Usually occurring during the Christmas-themed episode, a male character gets a job at The Mall
(or a department store in older works) as Santa Claus
, either for a part-time job or as a last-minute substitute. Hilarity Ensues
. We invariably see a series of kids on his lap doing things like questioning his authenticity as the "real" Santa Claus
, attempting to pull off his beard, asking for extravagant or impossible gifts, or, in the most crass of Sit Coms
, urinating on him out of fear. A common joke has the Mall Santa
promising to deliver an outrageous gift come Christmas, much to the dismay of the kid's parents.
If the character playing the Mall Santa is a cynical Jaded Washout
type, he may comment on the materialistic behavior of the kids or the commercialism of Christmas.
Added points if the Mall Santa is drunk.
The female equivalent is being stuck in a Sexy Santa Dress
and/or hideous "helper elf"
In more outlandish shows with Speculative Fiction
or Mundane Fantastic
premises, the character may be the real deal after all
Occasionally one encounters a Jewish
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- The Capital One ad with the inversion of the beard pull trope-the kid on Santa's lap is the kid who's one of the Vikings in the commercial. He has a beard, despite the fact he's too young to, and Santa pulls it, which makes the kid say 'ouch'.
- In issue #378 of Incredible Hulk (by Peter David), Rhino (a supervillain) becomes a Mall Santa. He gives this advice to kids: "Give! Give! Give! You want everything handed to you! Why not do what I do? Take stuff! See it? Want it? Take it!"
- Archie comics have used this plot in many a Christmas themed storyline.
- Archie gets this job himself a lot. One year he tried to use it to get present intel from Betty and Veronica, but the girls saw through it and tricked him instead. Another year he learned the True Meaning of Christmas from some special children he met on the job.
- A one-shot Li'l Jinx featured the titular character pestering a mall santa about a letter she got.
- One Betty and Veronica double digest cover, in which a teenaged Betty is bothering a mall Santa.
- Yet another story featured Betty and Veronica as Mall Santas. This isn't counting the times they've just worn a Sexy Santa Dress.
- Justice Society of America: Ma Hunkel, the original Red Tornado, spent time each Christmas as a mall Santa. A group of crooks make the mistake of attempting to rob her mall on the Christmas Eve the JSA turn up to recruit her as their housekeeper.
- Mary Jane Watson gets a job as one of Santa's helpers in the Christmas display at Macy's Department Store. She feels more than a little silly in her Christmas Elves outfit, but she turns out to actually be pretty good at the job.
- In one Artemis Fowl fanfiction, Artemis's mother takes a five-year old Artemis Christmas shopping and makes take a picture with one. Artemis bluntly tells the Santa that he knows the man is a fake. The Mall Santa rolls with it, telling Artemis of the Santa Conspiracy.
Santa: Tell you what kid, it's true. I'm not the real Santa, you think only one man can run this operation? Santa sends his agents out to find out what the kids act and if they're really being naughty or nice.
Artemis (quietly amazed): So how does he deliver those presents?
Santa: You think one man could deliver all those presents in one night by himself?
Artemis: So he doesn't work alone?
Santa: Nope, he sends his agents to deliver presents all around the world and no one knows the difference.
- Artemis then resolves to uncover Santa's operations.
- Metal Gear Santa featured Old Snake dressed up as Santa Claus and Sunny and Otacon dressed up as elves.
- Classic film example from a child's perspective: A Christmas Story.
- Bad Santa featured a thief working as a Mall Santa in order to rob the stores.
- Both versions of Miracle on 34th Street use the real Santa, Kris Kringle, as a department store Santa. In the original, it's Macy's; in the remake, it's Cole's. At least in the original, he's replacing a terrible, drunken Mall Santa, so bonus points there.
- Elf - Buddy, who knows the real Santa, is incensed when an impostor shows up at the department store he works in. He accuses the fake of smelling "like beef and cheese!" and gets into a fistfight with him. After that, the store gets a different Santa- who is black.
- The European horror/comedy short subjects and the later film Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale purport to tell the true story of where the red-suited entities seen in stores at Christmas actually come from. They're actually centuries-old cryptozoological wild men, captured and trained until they can be trusted to hold children on their laps without ripping them apart. That is, unless someone is foolish enough to do one of the things that enrages them... It's revealed in The Movie that these "Santas" are in fact just Santa's little elves. The real Santa is much, much worse. And most definitely Mall Santa material.
- In Home Alone, Kevin runs to find a Santa in time on Christmas Eve. He finds one getting into his car after quiting time. He quickly puts his beard back on and does his best Jolly Old St. Nick, but Kevin tells him not to bother. He already knows he's not the real Santa, but he knows he does work for him. The Santa just goes with it. Kevin then asks him to relay the message that he wants his family back.
- Look Who's Talking Now features Kirstie Alley's character having to work as a department store Santa's Elf. A kid asks her if she's an elf, and she replies that she's actually a Vulcan.
- The one in All I Want for Christmas is visited twice, due to Hallie thinking her wish was phrased wrong.
- Hot Fuzz features a scene of Peter Jackson as Father Christmas stabbing Simon Pegg in the hand.
- The crime film The Silent Partner involves a mall Santa who turns out to be a bank robber...and then gets caught up in dueling gambits with a teller at the bank who wants to keep the loot for himself.
- Santa Who has a scenario where Santa falls from his sleigh and gets amnesia, and during the course of the movie, he ends up as a mall Santa for awhile.
- In the Discworld novel Hogfather, Death (who's already standing in for the real deal), attempts to replace the Hogfather at an expensive department store. Since he already has the Hogfather's sack, he horrifies the store owner by giving away wonderful presents, thereby heavily eating into the profits.
- Not to mention Death's failure to perceive certain human conventions regarding appropriate gifts for children. Such as the full-size, completely real broadsword he hands to a little girl, before being hastily convinced that a fully functional weapon might not be the best idea (he just turned the blade to wood). Or a girl wants a real life pony to be in her home... in a second floor apartment. Overall, he gives children toys that they actually want, rather than what their parents consider appropriate for them. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes not.
- In Nathan Englander's humourous short story Reb Kringle, Itzik, a devoutly Orthodox Jew, reluctantly takes this job because he and his wife need the money and he already has the requisite long white beard and big belly. Itzik takes in stride the typical annoyances of overly-greedy requests and attempts to remove his beard, but loses it when the child of an interfaith couple admits he'd rather celebrate Hanukkah.
- In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, feeling the barghests, Miranda asks for direction, and is sent to the mall. Where they find that the Mall Santa is actually Father Christmas, who can deal easily with a pack of Hell Hounds/Living Shadows.
- In one of Harlequin's Romance Novels, the pairing are a pair of divorcees - the woman is manager at the store, which is an Old Established Business with an equally old, established rival (the competition between the two is even referenced as being akin to that between Bloomingdale's and Macy's) while the man is (at first appearances) a guy who's one bounced check from being homeless and focused on getting revenge on his Rich Bitch of an ex (who also faked evidence to make him appear to be a Domestic Abuser, effectively conning the judge into giving her full custody of their daughter). The guy is desperate for a job, but wants something seasonal - and she's desperate for a Mall Santa since the one they usually hire is getting on in years. The manager is also frequently roped into babysitting the store owner's grandson - who is also the unofficial vetter for the Mall Santas that are hired. The kid is mentioned as still believing in Santa, but justifies Mall Santas as being like heralds for the real deal - which also neatly explains, to him, why not all Mall Santas are equal: some have the calling and some are just in it for the money.
Live Action TV
- Fountains of Wayne has a song called "The Man in the Santa Suit" about an unnamed guy doing this. He is not very good at it, but the song is from his POV, so it's pointed out that neither is anyone else.
- The I Can Has Cheezburger site "Sketchy Santas", which displays odd, awkward and sometimes slightly scary moments with real mall Santas.
- In an often-reprinted strip, Linus tells Lucy that he wished the store Santa a Happy Hanukkah and discussed "Judas Maccabeus and the cleansing of the Temple" with him. "It's not often you find a Santa Claus interested in religion," he says...
- It also occurred in a later series of strips which involved Sally Brown expressing her concern that Santa could, "have a coronary in some kid's living room," and visiting a department store to tell the Santa there to watch out for his cholesterol and try to, "check for a crease in his ear lobes." She gets chucked out of the place and arrives home to hear news that a department store Santa had a heart attack and had to be rushed to hospital after a little girl caused a disturbance earlier on.
- A random Santa Claus can be seen wondering the streets of Dobuita late in the year in Shenmue. He carries a bell, greets with "Merry Christmas" and everything.
- While not in a mall, there's a mission where you have to beat up elves belonging to a man in a Santa costume in the town square in Bully. The hobo Santa could also count.
- During the Feast of Winter's Veil in World of Warcraft, "Greatfather Winter" can be found in Ironforge and Orgrimmar.
- In Kevin & Kell, Kevin takes a temp job as a mall Santa to earn the money to buy Kell's family heirlooms from her brother Ralph, who plans to sell them off anyway. He's surprised when ex-wife Angelique, herding her stepchildren from her (failed) second marriage, fails to recognize him. (It's pointed out to him that, with twenty children to keep track of, anyone would be a bit distracted.)
- Gabe from Penny Arcade worked as one.
- In PvP, Skull is accidentally pressganged into being a mall Santa while stoned on a bad orange julius and ends up telling a mother where she can buy the game console Francis had squirreled away for himself.
- In an early Something Positive strip, Jason works as a mall Santa. A circle of children's heads demonstrates the inevitable questions posed to him. The final panel is someone asking him what he wants for Christmas, to which he replies, "A vasectomy."
- On top of this, though, the first girl on his lap mentioned how she'd asked for a kitten the year before, and instead got Tap shoes (metal plates on the heels and toes). Her mother told her to thank Santa for bringing them, and she decided to show them off, leading into a Curse Cut Short. Given just that experience, who can blame Jason for being a bit cynical?
- Multiplex has the Blogger play the part of a movie theater Santa, in which role he frequently argues with the kids' taste in movies, at odds with the jolly persona he's supposed to maintain. On quite a few ocassions he loses the arguement.
- The Ends has the crazy priest preaching from a mall Santa's chair.
- Psycho Mantis attempted to get a job as one in The Last Days Of FOXHOUND. He bounced when someone got ahold of his employee record (or, rather, complete lack of one). Ocelot, upon learning of it, becomes completely freaked out.
- In World of Fizz Fergo, already a security guard, was assigned to play Santa at the mall one year.
- Tariq dresses up like this to earn some cash in the KateModern episode "Grabbed By The Bells". "You think your life is a mess? I'm a 24-year-old Muslim man dressed as Santa!"
- A woman had to pose as Santa. Ponderous Woman
- Dragon Ball Z Abridged: In "Christmas Tree of Might," one of Turles' mooks had this job, and he was particularly nasty about it, dropping a fire truck on one kid's house and killing another because he asked him to get rid of his cancer.
Krillin: God, you are one of the worst mall Santas ever — right behind those ones that molest kids!
Minion: So I'm the worst mall Santa?
Krillin: Oh, come on!
- The eponymous Tourettes Guy aptly describes his dad as one. Big mistake.
Danny: Fuck you and every mall Santa that looks like you!
- Improv Everywhere has the "Mall Santa Musical" song about adults' desire to sit on a mall Santa's lap.