Ho, Ho... Uh-oh

Sitting with Santa isn't always a jolly good time for kids

December 17, 2006|By Elizabeth Large | Elizabeth Large,[Sun Reporter]

HE'S A SCARY GUY, A GIANT OF A MAN who wears garish clothes, has too much facial hair and booms out "Ho, ho, ho" in a way that suggests "I eat little boys and girls."

At least that must be what Santa Claus seems like to kids who are put on the lap of an enormous stranger and expected to smile for the camera. Just take a look at the pictures on this page if you don't believe us.

"What scared little Kimberly Rineer so badly?" we asked her mother, Sharon Mettam-Adams of Cockeysville.

"The face of that guy," she said with a laugh.

The origins of this terrifying figure are shrouded in the mists of time, but various accounts say that a Philadelphia merchant named J.W. Parkinson hired the first department-store Santa in 1841. Since then, millions of children have been photographed with St. Nick for the amusement of their parents and grandparents.

FOR THE RECORD - A caption with the Santa Claus picture display in today's Modern Life section reversed the names of Kellie Anne Cross and Karen Cross. Kellie Anne is on the left; Karen is on the right.
The Sun regrets the error.
Because of incorrect information provided by a family member, the name and age of one of the children in a Dec. 17 Modern Life article, "Ho, Ho ... Uh-oh," was incorrect. Christopher Stevens was 11 1/2 months old at the time of the photo.
The Sun regrets the error.

Most of them end up enjoying the experience after a few Christmases -- but not at first.

Little Kellie Anne Cross was upset because she had never seen Santa before, said her mother, Norma Cross of Gwynn Oak. "She was reaching for me even though her sister was there."

"I think the whole idea of Santa being a stranger really threw her," said Amy Parlett of Joppa, whose daughter, Quinn Ellen Parlett, was 2 years old last Christmas. "She was not too keen on strangers! She was skeptical the whole time, but we really wanted her picture with Santa -- regardless of her reaction!"

So are she and her husband Ron going to try again this year?

"Yes, and hopefully it will go a bit more smoothly. I think she has forgotten the trauma that we put her through last year so she may be OK with him this year."

The best part about Santa photos is that if you hold on to them, you can torture your kids for years to come.

"My son was horrified that I would send these," said Maureen Hodges. (Daniel Cross is now a lawyer and lives in Federal Hill.) "He said his 'tough guy' status among his friends would be ruined. Occasionally, it is nice to put one over on your children!"

But whether you're feeling sorry for these unhappy boys and girls or smiling at them, spare a thought for the not-so-jolly old elf himself.

Ellie MacDougall had her picture taken two years ago at the Shops at Kenilworth.

"She was about 16 months old at the time, and as you can see, none too happy about meeting up with Santa," said her mother, Kaycee MacDougall. "My daughter's reaction is funny, but it's the look on Santa's face that really makes this picture a classic. When this picture came out of the photographer's printer, not only was my entire family laughing, but even the photographer was in hysterics."


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