Shoppers Square Santa, aka Pat Mulhall, 47, is winding down his third year of hearing petitions from those “three weeks old to 60 years old.” Mulhall, a longtime Reno resident, doesn’t discard the festive spirit after Christmas. As he pulls off his beard, he’s already thinking about his next getup—a “real hot” Easter Bunny suit he dons in the springtime for Shoppers Square.
What’s it like being Santa?
It’s great. One of the reasons I like this job is that I don’t have kids. There won’t be anyone to remember me, but they’ll be thousands and thousands of pictures somewhere with [kids] in my lap.
What have kids asked for this year?
Harry Potter stuff. Movies. Pokemon stuff.
Do you tell them they’ll only get gifts if they’re good?
No, I usually tell them I have lots of stuff. I don’t promise anything. Kids are going to be happy with whatever they get, and their parents usually get what [kids] ask for.
What do the adults ask for most?
A diamond ring. A car.
Can I get a diamond ring?
[Pretends to pick up gift sack.] Let’s see what’s in my bag.
You’re quite a slim Santa.
I just tell ’em I’m a healthy Santa. I weigh 60 to 70 pounds less than last year. I got a pillow in here [indicates tummy]. Tell you the truth, I wouldn’t have [the pounds] back for anything. [Shoppers Square] took me back.
I was so scared of Santa that my parents had to let me in on the truth. Are there many kids like that?
Sometimes [parents] try to force their kids into my lap. That’s just gonna terrify them more.
When did you stop believing?
There are no pictures of me with Santa Claus [from when I was young]. I remember taking trips to see the [Christmas] lights, and when we got back, Santa [had been] there. I had two older brothers, they exposed the myth pretty quickly.
When do most kids stop believing?
Seven or eight. They know it’s a hoax. They do it for their parents. They always want to know where the reindeer are.
What do you tell them?
They’re on the roof, asleep. They’ve been driving me around all night.
I heard a girl say, “I wish my parents would love me again.” Do you get that much?
[Some kids say], “I wish my parents would get back together again.” She was just asking, “Will my parents love me again?” What teenager doesn’t want that?
What do you want for Christmas?
Just to be here next Christmas.