Just like the rest of us, Santa’s work has changed dramatically this year. In 2020, longtime Santa ‘fill in,’ Michael Sheinbaum, feels his job is more important than ever to fill the large gap of joy laid by this difficult year. Michael is sharing proceeds from his new book, The Elves Indoors, to Get Us PPE. We spoke with him ahead of the big day—but spoiler alert: He shares who is on 2020’s “nice list.”
Get Us PPE: Why did you feel like it was important to continue this work in a year where Santa can’t meet kids face-to-face?
When we are faced with times of adversity, such as we have faced in 2020, it is vitally important that there is something out there to make glad the heart of childhood, even if part of that childhood is spent behind a mask and a monitor. Portraying Santa Claus is both a privilege and an opportunity to provide something valuable, perhaps necessary, in our culture. In addition to preserving a tradition that families share across many generations, portraying Santa offers the possibility of genuine magic in an increasingly cynical world. It is our mission to help children (and more than a few adults) sustain a level of belief that transcends the constant messages of conformity, compromise, and limitation.
Get Us PPE: That is such a sweet sentiment. When you say “our,” assume you mean you and your ‘Ms. Claus,’ Renate? How have you spent your time quarantining this year?
Renate and I had a surprisingly active year despite maintaining responsible pandemic protocols. As children’s performers suddenly stripped of our schedules, we immediately did what many other performers did and started making videos of our work. While this did not gain much traction, we did a reading of a Coronavirus-inspired Christmas fable I wrote in about an hour called “The Elves Indoors.” We put that up on YouTube.
We got some positive feedback and simultaneously received our stimulus check. I decided to use some of that check to hire an artist and self-publish The Elves Indoors into an illustrated children’s book.
And we got married!
For the actual Christmas season, I turned down my usual gig in North Carolina and instead worked virtually as a Santa with JingleRing, a phenomenal company with a mission to bring virtual visits with Santa on an unprecedented level. And I have volunteered to write hundreds of letters as Santa for children in both Upper Merion, Pennsylvania and Bryson City, North Carolina. This is a unique, yet highly active season. Nonetheless, we’re looking forward to the new year as much as everyone else.
Get Us PPE: What drew you to the cause of Get Us PPE?
While The Elves Indoors has a relevant message I wanted to convey to children, I didn’t feel right profiting off of the pandemic. At the very least, I thought I could at least split the royalties with an organization making efforts toward fighting COVID-19. So I reached out to several places including the C19 Coalition, which subsequently suggested I talk with the folks at Get Us PPE. And that partnership has been wonderful. While The Elves Indoors didn’t go viral as I would have hoped, we did manage to raise a few hundred dollars toward #GetUsPPE’s efforts and spread the word about the organization.
Get Us PPE: Anything else you would like to mention?
I want to thank the frontline healthcare workers, the scientists, the diligent, the considerate, and the unsung that helped us get through a historical and challenging time. And I am grateful to all of the members of Get Us PPE for getting critical materials to those that needed them the most. As Santa, I can readily say you are all on the Nice List. Merry Christmas one and all!
Get your copy of The Elves Indoors!