah then killed himself.

The six victims were identified by ABC affiliate WFAA as: Nasrin Rahmaty, 55, who was Yazdanpanah's wife; Nona Yazdanpanah, 19, his daughter; Ali Yazdanpanah, 15, his son; Zohreh Rahmaty, 58, his sister-in-law; Hossein Zarei, 59, his brother-in-law; and Sahra Zarei, 22, his niece.

The medical examiner's office has still not released the names of the victims.

Zarei owned a popular Dallas, Texas, ranch and was well known in the Iranian-American community, according to WFAA. On Christmas Eve, the family hosted a party at the ranch. The gunman was not invited.

"The appearance we got leading up to this was it was just a normal Christmas gathering," Sgt. Roger Eberling of the Grapevine Police Department told ABC News.

Eberling said it was unclear whether AzizYazdanpanah was invited to the apartment, but said it appeared he did not force his way inside.

Around 11:16 a.m., Eberling said a female victim sent a text message to a friend indicating the family had just exchanged gifts and that the gunman was there dressed as Santa Claus.

Minutes later, police received a 911 call, which initially sounded like silence, Eberling said.  After listening to the call again, Eberling said police could hear someone in a raspy voice saying "help me." He said the caller sounded out of breath and the call went dead after 15 to 20 seconds.

Police arrived within minutes where they found the bodies of all six victims and the gunman. Two handguns were found among the wrapping paper and Christmas tree.

Nasrin Rahmaty had been separated from her husband since March, according to ABC affiliate WFAA. Rahmaty and her two children moved into the Grapevine, Texas, apartment where they were murdered, while Yazdanpanah reportedly remained in the family's Colleyville, Texas, home, which had been foreclosed on last year, WFAA reported.

Yazdanpanah had been having financial troubles after his real estate business slowed down and had reportedly filed for bankruptcy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama Helps Kids Track Santa

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(KAILUA, Hawaii) -- First lady Michelle Obama continued her tradition of answering calls from children who are curious about Santa’s whereabouts on Christmas Eve, as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa Program through the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

Each year, more than 1,200 volunteers answer hundreds of thousands of phone calls and emails from those trying to track Old Saint Nick.

The first lady took her calls from the family’s vacation rental in Kailua, Hawaii.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Postal Santa Claus Can Wear His Costume on His Route

Altrendo Images/Thinkstock(BELLEVUE, Wash.) -- The postal Santa has regained his wings.

Letter carrier Bob McLean had been donning a Saint Nick costume for the holiday season while on his route in Bellevue, Wash., for over a decade. But a supervisor earlier this week told him that he was no longer allowed to spread his brand of holiday cheer, alleging that a complaint was filed that he was not wearing official post office attire.

After a hearing Thursday, McLean was told he can wear the outfit again Friday when he delivers the mail.

"There will be a Santa in Bellevue," McLean told The Bellevue Reporter. "I'm just glad it's all resolved."

Earlier, he was pretty upset about being told not to wear the costume.

"The government is shutting me down because it's a non-postal regulation uniform," McLean, who has been working with the postal service since 1971, told The Bellevue Reporter.

McLean, who wears a white beard and has crisp white hair, said that he began wearing the costume when he was told that he looks a bit like Kris Kringle. Since then he has delighted residents while delivering the post, even causing traffic jams as motorists try to get a peek.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Giant Stolen Santa Returned with $100

File photo. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)(UNIONVILLE, Ind.) -- A 16-foot-tall inflatable Santa Claus stolen from a Unionville, Ind., man’s yard has been returned with $100 and a note of apology, writes The Herald-Times.

Jason McClaren says an anonymous, typed note read: "Returning your property is the right thing to do, and apologies for the thief who took it in the first place."

The note makes it clear that the person who returned the Santa wasn't the thief who took it and two six-foot-tall penguins this past week. The penguin decorations are still missing, McClaren told The Herald-Times, adding that he now plans to use the $100 to buy new decorations.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


No 'Ho, Ho': Texas School District Bans Christmas Messages & Santa Claus

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- No, Virginia, there isn't a Santa Claus. At least not in the Fort Worth, Texas school district.

The school district's attorney sent a memo Thursday declaring that it's now prohibited for students to "distribute personal holiday messages" or exchange gifts during class, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Also, there will be no visits in class from Santa Claus.

The reason, argues district attorney Bertha Bailey Whatley, is that allowing students to exchange gifts and messages during class would "allow a student to distribute a religious message with the gift or card."

The latter practice is a no-no, but as the memo explains, "the school district cannot prohibit the distribution of unsolicited religious material directly to students if it allows other personal messages to be distributed during school activities held during the school day."

In other words, if it wants to keep kids from exchanging religious holiday messages, the district says it must prohibit the exchange of all holiday messages.

On the bright side, the ban only applies to class time -- kids can still exchange all the holiday messages and presents they want before and after classes, and during lunch.

And yes, it's still OK to wish one another a Merry Christmas.

Not surprisingly, some parents aren't pleased with the new rules, and plan to challenge them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


First Lady Helps Kids Track Santa

Photo Courtesy - WireImage/Getty Images(KAILUA, Hawaii) -- First lady Michelle Obama spent more than 40 minutes on the phone with children Friday, aiding NORAD in answering Christmas Eve queries from kids as to where Santa is, and how soon he will be at their home.

"You know that Santa only comes after boys and girls have gone to sleep, no matter where he is in the world," Mrs. Obama said to each of the children callers, "so Santa won't be at your house until you’re fast asleep, okay?"

While Mrs. Obama was on the phone, according to her readout of the NORAD radar, Santa spanned several parts of Africa and into Europe.

"The radar shows that it looks like the vehicle is being pulled by all nine reindeer and it’s pretty full of toys," Mrs. Obama assured the children.

The first lady asked the children callers if they had been good this year, to which all of them answered affirmatively.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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