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Klaus Gabriel: Your local working Santa

December 21, 2023

By: Austin Payeur, Community Reporter

There’s a twinkle in his eye as Klaus Gabriel talks about his volunteer work. His moustache curls with a smile as he remembers Christmases gone by.

It’s a face you could believe belongs to the real Santa Claus, and this reporter isn’t convinced he isn’t.

For four years, Gabriel has served as the Santa Claus at Sexsmith events. Many children and the young at heart have clambered onto his knee, from little ones only a few days old and folks up into their 90s.

It’s a job perfect for a man with a name like “Klaus.” It even says so on his driver’s license. Paired with Gabriel? You can’t make this up!

While he’s hung up the red robe this year, Gabriel said he hopes to return to the role of Santa in Christmases to come.

Luka Mosenko, 1, had a visit with Santa Claus at the Christmas in Sexsmith event in November of 2022. (File Photo by Jesse Boily)

It’s a tradition that started years ago, when Gabriel first donned his Santa attire for his granddaughter in La Crete, as part of a Christmas event hosted by the La Crete Fire Department.

“My first granddaughter would have been three at the time,” Gabriel said.

“I had her sitting on my knee and I just played it straight. After the party, we went back to their house and waited for them to come over and I asked little Stephie what she thought of Santa.

“She thought for a while, and she said, ‘He’s kind of like Santa Grandpa.’ So that’s sort of what started it.”

Ten years later, Gabriel would return to being Santa for his wife’s grandson in Edmonton.

It was after that trip that Cathy, Gabriel’s wife, presented him with a handmade Santa suit, the same suit which Gabriel has continued to use for years.

“And I’ve had a beard for as long as I can remember, so it kind of took off from there,” he said.

It isn’t all smooth sailing for a Santa. Prior to serving as Sexsmith’s resident Kris Kringle, Gabriel said he worked a few gigs which were simply “too insane” for the holiday season.

“I have done some Christmas parties and I absolutely hated that,” Gabriel said.

“Prior to that I was also doing the Evergreen Christmas Show; that one was just too much. At the end of it all, everything smelled like a wet diaper.”

But it was after that the town of Sexsmith reached out to Gabriel to see if he was interested in serving as Santa for a Christmas event.

A long-time resident of Sexsmith, Gabriel said word had simply gotten around about his Santa work.

“It just fell into place,” he said.

Mason Stockley, 2 months old, had his first visit with Santa Claus at the Christmas in Sexsmith town light up in 2021. (File photo)

When getting ready to be Santa, Gabriel said it isn’t just a matter of putting on the red suit.

“I become the persona; I get right into the role. I sort of become Santa,” he said.

“I love how the kids react, or the young at heart. I just get joy out of doing that and being that person.”

Even after recently moving to Goodfare, Gabriel said he meets young folks in Sexsmith who still sincerely believe he is the true Santa.

It’s the high point of Christmas, he said.

But while he was offered the chance to take on the role of Santa for the Goodfare Hall Christmas Party this year, it’s a role he has unfortunately put on hold to mind his health this holiday season.

Following a leukemia diagnosis, Gabriel will be starting chemotherapy in January, and made the decision to hang up his red robe to keep his health up.

“I had to slow down a little bit,” he said.

“We’re just being a little bit cautious. It was just wise to take some time off.”

Nevertheless, Gabriel said that Santa Claus will be coming back to town for Christmases to come.

“It’s something I really enjoy doing,” he said.

For others who wish to step into Santa’s boots, Gabriel recommends being genuine.

“It's more than just the costume,” he said.

“If you’re going to take the time to be with the kids, be real. The kids believe in Santa; be the Santa.”