Downtown Portland Macy’s store has decided to forego years of tradition, booting out truly old Saint Nicks who have been posing as Kris Kringle for decades in favor of agency Santas.
The new Father Christmases come from a national vendor instead of the much beloved community Santas, and families who have been coming to get their holiday photos with the same Santas are livid.
The worst part – the agency Santas have costume beards.
Joe Hawes, 54, owns The Portland Santa Company, which outfitted Meier and Frank and Macy’s with authentic, beard-sporting Santas. He says the style the new East coast company does is a “caricature of Santa”.
“We’ve always had naturally bearded Santas who play the role of Santa for year after year. The experience is dramatically different.
“The children come in and identify with an individual rather than a costumed character.”
The two current Santas – Santa Tom and Santa Phil – have been working for the company for seven and twelve years, respectively, and have taken great pride in maintaining their festive personas all year round.
The men groom their white beards, are jolly throughout the year, and pretend to be “on vacation” when they run into youngsters during the summer months.
“I’ve been doing this my whole adult life, so it’s a real personal loss to me not to be involved with Santaland this year,” Joe Hawes told Today.com.
“This year they notified us that, for the sake of corporate uniformity, they’re going to have the Santas look like they do on the East coast – costume-bearded Santas, so every Santa can look the same in every Macy’s store.”
Families have been bringing their children to Santaland at Macy’s for years and have looked forward to seeing the same jolly and plump face during each Christmas.
“We’ve been visiting Santa every year for 18 years,” Portland resident Peggy Friedl-Yee wrote on Santaland’s Facebook page.
“first at Meier & Frank and then at Macy’s. Macy’s this is unbelievable! You have ruined a favourite family tradition. We’ll be seeing Santa at Pioneer Square. Shame on you.”
Nikki DeShane also took to Facebook to complain about the new, fake-bearded St Nicks.
“We have been taking our kids to see this Santa for 14 years, our oldest is 18 and youngest two. We will continue to see our “real” Santa on the bricks.”
Veteran Santas are setting up shop at a rival Santa display a block away from the Macy’s Santaland. The event will start December 14 in nearby Pioneer Square.
Macy’s told Today.com that the new Santaland “has a new look while retaining its holiday traditions”. They also said Santa is attired in “a classic St Nick suit”, but declined to comment on the lack of real facial hair.
Joe Hawes told Today.com that getting a portrait taken with Santa is “such a personal thing”.
Joe Hawes added: “It’s not just a public display that’s inanimate. It’s personal and emotional, especially for young children, and for people who have built this into their annual family traditions, it’s very significant.”