Photo credit: Michael Matzko
1. He has one of the following names: Kris, Chris, Criss, Nick, Nicholas, or (rare, but possible) Klaus.
This is your first sign. If he’s deep undercover, he might go by Christopher, but just wait until you’re most of the way through the movie. It’s the perfect opportunity for him to wink at one of the characters — ideally, a child who is pure at heart — and say something like, "But my friends call me Kris."
2. Is there no one in the movie with one of these names? You’re not in the clear yet: look out for the deep fake.
Perhaps his name is something ordinary, like Kevin Ringle. You might look right past him. Just a regular guy named Kevin
, you’ll think. But just wait until the moment when he writes his name on a sign-in sheet at the local clinic where he volunteers. Now follow the camera zooming in. He’s going to sign his first initial and last name. That’s right: “K. Ringle.”
3. He’s sporting very rosy cheeks.
, you’ll be tempted to think. Perhaps a family history of rosacea?
Think again, friend.
4. He wears a lot of red and white.
You’re not going to see a full Santa suit, but be on the lookout for a red sweatshirt with white trim. Hidden Santas love to make sartorial references to their yet-to-come final form.
5. Vague references to special powers.
Whenever there’s a reference to his needing to be in many places at once, he’ll chuckle and say something like, “I don’t think that will be a problem,” in a way that implies that he probably has a magical sleigh or the ability to bend space-time.
6. Unusual kitchen gear.
Hidden amongst the cereal, he has a single piece of Tupperware labeled “reindeer food,” which he quickly shoves to the back of the cabinet when he notices the protagonist staring at it with her brow furrowed.
7. His social circle.
He has lots of friends who are much shorter than him, and whom he kind of seems to be taking advantage of.
8. Also, of course, facial hair.
A full white beard is a dead giveaway, but think outside the box. Keep your eyes open for white moustaches, goatees, or persistent white stubble. They’re proof of concept — the filmmakers are telling you that this guy could, conceivably, grow a full Santa beard, without giving the whole game away.
9. Food clues.
There’s constant referencing — either by his wife or his doctor — about the health problems he may be suffering as a result of a diet comprised exclusively of cookies and milk.
10. More food clues.
Alternatively, his wife or doctor will make reference to his having to take his “medicine,” which will turn out to be milk and cookies, and you’ll be like, What disease is this treating?
, but they won’t get into that.
11. Weirdly good cursive handwriting.
12. Unironically and asexually describes antagonists as “naughty.”
13. Will appear in a scene where he goes grocery shopping.
This is filmed entirely so that he can say something like, “Hmm, what else is on my list?” and then we can see him pull out his grocery list, which will be written, inexplicably, on a scroll.
14. His choice of adjectives.
He demonstrates a dogged insistence on describing things that he enjoys as “nice” when other synonyms would do. He will probably wink after saying this.
15. Speaking of: incessant winking.
In this world, there are only three types of people who wink: total creeps, people with ocular pruritus, and Kris Kringle in disguise.
16. He’s earned the trust of animals, especially reindeer-adjacent animals.
If you think you’ve spotted the hidden Santa, you’re going to want to keep an eagle eye on how deer, moose, and elk behave around him.
17. Bragging about how little he does for 364 days a year.
18. His December schedule.
Throughout the month of December, always forcing the fact that he has “a really busy night” coming up into the conversation, usually followed up with (you should be expecting this by now) a big ol’ wink.
19. Inexplicable aversion to coal-powered technology.
20. Christmas skepticism.
Finally, if the main character of the movie seems extremely, inappropriately hung up on loudly insisting that Santa doesn’t exist — and that even if he did, this new old man named Kris, the one with the white beard and the twinkling eyes, certainly wouldn’t be him — then pay attention. You’ve got a real Santa on your hands, and he’s about to teach our protagonist an important lesson about childlike wonder and belief. And he’s going to do it with a wink.
÷ ÷ ÷
, named one of Paste Magazine
's "best humorists writing today," has written for The New Yorker
, The New York Times
, The Washington Post
, McSweeney's, Mad Magazine
, Parents Magazine
, Reductress, The Rumpus, National Lampoon, The Cut, The American Bystander
, and more. Her writing is featured in the McSweeney's books Small Blows Against Encroaching Totalitarianism
and Keep Scrolling Till You Feel Something: Twenty-One Years of Humor From McSweeney's Internet Tendency
. She also teaches online satire and humor writing for Second City. Build Your Own Christmas Movie Romance: Pick Your Plot, Meet Your Man, and Create the Holiday Love Story of a Lifetime
is her first book.