The winning combination of having both Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus talk to little boys and girls is what distinguishes a visit to Once Upon a Christmas in Lisle.
"Both I and Mrs. Claus always look forward to coming to Once Upon a Christmas because we can take all the time that is needed for each child or groups of children," Santa Claus said. "It is quite satisfying to see how the children have grown from babies to 8- and 10-year-olds as they return each year."
Some children prefer talking to Mrs. Claus, and that is all right with Santa.
"We realize that children are sometimes more comfortable talking to me than with a person with a long, white beard, and that is perfectly fine," Mrs. Claus said. "We have some tiny children who will come to me first for a few years and then go to my husband."
The custom began when one shy little girl asked Mrs. Claus, who was bringing a warm drink to Santa on an exceptionally cold winter day, if Mrs. Claus also could deliver the girl's message to Santa. That small request eventually led Mrs. Claus to sew herself an outfit to compliment the one she made for Santa.
"My wife is an accomplished seamstress," Santa explained. "She is a giant help to me."
Mrs. Claus tailored the sleeves on Santa's red suit so they stay with the arm to keep Santa warm even when he briskly waves over his head to children of all ages along the route of Lisle's Santa Parade.
Once Upon a Christmas will coordinate with the Lights of Lisle Festival, Santa Parade, Lisle Community Tree-Lighting ceremony and the Polar Express Santa Train ride for a fun-packed, tradition-filled weekend from 3 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.
If parents decide to include the Polar Express ride, advance $16 tickets are required. The 75-minute train rides depart at 9:45 a.m. or 1:45 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8.
The Lights of Lisle, from 4 to 8 p.m. Saturday, features the glow from hundreds of luminarias that line the downtown shopping area. It will include music, dancing, caroling, and free cookies and hot chocolate at the village tree-lighting ceremony, which begins at 6 p.m.
But it is the special Santa Parade at 4 p.m. Saturday that brings the guest of honor, Santa, to the festivities.
Santa and Mrs. Claus look forward every year to their Lisle visit because of the connection with history that the Lisle Heritage Society preserves. After all, Santa is an important historical figure.
The Lisle Heritage Society is an all-volunteer organization that works to preserve the history of the community. Its 100 members, along with costumed demonstrators, Lisle Park District staff and volunteers from the Lisle Woman's Club, contribute roughly 100 hours to set up, decorate and present Once Upon a Christmas each year, said Nadine Filipiak, an organization board member and vice-president of programs.
"Once Upon a Christmas is a family-centered event," Filipiak said.
With a total of 11 decorated Christmas trees in the four historic buildings; fresh apple pies and cornbread baking in the kitchen at the Netzley/Yender farmhouse; warm cider and crafts at the Beaubien Tavern; and a real, live reindeer appearing 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, the two days offer a plethora of activities.
Parents will want to take pictures of their children with Santa and Mrs. Claus, as well as sample the treats and cookies for free. Children of all ages will enjoy the large HO train layout in the basement of the Netzley/Yender house and the blacksmith demonstrations in the historic red barn.
Lisle residents may add a personalized family ornament to the trees at the Netzley/Yender house. Be sure to include your family name and the date when you moved to Lisle.
With a little chuckle in their voices, Santa and Mrs. Claus took time recently from their busy schedules to share some thoughts with readers.
"It is quite rewarding to us that in Lisle we have so many children of many cultures and religious backgrounds come to visit," said Santa, who went on to explain that the couple may see about 1,000 children in the Depot building at the Museums at Lisle Station Park.
Santa said the questions that always come up when talking to good little boys and girls are concerns about the well-being of the reindeer, elves and conditions at the North Pole. Are the reindeer ready to fly? Are the elves all well? Is the weather right for flying? These are the easy questions.
Requests such as those asking that a loved one gets well are more difficult to answer, but Santa tries his best.
"We always ask if the child has been a good boy or girl, and keep a low-key and positive approach to the child," Santa said.
Santa reminds children to pick up a warm cookie in the kitchen of the old station master's quarters within the historic depot. Mrs. Claus revealed that Santa prefers chocolate chip cookies in case anyone is so inclined to leave a few cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve.
When Santa was asked whether he adapted his lists of good and naughty children to new technology, he merely chuckled a hearty, "I am afraid not!" and softly added a few "ho, ho, hos."
• Joan Broz writes about Lisle. Her column appears regularly in Neighbor.