ho ho ho.
i love the whole santa myth. some people find this surprising, since i am a pastor, and there are some cultural expectations that Christians should be militant against the secular portions of the Christmas tradition. well, you're talking to the wrong pastor for that.
santa claus, of course, is not a secular figure at all, and is a jolly old saint who embodies the christian ideals of kindness, generosity, giving to the poor, and love. he does NOT, however, despite the way that parts of our culture have tried to hijack him, represent gluttony, greed, or unchecked capitalism.
all of that, to say this.
we went to the mall on monday night to see santa claus (not really santa claus, of course, but helping him). i specifically got on the mall's website before we went to see what the policies for photography/video were, and to see how much it cost to purchase the pictures which they take. the guidelines were quite clear. guests are not permitted to take pictures from within the santa set (emphasis mine), and sitting on santa's lap is FREE. the cheapest photo option is $22 for one picture. one picture! ridiculous.
so, i figured we would sit on the jolly old elf's lap, and i would stand outside the santa set and snap a few pictures and perhaps capture some video of the event, as i've done every year.
however, when we got there and i removed myself from the santa set in order to take said pictures, i was told by one of santa's "little helpers" that - and i quote - i can't video from there. okay. i simply mentioned that their guidelines mentioned no such restriction, and then i started getting my camera ready. she proceeded to help santa by telling me that there was no photography from there either. i'm sure i assumed a quizzical look as i explained that i was quite clearly outside the santa set as per the printed instructions right there on the sign. all she would say is, "i'm sorry. it's not my rule. then she mumbled something about the mall's rules, but this was clearly just a lame attempt to scapegoat her mall santa company's greed onto someone else.
let me be clear here. i don't ultimately have a problem with a 'no photography' rule. actually, i do, but i would have been willing to abide by that rule, if that had been made clear. but it wasn't. in fact, the printed restriction seemed to make it clear that photography was indeed permitted, outside of certain areas. it was misleading and i was annoyed by this, especially since santa's helper wouldn't acknowledge this discrepancy between the printed rule and her new one.
looking back on it, i wish i would have taken the pictures anyway, since there were no printed restrictions prohibiting what i was doing. but, alas, i didn't. i am a dang rule-follower. so i packed up the camera's. by this time, the whole family was all upset because i just about got thrown out of the mall by a matronly elf. so, the story ends with us - a fired up dad, an extremely embarrassed mom, and some confused children - awkwardly walking away from saint nick, without any picture at all, not even a grossly overpriced one.
once i cooled off a bit, i remembered that i had seen an old santa suit stuck up on a shelf in the church somewhere. so i stopped by the church on the way home, secretly put the suit in the car and brought it home. while the kids went and played, i changed into costume, and then came into the living room with a boisterous "ho ho ho!" they pretty much immediately knew it was me (santa doesn't wear black rimmed glasses, apparently), but we had fun laughing about it and at least got a picture. i only charged $15 for the pic, and i even allowed shannon to stand inside the living room to take the photo. anyway, we got some fun pics and a memory that we'll laugh about for some time.
okay, so maybe they're not the greatest pictures in the world, but, hey, at least we didn't pay $22 for a picture that looks like this: