By Robin BrownDecember 4, 2008
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. -- Creeping may not be a good characteristic for most adults, but it fits the profile of Santa as he tiptoes into the homes of sleeping children snug in their beds. Parents think the kids are dreaming of dancing sugarplums in their heads, but actually they have visions of WiFi.
Taking a break from the various appearances around the Atlanta-metro area, Dale Michael Cox, aka "Santa Dale," a direct descendent of Santa who disguises himself as an administrative assistant in G-1 at U.S. Army Forces Command, Fort McPherson, Ga. took a moment to clear the air regarding basic questions people of all ages want to know during the holiday season.
Q: How does Santa's sleigh make it around the world in one day'
A: Well, most people think it only takes one night. That is a little bit of a misconception. It takes about 36 hours. I could do it in about 34, but the reindeer need to take a break, and after so many glasses of milk, Santa sometimes needs to stop himself. Anyway, I start my deliveries in the Far East, right next to the international dateline. From there, I travel west, which means for each time zone I cross, I gain an hour. Using this strategy, when kids on the East coast of America are getting up and unwrapping the toys I brought them, I am busy on the West coast making deliveries to those children still sleeping.
Q: How far does Santa travel'
A: Santa is believed to visit about 31 countries in one night. If 27 percent of the world's population is younger than 15 years old, Santa has to visit 1,790,100,000 children (nearly 2 billion). The list, of course, gets bigger each year as the earth's population grows.
Q: Is there a summertime at the North Pole'
Q: How do you keep warm at the North Pole'
A: I have a great fireplace, plenty of warm clothes and an endless supply of hot chocolate drinks. It also helps that after Christmas is over and I have made all my deliveries, Mrs. Claus and I spend a month in Miami Beach, Fla.
Q: What do the elves do during the off season'
A: They get a month off in January, but Feb. 1 they are back in the workshops making toys and placing orders for toys from other factories throughout the world. They feed the reindeer and help me keep the lists of who's been naughty or nice.
Q: How do you eat so many cookies without getting a tummyache'
A: I can't! I eat some on Christmas Eve, but I carry a separate bag to store excess cookies and candy, and a bottomless canteen to store all the extra milk. I take them back to the North Pole to share with Mrs. Claus, our son, Santa IX, and the elves.
Q: Why doesn't Santa have kids of his own'
A: I do! I have a son, Santa IX. When I retire, my son, Santa IX is going to take over the business, like I did, when my father, Santa VII, retired.
Q: How many elves really work for you'
A: I haven't really counted, but it is in the hundreds. There's enough to hold a battalion-size formation.
Q: How tall are the elves'
A: Some are short (3 feet) and some are tall (5 feet).
Q: What's the screening process for elves'
A: They have to like children, know how to make and order toys and how to feed and take care of reindeer and be willing to spend 11 months out of the year in an extremely cold place.
Q: Can anyone apply'
A: I've never really had anybody apply. The elves who work for me are family. Their fathers and mothers work for me and when they are born, it's just taken for granted that they will work for old Santa too.
Q: When you fire the elves, do they go work for the circus'
A: I've never really had to fire an elf, but some have left for warmer climates. Some have worked for circuses in the past, but now they just take off for Hollywood. Everybody is trying to get into the movies!
Q: How does Santa know whether I have been naughty or nice'
A: Santa maintains his naughty and nice list (now computerized, by the way), with the help of all the elves who keep track of each person - you probably aren't even aware they are around you, but elves have a special way of keeping an eye on you. Sometimes, if you look quickly enough, you might catch one peering in a window or around a corner, but you would have to be very fast and very good!
Q: What are the names of Santa's reindeer'
A: The reindeer that pull the sleigh are: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder (or Donner, she likes both since some of the small reindeer have trouble saying 'Donder'), Blitzen and, of course, Rudolph. There are many other reindeer who live at the North Pole, but there is not room to list them all.
Q: What do you feed the reindeer'
A: They eat well; during the off-season I feed them corn. About Aug. 1, the elves switch them to hay and then to a special feed in mid-November of almost all types of vegetation. The magic feed we provide for them helps to get them ready for Christmas Eve. By the way, the reindeer can only fly one night a year.
Q: What do you do when Rudolph gets sick'
A: I have veterinarians on staff at the North Pole who take care of the reindeer herd. By the way, I use Svalbard reindeer from Norway to pull my sled. The Svalbard reindeer are the smallest, but the hardiest, of all the reindeer. Throughout the years, I rotate different reindeer to pull my sleigh, so if one is sick, I pick another reindeer from my private herd to fly on Christmas Eve.
Q: How do you get into houses without chimneys'
A: I have a special key that allows me to enter houses without chimneys or chimneys where the shafts are too narrow for me to fit. I've been doing this for hundreds of years, so I've become a good judge of which chimneys I can fit in and which I can't. Santa IX got stuck once during a training session but he's learning.
Q: Have you ever been stuck in a chimney'
Q: Why doesn't Santa always bring me what I asked for'
A: Thanks to the elves and your gift lists, Santa usually knows what presents you would like to receive. However, sometimes Santa also knows that your parents, family or guardians have other special things in mind. Also, Santa does not like to bring gifts that he knows your parents would prefer you not to have - such as a horse, a space shuttle or other gifts that would not be appropriate.