By Aliki Kraterou
This could be the world’s longest serving Santa – as he’s been Father Christmas for 45 YEARS in a row without fail.
Grandad-of-six John Wenstrup, 64, has been spreading joy to children since 1973 and absolutely loves his seasonal craft.
The financial advisor, from Ohio, USA, made his first appearance as St Nick aged 19 to fill in for someone but, as a young man, was forced to wear a fake white beard.
But more recently, as the decades have gone by, he is able to use his real snow-white hair and beard to get the authentic festive look.
John said: “In 1973, my sister was working as an old people’s home and they were hosting an event but the Santa they had booked cancelled at the last minute.
“I went down, I put on the Santa costume and I met some lovely elderly people , with different perspectives about Santa Claus and many stories.
“I was so emotional afterwards, I cried the whole way home. My sister asked me ‘I guess you don’t want to do it next year?’ but I said ‘no, I definitely will’.
“Over the years my beard has got more salty and less peppery – when I started I had to use a fake beard, but not anymore.
“It’s a work of the heart to be Santa Claus, and since then it has really been a blessing.”
After the lucky coincidence turned into a wintery job he loved, John has played Santa every year since and has no plans to stop anytime soon.
And Father Christmas is not alone in this magical journey as he has a Mrs Claus by his side since they married in November 2000 – his wife Grace, 61.
Dad-of-two and stepdad-of-three John added: “My sister reminded me that when I was 11 or 12, she caught me sticking cotton balls on my face with soap in my first attempt to be a Santa.
“It’s a very fun thing to do and is nice to bring joy to families.
“I especially loved doing it when my children were little and for my friends’ children as well.
“I have ways to teach kids and give them a sense of what they are not supposed to do, so they don’t make it onto the ‘naughty list’.”
John who is a financial advisor, sees the Santa occupation as a ‘nice transition’ and says he will focus on in entirely when he decides to retire.
He attends roughly 80 events every year from Thanksgiving until Christmas, including schools, elderly care homes and malls.
He said: “I have always wanted to help people and it’s always fun being the guest of honour.
“Even now, when I am out with my wife, I always keep a pack of candy canes with me – you never know what is going to happen and you have to stay in character.”