Meet Bryant Park’s Santa Claus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner

Santa, aka Dr. Charles Nuttall, poses in Bryant Park with some elves.
Santa, aka Dr. Charles Nuttall, poses in Bryant Park with some elves. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right . . . from the Upper East Side. 

The jolly red man himself — or, at least, a very believable version of him — takes the Q train from his home to Bryant Park in December, ready to drop the jaws of New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Santa, aka Dr. Charles Nuttall, 73, has been playing the Christmas icon at the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park for four years. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning pharmaceutical research consultant holds court at Santa’s Corner daily from Dec. 16 to 23, between 1 and 3 p.m., and people (and even dogs) can’t seem to get enough. 

Even after his elves closed the line earlier this week, passers-by continued to take selfies and ask for a quick picture as he walked through the holiday shops in full attire. 

Nuttall takes a stroll through Bryant Park.
Nuttall takes a stroll through Bryant Park. Photo Credit: amNY / Alison Fox

amNewYork chatted with Nuttall, who starts growing out his beard after Labor Day and knows how to say “Merry Christmas” in about 20 languages, about what it’s like to be Santa:

What do people ask for the most? 
Nintendo Switches are very popular, Legos are enormously popular. Of course dolls. . . . Others want more electronic music devices . . . fancy stuff like that. . . . It’s interesting to me to sort of take a pulse of the consumer sentiment among kids this time of year.

Who comes most often to sit on Santa’s lap? 
For me here in the park it’s mostly adults, and they come from all over the world. Today I had a woman from Madagascar, had a bunch of people from Holland and Australia, a bunch of people from Europe — French and Italian and English — and Russians, Ukrainian, Croatians. It’s a good mix. I try to learn how to say “Merry Christmas” in each of their languages.

What made you want to become Santa? 

I sort of eased into it with family things. . . . I just do it because I enjoy it. I like people, I like kids and it’s a lot of fun for me. 

Which do you prefer, being Santa or your day job? 

Well Santa’s fun, and one month out of the year I’m a celebrity. But that’s enough. I can’t really move around the city without getting stopped and photographed. And like I said, it’s fun for a month, but by the time Christmas is over, I’m ready to be anonymous again. 

How do you keep warm?

Well the suit itself is pretty warm. This is a plush fabric, it’s quite warm. . . . I’m wearing a sweatshirt. It depends on the temperature. I have either a light nylon long-sleeve T-shirt or a sweatshirt. I do have thermals I can wear if the occasion calls for it.

What’s the most memorable thing that’s happened while you were Santa?

There was one thing that was actually very poignant. . . . There was this guy who was sort of mulling around and checking me out. And we had a lull in the action, he came up very timidly to me and he said, “I know it really doesn’t mean anything but my mother’s terminally ill and if you could bless this medal for her it would mean a lot.” So he had a little St. Christopher’s medal and he gave it to me, I said a prayer over it and he was very appreciative. Santa is a very powerful icon.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve been asked for? 

The Ferraris and world peace. People ask for a million dollars and I say why not aim higher? Ask for a billion. What I say is when you sit on Santa’s lap, you can ask for whatever you want in the whole wide world — you may not get it, but you can ask for it.

Have you every had a kid pee on you? 
No. That’s sort of the conventional wisdom, but I haven’t experienced that. I think parents are pretty good about keeping their babies dry, and modern diapers are amazing.