By Charles Towne                        

“Merry Christmas and a happy ho, ho, ho”

Oh, how time does fly! It was quite a few years ago that I slipped, slid, and was dragged, bleeding and bruised through the somewhat interesting beginning of my life as a zoo director, lion tamer, destroyer of beaver dams with dynamite, handler of anything and everything that would bite, poison, chew, gnaw, rip, tear, fold, spindle and mutilate, and otherwise make life interesting for Mrs. Towne’s little boy.

And then one day I found myself in Florida.

Two or three years later some deluded soul asked me to play Santa Claus for the children’s ward at Florida Hospital.  Hmm, what in the world would possibly give anybody the idea that I would make a good Saint Nick?  That night I stood and postured before the bathroom mirror.  I was shocked!  I weighed over 220 pounds at the time, had a full white beard, a head-full of white hair, and a gut that would have given Tim Allen’s character a run for his money in the movie, THE SANTA CLAUSE.

They say that mirrors never lie, HA!   So, I played Santa Claus that year, and the next, and the next.  I don’t like the word fat.  Rotund, or corpulent? Maybe.  Pleasingly plump?  Perhaps.  But surely not fat!  And all the while that darned, lying bathroom mirror was screaming, GROSSLY FAT!   I didn’t feel like Santa when I looked in the mirror, nope, more like the Grinch!  It was Christmas Eve, and I was on my way home after entertaining the kids at Florida Hospital when I decided to have some fun.  I drove through an upscale neighborhood in Longwood and saw what I was looking for – a garishly decorated house with about fifty cars lining the street in front.

I parked, hopped out, and like the spry little elf I am, I skipped up the sidewalk to the front door, threw open the door without knocking, and with a “HO, HO, HO!” burst into the revelry.  I dawdled the kids on my lap, kissed all the ladies, shook hands with the gents, ho, ho, ho’ing, all the while.  I had a glass of eggnog, and then, with an exuberant, “MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!”  I escaped, but not before a gent I took to be the man of the house followed me out, and with a happy laugh, he pressed a one-hundred dollar bill into my hand and said, “Mr. you are the best Santa I have ever seen!  I don’t know where my wife found you, but you are terrific!”  I tried to refuse the money, honestly, but he insisted I take it.

I was almost home when I began wondering about how the next Santa, the one his wife hired, was going to be received?  I am probably the only Santa that ever crashed a Christmas party in Longwood and got paid for it.   I don’t do things like that anymore for a couple of reasons, one is because my conscience wouldn’t let me get away with it, and today I wouldn’t pass for Santa anyway what with my having lost about thirty-five pounds and shaving my head everyone would know I was an imposter.   My gift to you all is a smile and perhaps a laugh, and a joyful Merry Christmas.  Chaz

Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.


  1. Hey EJ, I have to say that I have had some wonderful HO, HO, HO! moments in my life. Making new friends is one, as is experiencing nature up close and personal. Life in general is an absolute hoot, and a joy. As I age younger, my perception of life changes, and I find happenings exploding into life around me. You might wonder what I mean when I refer to aging younger. Well, sometimes I almost feel like I am a newborn, seeing, experiencing life for the first time, through new senses, new eyes, new perspectives. Yeah, life is a hoot and this is just a beginning! We are as it were touching life through someone else’s fingertips. It is a pale illusion of what Papa God has in store for us! So, Ho, ho, ho to you my friend. Chaz

  2. Just trying to picture you with hair and a beard! A great cristmas story…. and to you my friend….

    ! (Russian)
    Feliz Natal! (Portuguese)
    Frohe Weinnachten! (German)..and…
    toDwl’ma’ goS yltivqu’ ! (Klingon)
    That last one I had to look up!!!
    Merry Christmas!

  3. Actually Rick, visualizing me with hair is almost as hard as visualizing me giving that hundred dollar bill back to that dude, I mean, I may be crazy but I aint stupid! My cats sing Marry Christmas to you. “Meoww meoww me meoww meow, MEEEOOOWWW… now they are taking a nap so you will have to wait until later for them to finish. Chaz

  4. What a delightful Christmas story and thank you for sharing. I am sure that everyone at that party was truly blessed by your appearance. Father God likes for us to have some fun and share fun with others. Again, thank you for sharing. Flo

  5. Dear sister Tapley, Flo, you are precious! I believe with all my heart that Papa God has a wonderful sense of humor, if not why did He create us with that blessed gift. I look forward to meeting you one day, until then consider yourself hugged. Many smiles and happy Ho, ho, ho, Chaz

  6. Hi Charles,
    Congratulations on losing all the weight. And kudos for being spontaneous enough to crash a Christmas party! You are lucky you didn’t run into the “real” Santa while doing so. What a good time that must’ve been. Who knows, maybe the people that hosted that party (however many years ago) have since moved to Apopka and will read this story. That would be cool! Thanks for the entertainment.

  7. Yes Kristin, you are right, wouldn’t that be cool! I can just hear the Lord whispering in my ear, “Be sure, your sins will find you out Chuckiepoo!” Sometimes I just can’t resist a prank and usually I get away with them. I guess it just goes to prove that Papa God takes care of old men, children and fools, Thanks oodles for the comment. Chaz

  8. Oh my goodness!! How hilarious!! I can just see you walking right into someone’s house, crashing their party and getting away with it!
    AND, getting paid for doing it. Hahaha!!
    I guess I should say Hohoho!!
    The most amazing thing is what they all must have thought when the REAL Santa showed up. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall. Wonderful story!!

  9. Ho, ho, ho, Oh you silly little girl! I AM THE REAL SANTA! Ho, ho, ho! All those others, with their fake beards, and their pillow bellies, THEY are the fake ones! You be a good girl now or you are going to get some lumps of coal in your Christmas stocking! Santa

  10. George, you are apt to ruin my reputation. I take the fifth. You must be talking about another Chuck, That must have been an out of body experience. Not only that but I don’t do things like that any more, Chaz

  11. Oh, I remember the Chuck who was the zoo keeper and my late husband playing with a 2 year old lion called “Little One”, if I remember right, and he felt like that was a little taste of heaven! Thanks for all the glimpses of nature that you have given us and the glimpses of human nature and innocent fun that can be had when we abandon ourselves to pleasing others!


  12. Just reread your answer to Kristin and when you said Papa God takes care of old men, children, and fools in my case I was reminded of the song by Meatloaf – ” two out of three ain’t bad”!!!

  13. Linda, how very neat! I think a lot of people have been blessed over the years by some of my crazy antics with all kinds of animals. Blessings on you and yours, Unka Chuck


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