The Christmas decorations on Kam Breitenbach’s fireplace stay up year-round. A small, plastic tree and a smiling snowman sit beneath the mantel displaying her master’s degree in Santa school. It …
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The Christmas decorations on Kam Breitenbach’s fireplace stay up year-round. A small, plastic tree and a smiling snowman sit beneath the mantel displaying her master’s degree in Santa school. It is not uncommon to see Breitenbach portraying Mrs. Claus around Parker in the middle of July, spreading Christmas cheer at local charity and Rotary events.
A leader in the local Rotary club and a former Parker police employee, Breitenbach is perhaps better known as Mrs. Claus. The character has become a lifestyle, one Breitenbach sees as bearing a unique responsibility to keep Christmas going through the pandemic.
“It’s going to look different,” Breitenbach said, sitting in her living room wearing her new, plastic face covering designed to show her smile. “It’s still extremely important to me this year that families can make some Christmas memories.”
The town canceled the annual Christmas Carriage Parade, horse carriage rides and tree-lighting ceremony.
“I’m looking for things families can do safely so you can have some kind of memory to look back on,” Breitenbach said.
Breitenbach has portrayed Mrs. Claus for more than 20 years and has lived in Parker for 30. She took it upon herself, with the help of the Cherry Creek Valley Rotary Club (CCVRC) to organize more opportunities for kids to see Santa and Mrs. Claus — from a distance.
Breitenbach scheduled eight times for kids to meet Santa around Parker between Nov. 22 and Dec. 21. Seven of the events cost about $20 to receive a photo and require a reservation. There is an “open house” event Dec. 4 from 1-3 p.m., where families can receive one free photo and kids can write a letter to Santa. The events take place at various businesses in Parker.
Breitenbach has prepared for this season since February. The ongoing threat of COVID-19 has caused many men who portray Santa to sit out, Breitenbach said.
“The kids aren’t there to see Mrs. Claus,” Breitenbach said, acknowledging her portrayal is sometimes only as strong as her yuletide ally. “Santas die, and you can’t say that to a kid.”
The best Santas have found ways to be jolly amid public health restrictions.
Breitenbach, always eager to try new ideas, knew this year would be different. Her breath fogged her mask as she exhaled sitting on her rocking chair in her Pinery home, just south of Parker. She talked about the prospect of retirement, accepting the fact that Santa and Mrs. Claus can’t be seen using a walker or having difficulty breathing. But there was still so much yet for her to try, she said. She quickly changed course, disclosing her latest idea for a fundraiser — so good an idea Breitenbach asked for the details to remain off the record in case someone would steal it.
As Santa’s sidekick, Breitenbach’s Mrs. Claus talks to the kids. Meeting Santa can be scary, so Mrs. Claus helps ease the nerves. She also asks important questions like “what grade are you in?” in which the answer cues Santa to the kid’s age by adding five to the number. Santa will usually guess that a child in second grade is 7 years old, thanks to this method.
This year, Breitenbach started learning American sign language to be able to communicate better with more kids. Right now, she has only mastered the basics — “Santa,” “reindeer,” “Christmas,” etc.
“I want to be able to communicate with anyone who walks in that door without touching them,” Breitenbach said.
Breitenbach pulled all her resources from decades of public service in order to restore kids’ faith in Santa.
“It’s the need,” Breitenbach said. “I just think Christmas is so important, and it’s so important to children.
“We need something just to relax and enjoy,” she said. “That’s why I need to be everywhere.”
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