Meet Cliff “Kringle” Snider: Living the Spirit of Christmas All Year Round

By Leslie Moore

Meet Cliff “Kringle” Snider: Living the Spirit of Christmas All Year Round

I was as excited as, well, as a child at Christmas when Cliff “Kringle” Snider agreed to be interviewed. I mean, for all intents and purposes, he is Santa Claus, and even at my age, Santa invokes the excitement and magic of Christmas. Cliff has been playing Santa since he was 16 years old. As a young boy, Cliff was especially close to his father, who walked with him to school every day, on his way to work as a printer. When Cliff was only 15, his father was killed in a head on collision, leaving Cliff lost without his best friend. Already overweight and shy, Cliff’s only social activity was his church’s youth group, and when the leader asked him to play Santa one Christmas, young Cliff didn’t know how to refuse. It was a turning point in Cliff’s life, and he never looked back. Playing Santa became an important part of Cliff’s life, so important that he earned his “Santa” degree at the Charles W. Howard Santa School in Michigan. Wearing splendid suits that he designs himself and his own beard, only slightly retouched with bleach, Cliff is, indeed, every child’s vision of Santa.

Cliff, when do you start making appearances as Santa?

This year I started the first week of October at a Fall Festival in Madison [N.C.]; everyone was really surprised to see Santa! But, I start thinking about the holidays in July; half the year is gone and I know it won’t be long. Usually, I make about 60 appearances a season. All through November I work with photographers, and I love that. I get to spend 15 or 20 minutes with each family and get to know them a little. I write down the name of every child I meet in a little leather bound-book I keep in a specially made pocket in my Santa suit; “The Book of Good Boys and Girls.” The children love to see their names there, but it isn’t just for them. I pray for every child I meet, that’s the one thing I can give them.

I never get tired of Christmas. I have a large collection of Santa memorabilia, and at one time, I kept it all in our house. But, my wife told me that she likes our celebration at home to be more about the birth of Jesus, and I agree, so I moved everything into our garage apartment, which is now “the Santa House,” and my office. It is an English-style cottage, with a large stone fireplace, and, along with my Santa collection, I have two Christmas trees I keep up all year.

How do your children and grandchildren feel about your being Santa?

I have two grown children and 12 grandchildren, some adopted, and we love them all. They know that the “real” Santa can’t be everywhere, and that he assigns special people to represent him and protect the real meaning of Christmas. My children knew that I went to school to learn to be Santa, and they have always loved it!

A few years ago, my grandchildren, who call me “Poppyclaus,” were visiting us and got bored, so we decided to decorate a Christmas tree. That tree stays up all the time, and every holiday the grandchildren turn on that tree – Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, whatever. Our upstairs bedrooms, where the grandchildren sleep when they visit, look down over a balcony to the rooms below, and we always leave the tree lit for them to see while they’re going to sleep.

You’ve been a model for several artists, how did that get started?

I spent my career in the printing business, mainly doing artist’s prints. After seeing Linda Cancel’s work, I commissioned her to do my portrait. At first, I was going to be holding a gnome, but my wife suggested that we convey the true meaning of Christmas, so The Gift shows Santa handling the pieces of a manger scene, representing the first and greatest gift of Christmas. Since then, I’ve been painted 40 different times, with each representing a different stage in my journey as Santa.

What about when you’re not playing Santa, do people still recognize you?

Children do! Luckily for me, my wife is usually with me and she’ll notice a child staring at me and tell me. Playing Santa is a huge responsibility, and it’s one that I take seriously. Children believe, you know. [Editor’s note: I do, too!]

Cliff will be at the Dickens’s Christmas Show, at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, November 11-14, not as Santa, but as one of his jolly elves, selling prints of his paintings and copies of his book, Santa’s Journey: Sharing Christmas All Year Round.

About this writer

  • Leslie Moore Leslie Moore is the editor for Strand Media Group. A 25 year resident of Pawleys Island, she is blessed with a life filled with the love of family and friends and satisfying work to do every day.

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One Response to “Meet Cliff “Kringle” Snider: Living the Spirit of Christmas All Year Round”

  1. L'Berta Shelton says:

    My Son-in-law Douglas Rowe is one of the artist’s that have several paintings of Santa Cliff.

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