WW presents “Distant Voices,” a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they’re doing during quarantine.
Jeff Reuter has Santa Claus in his DNA.
When Reuter was growing up, his father would do private gigs dressed up as Old Saint Nick every Christmas. So did his brother. His grandfather was known to don the red-and-whites too, even though he was skinny.
With his hefty build and long white beard, Reuter, 56, had the look, but avoided the family trade until three years ago. His husband's friend asked him to take on the role for the family Christmas photo. When Reuter's mom saw it, she flipped: "You're a Santa," she said. "I'm sending you the suit."
"When I put it on myself," Reuter says, "I honestly felt myself change."
Since that day, Reuter—known this time of year as "Pro Santa Jeff," according to his business card, and "Potty Mouth Santa" according to his two adolescent children—has landed some significant jobs, for McMenamins and Multnomah Village. But this Christmas, of course, is different than any other. The in-person gigs are gone. Reuter has turned instead to virtual visits, transforming his home into a "workshop" and offering 10 minute chats over Zoom. His kids even help, too, acting as mischievous elves.
It's going well so far—great, even. The setup allows him to meet with far more children than he would normally, and he's heard from parents of autistic children that it's preferable to meeting Santa in a crowded public space.
Here, Reuter tells WW why he thinks Americans are going big on Christmas this year, what it was like growing up with Santa as his dad and why young kids tend to be so afraid of a jolly man who just wants to give them gifts.
See more Distant Voices interviews here.