Have you been naughty or nice this year? There's really only one man who knows for certain, and he lives in the North Pole, rides a sleigh driven by reindeer and has been married to the same woman for, well, ever. His name is Santa Claus. And we at The Huffington Post Canada were lucky enough to sneak a few moments with jolly old Saint Nicholas ahead of his headline appearance at The 107th Annual Santa Claus Parade in Toronto. Turns out assessing your naughty/nice factor is more complicated you'd think.
"There's really no one way to know if you've been good or bad," says Mr. Claus. "The most important thing is to feel good about yourself inside. You should think before you speak to others and think before you act. If you're doing all of these things, you're for sure on the nice list." Other tips to ensure you're as good as gold: Ask others for help, smile, try to brighten another person's day, be cheerful and think positively.
Helpful information to note, but what if, for reasons beyond or within your control, you've spent 2011 being extra grumpy and dumping on everyone around you? Is there a way to get off the naughty list and back into Santa's good books -- whether you're a child or adult?
"Ho, ho, ho! There sure is," Santa says. "Make a promise to yourself and those around you to improve your life and to become a most positive person. Just making an effort will help you go from being bad to good. So smile at strangers while walking your dog. Help animals. Help your neighbours. Help your coworkers. Don't just sit around and watch the boob tube. Try to make the world a better, happier place."
Story continues below slideshow -- find out what Santa really wants for a Christmas eve snack.
Check out some interesting facts about the man we know as Mr. Claus:
Could you imagine writing a million letters in a year? No? Well the faithful elves at Canada Post can. Every year, they help Santa respond to more than a million letters and emails in dozens of languages -- even braille. Talk about impressive. Canada has even secured a postal code for Santa -- HOH OHO.
Santa has been hanging out at malls and having kids sit on his lap since 1890. Santa's workshop or Santa's Grotto are common names for the little set ups in shopping centres around the world. It's not always easy for Santa at the mall -- he has to contend with endless noise, overheating from wearing his suit, crying kids, and the occasional strawberry in the head, according to one Santa, who revealed all last year to AOL News.
According to Canada the North Pole lands in Canada's jurisdiction in postal code HOH OHO and in 2008, Jason Kenney, Canada's minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, formally awarded Canadian citizenship status to Santa Claus. "The Government of Canada wishes Santa the very best in his Christmas Eve duties and wants to let him know that, as a Canadian citizen, he has the automatic right to re-enter Canada once his trip around the world is complete," Kenney said in an official statement.
Although he is iconic, Santa does vary a little from country to country. Take for example, the traditional Dutch Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas lives in Spain during the year, and he sails to The Netherlands on his boat at the end of December. He has a helper named Zwarte Piet, which translates to Black Peter. Piet was once an Ethiopian slave that Sinterklaas freed, so Piet decided to thank him by helping him deliver presents and toss candy during the holiday season. In North America if you're bad, you get a lump of coal. In The Netherlands, if you are bad, you get tossed in Piet's bag and taken back to Spain. Sinterklaas also leaves money and candy in the shoes of Dutch children.
Santa's a pretty hip guy for being as old as he is. He's up on the technology nowadays. Because as our world advances, so does Santa's! You can track Santa on Christmas Eve and see where he's dropping presents off with his sleigh and reindeer posse in tow on the internet. But NORAD has actually been tracking Santa since 1955 -- via the radio, television, and print updates. Everyone always wants to know where Santa is.
And to ensure this holiday season is sweeter than ever, Mr. Claus offers some surprising advice for a man who's made his career out of giving gifts.
"Don't overdo it. Two gifts are just as good as 100. We all need to appreciate what we have, especially kids. We want to spoil our loved ones, but it's best to remember that you're fortunate because of what you have." Santa also advises everyone take some time to kick back and relax. "Stop doing so many things," he says. "Enjoy time with family. Watch a favourite holiday movie. Enjoy a cookie or two. Everything in moderation. That's what will make you and me happy."
Speaking of cookies, what does Santa really like to eat when he comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve? "Sliced apples with carrots, one oatmeal raisin cookie and orange juice." It's a healthy diet for a dude who traditionally enjoyed shortbread and a glass of milk. "I have to start watching my waistline," admits Santa, who's known for his belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly. Does he share any of his goodies with his reindeer? "I absolutely do. They love carrots."
Which brings us to Rudolph, that reindeer with his nose-so-bright who guided Santa's sleigh to children's homes one night. With such a bright, bulbous nose and after climbing the ranks of regular reindeer to sleigh leader, we were curious: does Santa really prefer Rudolph to the others deers (sorry Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen)?
"Ho, ho, ho! I have to say yes. He really saved Christmas one year and he's also the youngest, so I've kind of taken him under my wing," says Santa. That's not to say Jolly Old Saint Nicolas doesn't love his other deers. It's just that Rudolph holds a special place in the red-suited man's heart.
One of the other things we learned during our brief convo with the merriest of men: Mr. Claus has -- finally -- invited his amazing wife, Mrs. Claus, to join him in this year's parade in Toronto. "It's her first year in the parade and she's very excited. She's going to be on her own float, just ahead of mine. She's also going to wear a special bonnet. It's going to be great."
The 107th Annual Santa Claus Parade takes place in Toronto on Sunday, November 20. The nationally broadcast program will feature stars like Russell Peters, Kim Cattrall, Kermit the Frog and Avril Lavigne. As well, Santa will be traveling across Canada for various parades in November and December.