Matthew King’s beard is real. He shaves it off each
year the day after Christmas and continues shaving
until Valentine’s Day. Then, he starts letting it grow
again to have the full white beard children expect
Santa to have at Christmas time.
It takes the hair on his head a bit longer to grow
to the desired length, so he only gets it cut once a
year—again, the day after Christmas. It is one of
the ways Matthew celebrates Kwanzaa, an African-American weeklong celebration of family, community and culture that begins December 26.
“I celebrate holidays from many different cultures,” he explains, just as one might expect of Santa.
Many who frequent the Westlake Mall area
in downtown Seattle between Thanksgiving and
Christmas may recognize Matthew. For the past few
years, he has offered free photos with Santa for those
who cannot afford or wish to avoid the long lines of
the conventional indoor Santa.
His business card says he is The Real Street Santa.
He keeps a Polaroid camera handy—one that develops the photo on the spot—so he can provide a photo
for those who might not have a camera of their own.
Matthew is not doing this for the money.
“I’ve been around long enough to know there are
more important things in life,” he explains.
He also travels around the greater Seattle area
making private appearances when asked. He especially likes doing so for charitable causes. Usually,
he doesn’t charge for his service. Any money donated
helps him cover the cost of film and gas.
Matthew first took on the role of Santa for his
own young children around 1975, and has been
doing so for the past 35 years. During that time,
his purpose for donning the red suit has changed.
Today, he seeks to do more for willing recipients
by sharing the “Reason for the Season.” The candy
canes he distributes have a note attached to them that
tell the symbolic story of the candy cane and how it is
a reminder of the birth of Jesus Christ. n
Above, Matthew King kneels in front of his red truck, which he uses to travel the area for
Santa appearances. Left, Matthew poses with a group of friends who want a photo with Santa
at a downtown Seattle shopping area.
Photos courtesy of matthew King
Santa’s Favorite Cookies: Gingerbread
1 cup packed brown sugar
1⁄₃ cup shortening
1½ cups dark molasses
2⁄₃ cup cold water
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon salt
In a large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses and water with
an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Stir in remaining
ingredients. cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
2. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease cookie sheet lightly. On a floured surface,
roll dough ¼-inch thick. cut with a floured gingerbread cutter or other
shaped cutter. On a cookie sheet, place cutouts about 2 inches apart.
3. bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until no indentation remains when
touched. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack. cool
completely, about 30 minutes.
4. In a medium bowl, mix powdered sugar, vanilla and half-and-half
until frosting is smooth and spreadable. Add food coloring as desired.
Frost cookies; decorate with raisins, chocolate chips and candies.
Courtesy of Betty Crocker