The Time I Worked for Santa: A Spirited Story

By December 18, 2013Inspiration

Guest Post by Kelly Silay

Each of us has something we admire about the holiday season – the lights, the carols, or even the snow.

For me, I have always admired the “little” things about the season, literally. I have always been drawn to Santa’s elves. Maybe it’s their work ethic to make toys for children all over the world. Maybe it’s their unending happiness and joy. Or maybe it’s their adorable pointy shoes.

Whatever the reason, I have always admired Santa’s little helpers and they have become a staple part of my holiday season each year. This admiration led me to a lofty but formidable dream – to become one of Santa’s elves. Thanks to an online job board, my experience and enjoyment in working with small children, and my short stature, this holiday season my dream came true.

Time Worked Santa

After passing the “Elf Test” and getting my “Santa approval,” I began working as one of Santa’s helpers on Chicago’s illustrious Michigan Avenue.

Immediately, I realized this job was like no other. During my first shift, I was asked to escort Santa from the break room to his “Winter Wonderland” chair. As we came out of the elevator, the entire fourth floor of the mall stopped and turned to wave and smile in awe at the large man in the red, velvet suit with me. People of all ages and backgrounds greeted Santa like a long lost friend, a wise mystic, and a sweet grandfather all rolled into one.

I watched in amazement as Santa greeted each person on his way to his chair. For the rest of the shift and the shifts that followed, my eyes frequently became glossy at the immense spirit that not only poured from this man, but each person that came to visit him.

People of all walks of life came to visit Santa, even those who don’t celebrate Christmas. One little boy in a Yamaka ran to Santa and informed him that even though he doesn’t celebrate Christmas, he believes in Santa. And it wasn’t just children visiting. An elderly couple came and told Santa that they had been visiting him each year, even after their children moved out and started families of their own. Santa meant a great deal not only to this couple, but to all that came to see him. But it wasn’t just the curly beard, the red suit, or the deep chuckle that brought them. Santa meant so much more.

In working for Santa, I realized that he represented something that often dwindles as the rest of the year happens. Between deadlines that have to be met, policies that must be enforced and adhered to, conflicts and obstacles that spring up, and the rest of life’s not-so-pleasurable pleasures, something gets lost. That something is spirit. Luckily, it’s the holiday season’s admirations that awaken this spirit in us, but these awakenings are too precious to only happen once a year. Life should frequently make us stop abruptly in a busy mall. Life should make us flock to it like all the best people we know rolled into one. And life should make our eyes glossy with warmth and cheer as much as possible.

The greatest payment I received in working for Santa wasn’t found in my paychecks. Santa taught me about the need for spirit in all that we do not only during the holiday season, but each day throughout the entire year. Santa also taught me that this spirit should not only exist within us, but it should be spread to everyone we meet in order to help it exist within them as well. In conjuring and upholding our own spirit and spreading it to others each and every day, imagine the spirited world we could live in and all that could be achieved in it.

I hope that you find spirit this holiday season and that it lasts throughout the year and for many years to come. I also hope that if you find your spirit fading, you remember the words of one of Santa’s little helpers and work to bring the spirit in your life alive. In working to maintain and spread spirit, even you can work for Santa and not only during the holiday season, but each and every day of the year.

Guest Author

Kelly SilayAside from being one of Santa’s helpers, Kelly Silay is currently finishing her Master’s degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. Kelly currently works for The Children’s Place Association and A Better Chicago, two organizations doing wonderful work with Chicago’s most underserved residents. Kelly’s experiences and interests involve working with underserved young children and their families in Chicago and she plans to continue working with this group upon graduating in May. To connect with Kelly, please contact her via email or LinkedIn. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!



From time to time, guest writers contribute to Thin Difference. Topics include leadership, career development, creativity, and mindfulness. Our mission is to "Cross the gap and lead with a new story line," inspiring Millennial leaders.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

  • Hiten Vyas says:

    Hi Kelly,

    This was a lovely post, indeed!

    Your points about having spirit reminded me of faith and hope. I think at times what helps us is to have faith and hope that our lives and the lives of others can be better. Sometimes it is people like Santa in who we have faith that something special is always possible.

    Wishing you and Jon a very Merry Christmas!

    • Kelly Silay says:

      Thank you for your comment, Hiten! Great point indeed – I agree that spirit, hope, and faith go hand in hand to help us keep good faith and cheer all year. Merry Christmas to you and your family! And Happy New Year!

  • Let's Grow Leaders says:

    A beautiful post. My son has worked for the last several years as one of Santa’s helpers at the mall. He sees all that beauty, but he also sees the other side of stressed parents and even the other side of “Santa” himself. It’s so important that we stay grounded in the beauty of the season (as always) as you suggest… and ensure we are showing up helpful.

    • Kelly Silay says:

      I absolutely agree! It is a difficult but necessary task to stay mindful and grounded in the beauty of the season and make that beauty and spirit last throughout the year. Thank you for reading and for your thoughts! Happy Holidays!

  • Joy Guthrie says:

    Such a great lesson, Kelly. When I was around 13, I tried out to be in the Santa’s Elves crew. Didn’t make it; but, I always enjoyed seeing everyone visiting Santa. It’s a place of hope.

    • Kelly Silay says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Joy! This is definetely a hope-filled season with enough to last us throughout the year. I wish you very happy holidays and a very happy 2014!

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