Harford's kids get ready for Santa and presents

Ayden Myers of Aberdeen sits with Santa after the Aberdeen Christmas Parade, giving him a few ideas on Christmas gifts.
Ayden Myers of Aberdeen sits with Santa after the Aberdeen Christmas Parade, giving him a few ideas on Christmas gifts. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Santa Claus only has one day each year to circle the globe handing out Christmas presents, but somehow, he never manages to miss the children of Harford County.

"It's incredible," Aiden McNally, 11, of Bel Air, said about Saint Nick's seemingly magical gift-delivery system.


One of many kids around the county who are once again looking forward to Christmas gifts, Aiden said he even follows Santa's route each year on NORAD's only Santa Tracker.

On a recent Sunday, Aiden was also one of many kids eagerly awaiting the man in red at Bel Air's Christmas parade down Main Street.


The 25th annual event was one of Santa's multiple scheduled appearances in Harford County, including parades in Aberdeen and Havre de Grace.

So, in addition to delivering all those gifts to good girls and boys in Harford County and everywhere else in the world on Christmas Eve, the Jolly Old Elf also manages to make all those multiple appearances at community events and at local malls to hear the children's Christmas wishes beforehand.

It might all seem unbelievable, but not so, according to Saint Nick, who cited the Latin phrase "crede quod habes, et habes," during his recent appearance in Aberdeen.

In English, that means "believe that you have it, and you do," or in Santa Claus' case, belief makes his magic real.


"That's the secret to Christmas magic," he said. "If you believe, it's real."

Santa and Mrs. Claus met the children who attended the Aberdeen, Bel Air and Havre de Grace parades, and each child sat on Santa's lap and told him what he or she wanted for Christmas.

"She loves Santa Claus," Jessica Bratton, of Havre de Grace, said of her 4-year-old daughter, Alyssa Kennedy, after their visit with Santa in Aberdeen. "She asked him for a big hug, and she got one."

Alyssa, who also asked Santa for "a doll that sings," said his beard was her favorite thing about the Jolly Old Elf.

Four-year-old Grant Puffenbarger, of Aberdeen, also said he enjoyed Santa's signature long white beard. He and his mother, Nicole Nimmo, were watching the Aberdeen parade earlier this month, when Grant said he had asked Santa for various toys, including a Mario Bros. game.

Isabelle Moravec, 9, of Perryville, watched the parade with her father, Chad, who lives in Aberdeen. She said she usually asks Santa for toys.

Many families typically leave milk and cookies for Santa, but they set out tea in the Moravec house. Chad Moravec joked that Santa is "lactose intolerant."

"He drinks all my tea," Isabelle remarked.

The family also sets out markers for Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer who guides Santa's flying sleigh.

"We have oatmeal and sparkles that we put on the lawn so Rudolph will come to our house!" Isabelle explained.

Being a large, rotund man in a bright red suit, with a booming voice and laugh, Santa can be a little scary for small children.

Chad Moravec said his daughter was nervous about approaching Santa when she was younger.

"She's loosened up," he said. "She goes up to him, talks to him, sits on his lap, gives him a hug."

After Bel Air's parade, Santa, along with Mrs. Claus, also greeted youngsters at Shamrock Park and posed for pictures.

As expected, most of the kids had very specific gift requests for Saint Nicholas.

Aiden was hoping a Harry Potter remote control wand or a pair of Beats by Dre headphones would be under the tree this year.

He said he usually gets what he wants from Santa, but "sometimes" gets surprised, like one year when he got a TV.

Aiden was among the majority of the kids at the Bel Air event who described Santa as fun, magical and the epitome of kindness.

"Delivering toys is really nice," Aiden said when asked what he likes about Saint Nick.

A friend of Aiden's, Chris Labella, also 11, of Bel Air, had a simple description of Santa.

"I like how he is a true loving man," Chris said. "He is fun and magical."

Chris said he wanted an iPod Touch and noted he was once surprised when Santa gave him a "SpongeBob SquarePants" game for Nintendo's Wii.

A friend of both boys, Ryan Hiebler, said he would really like an Xbox game system and his family has the elf on the shelf "scout elf," which, according to the children's book, reports to Santa what happens in the home and hides in a new spot every day.

Ryan said he likes that Santa "is friendly and cares about everybody and doesn't care if you're naughty or nice," although he was quickly reprimanded by an adult that Santa actually does care about that.

Ryan nevertheless said he likes following the Elf on the Shelf as it journeys around his home.

"I like waking up every morning and seeing where he is," he said.

Several Bel Air boys at the town parade said they are hoping Santa brings them Nerf guns, including 11-year-old Preston Merz and Michael Beser, who is 6 1/2.

Michael, meanwhile, gave Santa the highest compliment possible.

"He is awesome," Michael exclaimed. "He gives us presents."

Michael added he was once surprised that Santa gave him a new toothbrush, but generally gets what he wants from Saint Nicholas.

His 4-year-old brother, Maxwell, even wanted to be an elf one time while visiting Santa at Harford Mall, his parents explained.

Max said he would like a puzzle and "a blaster" toy for Christmas. He also did not seem scared of Santa.

"I love him," Max said about Mr. Claus.

Brooke Barber, 13, of Bel Air, got a photo taken with Santa after the parade at Shamrock Park. She noted with a grin that Santa told her she was too big to sit on his lap, so she ended up sitting next to him on the bench.

Brooke said she would like an iPad for Christmas, and her mother noted Brooke "asks for a puppy every year but he [Santa] doesn't bring it."

Brooke described Santa as "funny" because of his long beard. Besides just visiting Santa at the mall, she also annually writes him a letter addressed to the North Pole and leaves cookies and milk for him on the night before Christmas.

"You have got to be nice to him," Brooke observed about Santa.

Santa, however, said at Shamrock Park that he has been getting a string of less high-tech gift requests lately.

He mentioned hearing from several children who said they wanted pogo sticks, while Mrs. Claus added there have been requests for markers and bicycles.

"I was used to the more modern games," Santa said.

Almost all of the kids who approached him in Bel Air were pretty brave, he said.

"I had two that cried and that's about it," he said. "Some come running to me."

Santa also noted he has watched some youngsters grow up and looks forward to seeing them each year.

"Some of these kids, I remember them," he said about the children of Bel Air.

In Aberdeen, Santa said he typically gets requests for toys such as model cars, and "with the tech age, everybody wants a phone, everybody wants a computer."

"Every year, somebody asks for a million dollars," he said, with a "ho, ho, ho."


Santa said one girl even asked him for a donkey.


"She might get a stuffed donkey – depending where she lives, she might get a real donkey – we might have to look into that," he said.

Children tend to grow out of asking Santa Claus for gifts at Christmas, but they typically have fond memories of visiting and talking with him and then waiting for his arrival in their homes.

"We would bake cookies the night before and put out milk and stuff," Harry Welbourn, 13, of Aberdeen, said. "It was really fun."

Following the Aberdeen parade, Harry, a member of Aberdeen Middle School's brass band, watched as Santa met with younger children in the bandstand in Festival Park.

Harry said he usually asked for toys and video games when visiting with Santa.

"When I was younger I was kind of scared [of Santa]," he recalled. "He was a big man, but he still made me happy."

"I always liked taking to him," Harry said. "It just felt special to be around him."