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Battle of the mall Santas 

The whole concept of Santa Claus setting up shop at a mall has always been creepy to me. Sitting on some fat white man's knee and telling him my hopes and wishes just never seemed right. But year after year, malls open their doors to hordes of parents who want to place their kids on Santa's lap and then pay $18.99 for an 8x10 of the experience.

I love to see kids crying while in Jolly Old Saint Nick's lap. Then as soon as they get down, the tears dry up. Cute.

But if you have to take a child, bright-eyed and gullible as he or she may be, to see Mr. Claus this year, here's a ranking of the best mall Santas in Charlotte (and Concord).

Carolina Place Mall

At Carolina Place, Santa is situated in the center of the mall, of course, not too far from some shop that sells football jerseys. There's something different about this Claus character. He's a little on the thin side. By no means is he scary skinny like Lindsey, Paris and Nicole, but if you're going with the mythology of St. Nick, this is one time when you've got to be a fat ass.

A plus for this mall Santa is the fact that his beard looks real. But take away a lot of points for his stringy and dirty-looking white hair. Picture Christina Aguilera when she was going through her "dirty" phase. Ick.

It's no wonder one little kid cried when he sat on Santa's knee and wouldn't smile when the photographer tried to take a picture.

This Santa has candy, though; so, he can't be too bad. Or is he just trying to get those little kids hopped up on sugar so that they can terrorize the mall and get on the naughty list? Hey, times are hard and St. Nick might not have enough coin to pay for reindeer food and gas.

This Santa is also kind of stylish with his red and white vest. Vests are in this season. But red velvet pants with cotton (cause I'm sure Santa wouldn't wear fur) around the cuffs is just butt-ass ugly.

Though Santa was cheerful with the parents and the kids -- all of them standing around and smiling mindlessly -- he was kind of demanding of the photographer. Who, thankfully, wasn't dressed as an elf.

This Santa gets a B-.

Concord Mills

If you can remember where you parked at Concord Mills, finding Santa will be a breeze. But once you reach this St. Nick, you might not be too happy. He's in Neighborhood 6, and he has to be the surliest looking Santa ever. He didn't smile much. Granted, he wasn't getting much lap traffic the night I was there.

Santa had a fluffy white beard, which appeared to be real. But it was so white that it blended in with the white trim of his red suit. Santa didn't "ho, ho, ho." But it was pointed out to me that no Santa may utter those words anymore because of Don Imus and his nappy-headed quip.

Santa was obviously padded. You could see the square outline of the padding through his suit. Maybe that's why he was pissed. This Santa looks as if he puts everybody on the naughty list. No wonder the kids were ignoring him.

This Santa gets a C-.

Northlake Mall

Northlake Mall's Santa has a lot of props. He's sitting in a replica of the Polar Express. And who knew there were so many Santas with real beards? This is another one who has a real one. He's horribly padded, though. You'd think the assistants at the Santa stations would let St. Nick know when his square pad is sticking out.

This Santa has cashed in on the Sarah Palin glasses trend; his eyes are covered by a pair of the specks made famous by the Alaskan governor. Very trendy for an old myth.

A mother brought her son and daughter to visit Santa. While older brother was happy to sit on the old man's lap, his little sister screamed like a banshee and mom had to take her away.

This Santa doesn't "ho, ho, ho" either, but he's very popular this night. His gifts are pretty cool, too. The brother who didn't cry was able to get away with taking two items from the gift box. Then, in his excitement, he went to Santa to show him just what he had. Santa smiled sweetly, not like the Santa in A Christmas Story, who would've given the boy a boot to the head.

Give this Santa an A for effort, but over all, he rates a B+.

SouthPark Mall

SouthPark has the best of everything and Santa is no different. He looks as if he stepped off the front of a Christmas card. He has a curly white beard, neatly trimmed white hair that's sticking out from underneath his red hat. His outfit is trimmed in gold. While sitting on his chair waiting for kids to come by, Santa's flanked by two assistants and strangely enough, he doesn't look like a pimp.

When a kid finally ventures by, he keeps his distance from Santa, saying hello from afar, despite his mother and grandmother's insistence for him to "go speak to Santa." As a matter of fact, mom and "Nana" seem more excited about seeing St. Nick than the kid.

If this Santa is padded, you can't tell. Here's hoping he is padded because if he isn't, then he needs to see the doctor immediately. And, yes, this Santa belts out "Ho, ho, ho" like a real Santa should. (Take that Don Imus!)

This Santa rates an A.

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