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Identity & Community

Feliz Navidad! The Mall at Robinson Welcomes Multilingual Santa

Liz Reid
90.5 WESA

Christopher Nicholas Claus — his legal name — has been coming to the Mall at Robinson every Christmas since it opened fourteen years ago.

He’s not so different from the thousands of other Santas who flock to malls across America this time of year: He’s got a naturally white beard, a jolly laugh and loves kids. There’s one thing that makes this Santa unique, however.

“I speak English of course. Ich spreche Deutsch, je parle Français, yo hablo Español, I speak (American) Sign (Language), a little bit of Japanese, a touch of Chinese, some Swahili,” Claus said. “I can do formal greeting in Hindi and Thai, and currently I’m working on both Farsi — that’s Persian — and Ukrainian. It’s really kind of a fun thing.”

Claus said, while most of the children who come to see him speak English as their first language, a few are non-native speakers. He tries to identify a child’s accent and speak to him or her in their native language.

“As you know, Santa travels,” Claus said. “So I get a chance then to meet with kids from all over the world, and it’s important to be able to talk to the kids where they are and in the languages that they have.”

He said one of his favorite times is his annual visit with children from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

“You’ve never seen such excited silence in your life,” Claus said. “It’s wonderful when we get a chance to talk to the kids about what they would like to have for Christmas.”

Mr. Claus doesn’t yet speak every language, but he finds ways to make every child feel welcome.

“I had a mom come in who speaks Portuguese … so mom translated and we had a very nice visit with her two kids. It was just a lot of fun,” Claus said, adding “Ho ho ho.”

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