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Mallsanta 9838.jpg

Usually occurring during the Christmas-themed episode, a male character gets a job at The Mall (or a department store in older works) as Santa Claus, either for a part-time job or as a last-minute substitute. Hilarity Ensues. We invariably see a series of kids on his lap doing things like questioning his authenticity as the "real" Santa Claus, attempting to pull off his beard, asking for extravagant or impossible gifts, or, in the most crass of Sit Coms, urinating on him out of fear. A common joke has the Mall Santa promising to deliver an outrageous gift come Christmas, much to the dismay of the kid's parents.

If the character playing the Mall Santa is a cynical Jaded Washout/Deadpan Snarker type, he may comment on the materialistic behavior of the kids or the commercialism of Christmas.

Added points if the Mall Santa is drunk.

The female equivalent is being stuck in a Sexy Santa Dress and/or hideous "helper elf" outfit.

In more outlandish shows with Speculative Fiction or Mundane Fantastic premises, the character may be the real deal.

Occasionally one encounters a Jewish mall Santa.

Examples of Mall Santa include:

Comic Books

  • In issue #378 of The Incredible Hulk (by Peter David), Rhino (a supervillain) becomes a Mall Santa, He givies this advice to kids: "Give! Give! Give! You want everything handed to you! Why not do what I do? Take stuff! See it? Want it? Take it!"
  • Archie comics have used this plot in many a Christmas themed storyline.
    • Archie gets this job himself a lot. One year he tried to use it to get present intel from Betty and Veronica, but the girls saw through it and tricked him instead. Another year he learned the True Meaning of Christmas from some special children he met on the job.
    • A one-shot Li'l Jinx featured the titular character pestering a mall santa about a letter she got.
    • This Betty and Veronica double digest cover, in which a teenaged Betty is bothering a mall Santa.
    • Yet another story featured Betty and Veronica as Mall Santas. This isn't counting the times they've just worn a Sexy Santa Dress.


  • Classic film example from a child's perspective: A Christmas Story.
  • Bad Santa featured a thief working as a Mall Santa in order to rob the stores.
  • Both versions of Miracle on 34th Street use the real Santa, Kris Kringle, as a department store Santa. In the original, it's Macy's; in the remake, it's Cole's. At least in the original, he's replacing a terrible, drunken Mall Santa, so bonus points there.
  • Elf - Buddy, who knows the real Santa, is incensed when an impostor shows up at the department store he works in. He accuses the fake of smelling "like beef and cheese!" and gets into a fistfight with him. After that, the store gets a different Santa- who is black.
  • The European horror/comedy short subjects Rare Exports purport to tell the true story of where the red-suited entities seen in stores at Christmas actually come from. They're actually centuries-old cryptozoological wild men, captured and trained until they can be trusted to hold children on their laps without ripping them apart. That is, unless someone is foolish enough to do one of the things that enrages them... It's revealed in The Movie that these "Santas" are in fact just Santa's little elves. The real Santa is much, much worse. And most definitely Mall Santa material.
  • In Home Alone, Kevin runs to find a Santa in time on Christmas Eve. He finds one getting into his car after quiting time. He quickly puts his beard back on and does his best Jolly Old St. Nick, but Kevin tells him not to bother. He already knows he's not the real Santa, but he knows he does work for him. He then asks him to relay the message that he wants his family back.
  • Look Who's Talking Now features Kirstie Alley's character having to work as a department store Santa's Elf. A kid asks her if she's an elf, and she replies that she's actually a Vulcan.
  • The one in All I Want for Christmas is visited twice, due to Hallie thinking her wish was phrased wrong.
  • Hot Fuzz features a scene of Peter Jackson as Father Christmas stabbing Simon Pegg in the hand.
  • The crime film The Silent Partner involves a mall Santa who turns out to be a bank robber...and then gets caught up in dueling gambits with a teller at the bank who wants to keep the loot for himself.
  • Santa Who has a scenario where Santa falls from his sleigh and gets amnesia, and during the course of the movie, he ends up as a mall Santa for awhile.


  • In the Discworld novel Hogfather, Death (who's already standing in for the real deal), attempts to replace the Hogfather at an expensive department store. Since he already has the Hogfather's sack, he horrifies the store owner by giving away wonderful presents, thereby heavily eating into the profits.
    • Not to mention Death's failure to perceive certain human conventions regarding appropriate gifts for children. Such as the full-size, completely real broadsword he hands to a little girl, before being hastily convinced that a fully functional weapon might not be the best idea (he just turned the blade to wood).
      • He gives children toys that they actually want, rather than what their parents consider appropriate for them. Sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes not.
  • In Nathan Englander's humourous short story Reb Kringle, Itzik, a devoutly Orthodox Jew, reluctantly takes this job because he and his wife need the money and he already has the requisite long white beard and big belly. Itzik takes in stride the typical annoyances of overly-greedy requests and attempts to remove his beard, but loses it when the child of an interfaith couple admits he'd rather celebrate Hanukkah.
  • In L. Jagi Lamplighter's Prospero Lost, feeling the barghests, Miranda asks for direction, and is sent to the mall. Where they find that the Mall Santa is actually Father Christmas, who can deal easily with a pack of Hell Hounds/Living Shadows.
  • In one of Harlequin's Romance Novels, the pairing are a pair of divorcees - the woman is manager at the store, which is an Old Established Business with an equally old, established rival (the competition between the two is even referenced as being akin to that between Bloomingdale's and Macy's) while the man is (at first appearances) a guy who's one bounced check from being homeless and focused on getting revenge on his Rich Bitch of an ex (who also faked evidence to make him appear to be a Domestic Abuser, effectively conning the judge into giving her full custody of their daughter). The guy is desperate for a job, but wants something seasonal - and she's desperate for a Mall Santa since the one they usually hire is getting on in years. The manager is also frequently roped into babysitting the store owner's grandson - who is also the unofficial vetter for the Mall Santas that are hired. The kid is mentioned as still believing in Santa, but justifies Mall Santas as being like heralds for the real deal - which also neatly explains, to him, why not all Mall Santas are equal: some have the calling and some are just in it for the money.
  • During book #44 of the Babysitter's Little Sister series, Karen and her little brother Andrew see a few of these walking around New York City. Karen tells Andrew that the real Santa stays up north, while these men are his helpers.

Live Action TV

  • Married... with Children.
    • Considering that many of the kids' parents were neighbors Al didn't like, he told one kid to tell daddy to stay home when the mailman comes over. He tells a girl who wants a pony that he'll leave one under the tree, but if it's not there by morning, her mother chased it away and killed it...
    • Al got a job as a Mall Santa in two other episodes — one on season seven and again near the end of the series' run after two young men replace Al and his Black Best Friend Griff at the shoe store.
  • According to Jim. Jim gets into a minor car accident at Christmas time. The other guy gives him fake information. Later, Jim recognizes him as the mall Santa. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Nip Tuck, where a drunken Sean dons the Santa outfit.
  • Monk, although the humor revolved around Monk's obsessive compulsive disorder and having to be up close to children.
  • Kramer in Seinfeld.
  • Kenan and Kel had Kenan playing the Mall Santa and giving up the mountain bike he'd been saving up for to really buy gifts for two of the kids.
  • Third Watch's Season 5 episode "The Spirit" had grumpy policeman Sully playing Santa at a toy store.
  • Boston Legal had an episode in the first season where Alan Shore represents a mall Santa who's a Wholesome Crossdresser (not at work) in a court action to keep him from being fired because of it. This ends with Al Sharpton being coming into the courtroom and having no clue what he's doing, and saying "So give the world a black Santa Clause!"
  • Thelma Harper takes on the job in the Mama's Family episode "Santa Mama", to fill in for her son Vinton, who lost his voice practicing his "Ho Ho Ho".
  • Saturday Night Live
    • An early fake commercial for "Santi-Wrap," a plastic sheet similar to disposable toilet seat covers, featured John Belushi as a slovenly, drunken mall Santa, thereby illustrating why such a product is necessary.
    • A later SNL featured Master Thespian taking the job of mall Santa, seemingly without doing the research and winging it - even working in a hammy death scene.
    • Then there was the Sally Field/Tony, Toni, Tone episode where Chris Farley's motivational speaker character Matt Foley plays a Mall Santa.
  • In the Drake and Josh Christmas movie, Drake plays Santa, while his brother Josh plays Santa's sack (of toys). Drake ends up making a promise to a little girl that the two of them spend the rest of the movie keeping.
  • There was an episode of That 70's Show where Red worked as a Mall Santa:
    • Little Girl: "I want a pony!"
    • Red: "Ponies die."
  • In the Naturally Sadie episode "A Very Sadie Christmas", Hal gets a job as a mall Santa and uses it as an opportunity to scam free stuff, demanding bribes from kids in exchange for promising to grant their Christmas wishes.
  • Soul Man featured a mall Santa, also. With Rev. Weber's son having a technicolour yawn all over Santa's beard on both years he went to see him.
  • A Twilight Zone Christmas episode, "Night of the Meek", stars Art Carney as an alcoholic department store Santa who despairs over not being able to help the poor people in his slum neighborhood - but in the spirit of the show, he finds a sack that magically produces presents on demand... then at shows' end he gets his own wish and becomes Santa for real.
  • Everybody Hates Chris, Julius plays Santa at the mall for extra money. When the children tell him what they want for Christmas, he makes them cry by telling them how expensive the toys/gifts are, how long their parents will have to work for it, and how they might not get what they want.
  • Roseanne convinces her boss to let her play Santa herself, and the kids fall for it even though she doesn't remotely sound like a man. She even convinces a little girl to tell her what she really wants for Christmas instead of just what her domineering mother says she should want. Jackie plays Mrs. a drill sargent photographer.
  • On Are You Being Served?, an episode dealt with the store employees' competition to be the Mall Santa.
  • The cast of Glee encounter a rather Jerkass mall Santa, who promises dim Brittany that he will cure Artie's paralysis.
  • Leverage: A mall Santa comes to the team for help because he was fired and the new mall Santas all seem to be criminals. Elliot ends up playing Santa for a while and is terrible at it, but Parker seems to enjoy her role as a Christmas Elf.
  • In the Christmas Episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Charlie realizes that when he was a child, everyone who came to his house dressed as Santa on Christmas had sex with his mom. A Mall Santa happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 Charlie: Did you fuck my mom, Santa Claus?

  • In the Christmas Episode of Round the Twist, Cool Old Lady Nell becomes a Mall Santa. It leads to her being attacked by the real Santa.
  • In the 3rd season Christmas Episode of 7th Heaven, Matt gets a job as a Mall Santa so he can afford tickets to a fancy winter dance for him and his girlfriend. He loses the job when Ruthie shows up, accidentally unmasks him, and screams her head off.
  • The Brady Bunch averts the common tropes by having the mall Santa be kind and gentle towards the children, even a boy who asks for a comically long list of toys. Cindy asks him to cure Carol's laryngitis so she can sing in church, and he's unable to tell her no. When Mike meets with him to discuss the seemingly impossible promise, the man under the suit turns out to be just as kind and thoughtful.
  • Boy Meets World uses this plot twice:
    • In season one, a mall Santa has a heart attack when Morgan sits on his lap, traumatizing the little girl. It doesn't help that the elf was a total asshole about it, basically saying it was her fault. In the end, Mr. Feeny shows up dressed as Santa to help make things right.
    • In season six, Eric plays a mall Santa who goes nuts giving orphaned children all the toys at the store, then his family's Christmas presents. But when a little boy named Tommy asks him for parents, Eric has a crisis, knowing he alone can't be the one to grant such a heartfelt and sincere wish but wanting to anyway.


  • Music: Fountains of Wayne has a song called "The Man in the Santa Suit" about an unnamed guy doing this. He is not very good at it, but the song is from his POV, so it's pointed out that neither is anyone else.

Newspaper Comics

  • Peanuts
    • In an often-reprinted strip, Linus tells Lucy that he wished the store Santa a Happy Hanukkah and discussed "Judas Maccabeus and the cleansing of the Temple" with him. "It's not often you find a Santa Claus interested in religion," he says...
    • It also occurred in a later series of strips which involved Sally Brown expressing her concern that Santa could, "have a coronary in some kid's living room," and visiting a department store to tell the Santa there to watch out for his cholesterol and try to, "check for a crease in his ear lobes." She gets chucked out of the place and arrives home to hear news that a department store Santa had a heart attack and had to be rushed to hospital after a little girl caused a disturbance earlier on.

Video Games

  • A random Santa Claus can be seen wondering the streets of Dobuita late in the year in Shenmue. He carries a bell, greets with "Merry Christmas" and everything.
  • While not in a mall, there's a mission where you have to beat up elves belonging to a man in a Santa costume in the town square in Bully. The hobo Santa could also count.
  • During the Feast of Winter's Veil in World of Warcraft, "Greatfather Winter" can be found in Ironforge and Orgrimmar.

Web Comics

  • In Kevin and Kell, Kevin takes a temp job as a mall Santa to earn the money to buy Kell's family heirlooms from her brother Ralph, who plans to sell them off anyway. He's surprised when ex-wife Angelique, herding her stepchildren from her (failed) second marriage, fails to recognize him. (It's pointed out to him that, with twenty children to keep track of, anyone would be a bit distracted.)
  • In PvP, Skull is accidentally pressganged into being a mall Santa while stoned on a bad orange julius and ends up telling a mother where she can buy the game console Francis had squirreled away for himself.
  • In an early Something Positive strip, Jason works as a mall Santa. A circle of children's heads demonstrates the inevitable questions posed to him. The final panel is someone asking him what he wants for Christmas, to which he replies, "A vasectomy."
    • On top of this, though, the first girl on his lap mentioned how she'd asked for a puppy the year before, and instead got Tap shoes (metal plates on the heels and toes). Her mother told her to thank Santa for bringing them, and she decided to show them off, leading into a Curse Cut Short. Given just that experience, who can blame Jason for being a bit cynical?
  • Multiplex has the Blogger play the part of a movie theater Santa, in which role he frequently argues with the kids' taste in movies, at odds with the jolly persona he's supposed to maintain. On quite a few ocassions he loses the arguement.
  • The Ends has the crazy priest preaching from a mall Santa's chair.
  • Psycho Mantis attempted to get a job as one in The Last Days of Foxhound. He bounced when someone got ahold of his employee record (or, rather, complete lack of one). Ocelot, upon learning of it, becomes completely freaked out.

Western Animation


 Kid: "You're not the real Santy Clause!"

Bullock: "Sure I am. Wanna see my gun?"

  • In Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas, Chief Quimby is disguised as a Mall Santa in one of the series' more memorable extended gags.
  • The Boondocks episode "A Huey Freeman Christmas" has a subplot where Riley, angry at not having received a Christmas gift he asked for in previous years, physically attacks the local Mall Santa with golf clubs and BB guns. After hiring a security guard for Santa does nothing to deter Riley, Uncle Ruckus is left as the only Woodcrest resident willing to be the Mall Santa, but none of the children who come to the mall are willing to accept a black Santa Claus as real.
  • Stewie Griffin once got the short end of the stick with an Asian Santa.
  • Dr Rockzo, the Rock & Roll Clown who does Cocaine, got a job as a Mall Santa after he was given a "Get Out of Jail Free" Card. Toki, who apparently believes in Santa Claus, ran into him.
    • "Thats don'ts makes sense!"
  • Skarr from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. He nearly kills Billy, but no one intervenes (except the elves) until his beard comes off. Then, everyone beats him up for not being Santa.
    • they also start a riot and burn the mall to the ground.
  • Coco from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, who says she needed the money to pay off her vacation home. When Mac accidentally rips her beard off, she's fired and refuses to speak to Mac for the rest of the day.
  • The main six in Recess meet a mall Santa in the Christmas Episode. Though out of frustration, he rips his beard off and asks his assistant if they can get the next mall Santa to cover.
  • Angelica ran afoul of one of these in the Rugrats Christmas Episode, pulling off his beard and screaming that he was a phony. This destroys her faith in Santa, and she doesn't get it back till the end of the episode.

Web Original

  • Tariq dresses up like this to earn some cash in the Kate Modern episode "Grabbed By The Bells". "You think your life is a mess? I'm a 24-year-old Muslim man dressed as Santa!"
  • A woman had to pose as Santa. Ponderous Woman
  • Dragon Ball Abridged: In "Christmas Tree of Might," one of Turles' mooks had this job, and he was particularly nasty about it, dropping a fire truck on one kid's house and killing another because he asked him to cure his cancer.

 Krillin: God, you are one of the worst mall Santas ever — right behind those ones that molest kids!

Minion: So I'm the worst mall Santa?

Krillin: Oh, come on!



  • Metal Gear Santa featured Old Snake dressed up as Santa Claus and Sunny and Otacon dressed up as elves.


  • The Santaland Diaries - Humorist David Sedaris recounts his experience as an Elf in the Macy's Santa village.
  • Also from Public Radio, Act III of This American Life #371 ("Scenes from a Mall") features the fascinating and serious tale of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas (AORBS).
  • The I Can Has Cheezburger site "Sketchy Santas", which displays odd, awkward and sometimes slightly scary moments with real mall Santas.
  • The Capital One ad with the inversion of the beard pull trope-the kid on Santa's lap is the kid who's one of the Vikings in the commercial. He has a beard, despite the fact he's too young to, and Santa pulls it, which makes the kid say 'ouch'.