NorthPark Center’s Santa has spent the last 32 years warming hearts and putting smiles on faces as families celebrate the Christmas season. Now, the icon is preparing to retire to the North Pole.
Dr. Carl Anderson, a child psychologist, lives in Austin, but he has been traveling to Dallas to play the role of Santa at the NorthPark mall since 1989.
As his retirement approaches, Anderson told NBC 5 that he is grateful for the special moments and memories he has shared with families.
Anderson took being Santa seriously, hosting charitable events such as breakfast with Santa to help raise funds for children’s health. He was inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame in 2012.
Not even COVID-19 could stop his good work, as he moved his visits with Santa online during the pandemic. He also expanded his outreach to sick children by visiting them at Children’s Health.
In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, he said that getting to visit the hospitalized children was an upside of visits with Santa being held virtually.
“I am so appreciative to have been a part of their holidays and their life – that they treasure our memories and experiences together as fondly as I do,” he said.
Recounting how he came to be Santa, Anderson explained that he once had children on the street call him Santa after he grew a beard in the 1970s. At the time, he was a student in the middle of a doctoral dissertation about Santa at the University of Texas in Austin.
Perhaps it was fate, but those children awakened the Christmas magic in his heart, and he took on the role with great passion.
In All I Want for Christmas is…Letters from Santa’s Mailbag, a book he co-wrote, Anderson shared that the hardest part about playing the Santa role was hearing the Christmas wishes of children dealing with the death of loved ones or their parents’ separation.
He explained that in these situations, he acknowledges the child’s feelings first and then lets them know about the limits of Santa’s abilities.
Per The DMN, he had a journal where he would record the special moments he had with the children, which they thought he was using to write down their Christmas lists.
The owner of NorthPark, Nancy Nasher, expressed her gratitude for Anderson, whom some Dallas children reportedly called “the real Santa.”
“Thousands of families, including my own, will always treasure the memories and special moments he created,” she said.
In Anderson’s absence, NorthPark will be organizing a new Santa experience for this year’s holiday, according to NorthPark spokeswoman Kristen Gibbins.
As he prepares to hang up his Santa hat for good, Anderson said his hope is that he made an impact on people’s lives and encouraged them to show kindness to others, as he believes that all the love someone gives away comes back to them.