By Eliza Berman
December 12, 2014

“Good afternoon, Santa speaking.” This is how Santa Claus of Valley Stream, New York, answers his phone, and that’s because he claims his legal name is actually Santa Claus. He claims he changed it two years ago in response to children who didn’t believe him. “Now I can pull out my driver’s license or my insurance card,” he told Fast Company’s Elizabeth Segran, “and it says right there: Santa Claus.”

This Claus, who installs fire sprinkler systems when he’s not in character, has always felt a strong connection to the Christmas season. He began working weekends at Macy’s in 2006 but eventually tired of the rushed visits with children, who were often disappointed by the brevity of their lap-time. After four years, he decided to go freelance. Now he dons his Santa suit at parties and private homes, reports Segran, as well as for pro bono visits with terminally-ill children.

Though the hours are long, and the beard tugs do hurt, Claus seems to find true meaning in the work. He says of the people with whom he interacts, “Their problems didn’t go away, but just for a moment, they forgot about their problems, they smiled, they became little kids again.”

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