Clair Ossian started growing a beard in 1959, right out of high school.
When the Plano resident battled cancer, he lost all of his hair, including his beard. However, that wasn’t the end of the line for the retired geologist.
“It all came roaring back,” Ossian said. “Lots of hair, lots of curly hair, and a great big beard.”
The beard bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus’s, he realized. So, he called a Dallas agency, auditioned, and has since worked at stores and parties as a local Santa Claus.
“It's a real hoot watching the kids,” he said.
Ossian, who has most recently worked as Santa at the Cabela’s location in Allen, has been described as having a fragile immune system since he underwent cancer treatment. As a result, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic meant he wouldn’t be able to be an in-person Santa this year.
Now, he’ll be visiting young believers through a virtual platform as a way to stick with his holiday tradition. Using Zoom, Ossian plans to meet with children for 15-minute sessions to give them the experience of meeting personally with Santa.
Ossian has a vision for how the platform will work. He’s got songs he can sing, poems he can recite and stories he can recount. He’s even got a list prepared with the names of Santa’s reindeer for reference — just in case.
“When the picture first comes up, I'm going to be assembling a toy or some such thing in my lap,” he said. “I'll say 'Oh my goodness. Well hello, we have company,' or something like that.”
The 15 minutes serve as a longer exchange than he usually gets with the children who sit on his lap in person. For Ossian, the extended period of time means a chance to establish his “cred” as Santa Claus and to build a deeper connection.
“I'm hoping this is going to be good,” he said. “We can get the kid the faith that Santa Claus is really something cool, they really honestly have met Santa Claus, they really honestly know something about Santa Claus. If I can do that, I'll be very, very happy.”
However, Ossian said he’ll still miss the personal connection that comes with an in-person visit with Santa.
“There's an instant warmth there that the kids really seem to want,” he said. “That's not going to be there as well this year, although I'm certainly going to try to do it as much as I can.”
With some families opting out of in-person gatherings this year, Ossian said a virtual visit with Santa could help provide some of that “warmth” in the midst of an unorthodox holiday season.
“This has been very rewarding for me, because I see the warmth,” he said. “I can see the excitement that watching some silly old guy with white whiskers and a funny suit can do. It's a little bit magic, and gosh, what fun it is to be part of that magic.”