Time it takes to grow one convincing beard: three months.
Space it takes to store one suit, hat and a pair of spectacles for 11 months: one spare closet.
Years since AJ Wagner ’77 and Joan McGuinness Wagner first stood their posts as Mr. and Mrs. Claus for Christmas on Campus: 30.
Time it takes the Wagners to decide to come back next year: a heartbeat.
Christmas just isn’t so without Santa Claus and, for the past three decades, the Wagners have embraced winter weather and the thousands of children who have braved it to visit them in their magical village at Christmas on Campus.
Contrary to storybook imagery, the honorary Clauses’ preparation for the holidays is surprisingly similar to anyone else’s. To start, AJ stops shaving in October.
“There’s something in the child’s mind at that age that, if the beard’s real, you’re real,” he says.
When Santa puts on his pants, he does it one leg at a time, just like everyone else. Just like in many households, behind every good outfit is a woman who picked it out.
“Only Joan knows where the Santa suit is hanging,” AJ says. “She knows everything.”
Finally, the time comes to set up shop on campus. On Dec. 7, Santa will again sit in his chair at the head of the long line winding down away from the village, take each child by turn on his lap for a photo and chuckle a quick “ho, ho, ho,” that is if the little one isn’t already too overwhelmed by the magic of Christmas. Mrs. Claus, who for the other 364 days a year is UD’s director of Marianist strategies, organizes the line and collects Christmas wishes. They’re a good team, the Wagners, and helping out the real Mr. and Mrs. Claus every year for the University’s celebration makes them stronger still.
“For Joan and I, doing it together is a big thing,” says AJ. “Just getting dressed for it is an excitement. … It’s one of the many things that we do that makes our marriage sacramental.”
The experience is shared not only between two people but also among a community. It is a sacrament, and testament to the power of the spirit of Christmas.
Read more about Christmas on Campus:
In “Merry and bright,” the campus anticipates a holiday transformation
In “Holiday happiness,” students stand in line, hoping to receive a child to shower with Christmas cheer