Each and every year for the last dozen, Kearny’s Jack Satter always looks forward to the Christmas season. It’s no longer for his sons — they’re both grown and police officers in the Kansas City, Missouri, area. But it’s for a very distinct reason.
As he got less young, he came to a startling realization that if he grew out a beard and got it bleached, he strikingly resembled the man from the North Pole. And, as the photo to the left, which was taken a year ago in The Observer’s office, in much better times, will demonstrate, it’s almost uncanny how perfect Satter is when he fills in for the real Santa whilst he’s up north, preparing to bring toys and all the trimmings to all the good girls and boys in the world.
Interestingly enough, the last time I saw Satter in person was around the beginning of March when he stopped by The Observer office to pick up a copy of that week’s newspaper. The very next week, our office was closed to the public after it became clear how dangerous a world we were living in.
So in planning stories for what could only be described as a non-traditional Christmas season in 2020 — thanks, again, for that, COVID-19 — we got to wondering: How does a worldwide pandemic change things for a man who fills in for Santa and who, notably, doesn’t take a penny for his services?
We figured his work would be limited.
Boy were we wrong, though what he’s doing in 2020 is not even close to how things went in years past.
For starters, because of social distancing, Santa Satter cannot allow any children to get close to him.
“There’s no sitting on my lap,” Santa Satter says. “Sometimes when they see me, the kids’ instinct is to run to me, but I have to hold out my arm to keep them far enough away.”
Santa Satter says it’s heartbreaking to have to do that — but it’s a sign of the times.
And whilst lap-photos aren’t possible, he’s still been able to bring Christmas happiness as St. Nick in differing ways.
“All the events so far have been outside events,” Santa Satter says. “From tree lightings, to parades, to making videos, it’s still been a lot of fun.”
In some of these events, Santa Satter has read the story, “Who Will Guide My Sleigh Tonight?” which he says the kids have really enjoyed.
He’s also done drive-by events in some towns.
“We pass houses, but of course, everyone has to watch from a distance,” Santa Satter says. “I also did a program at a hospital in Hackettstown. We drove through. They could watch from windows or from cars with their windows down. As in all events, Santa has to wear a mask, too, because we want to keep everyone safe, even if they’re at a distance.
“I call mine a Merry Christmask.”
Secaucus contracted for Santa Satter’s services recently. For them, it was a video.
In Rutherford, Santa Satter took part in a parade, on a sleigh, and he was escorted by the town’s fire department. Originally, two Clydesdale horses were slated to pull him along, but because of the weather of the day, that was scrapped and a tractor guided him through the streets, instead.
“Here, again, I had to wave to people as they came out, but no one could come close,” Santa Satter says. “I brought a bell with me, you know, kind of like a hand bell. A local opera singer sang ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ and that was fun. The end was the lighting of the tree.”
So while things are a bit different, it should be clear that Santa Satter has still been able — and will continue to be able for the next few weeks — to bring the same happiness he’s brought to countless children and families since he started doing this in 2007.
Santa Satter says he has a message for all the boys and girls of the world in 2020 that is a tad different from other years.
“Be sure to wash your hands, stay six feet apart, so that you, mommy and daddy, and kids all over the world can be together for Christmas again next year,” he says. “And please be sure to wear your mask over your face and not to cover your neck. It’s so important everyone does this so we can all be safe.”
Learn more about the writer ...
Kevin A. Canessa Jr. is the editor of and broadcaster at The Observer, a place where he has served on and off since 2006. He is responsible for the editorial content of the newspaper and website, the production of the e-Newspaper, writing several stories per week (including the weekly editorial), conducting live broadcasts on Facebook Live, including a weekly recap of the news — and much more behind the scenes. Between 2006 and 2008, he introduced the newspaper to its first-ever blog — which included podcasts, audio and video. Originally from Jersey City, Kevin lived in Kearny until 2004, lived in Port St. Lucie. Florida, for four years until February 2016 and in March of that year, he moved back to West Hudson to return to The Observer full time. Click Here to send Kevin an email.