Deaf Santa Claus brings signs of joy to Fresno's Fashion Fair mall

The Fresno BeeDecember 11, 2012 

Santa Claus didn't utter a word as children sat on his lap making their Christmas present requests Tuesday morning at Fashion Fair mall in central Fresno.

This Santa, who is deaf, communicated just fine -- his sign language was interpreted for the hearing children by Mrs. Claus.

"You make them?" asked 5-year-old Chase Parnagian, when he asked Santa for a Star Trek Angry Birds game.

"Oh, my elves make them and I will try my best to make that happen (for you)," Santa signed to the Fresno boy as Mrs. Claus translated.

Tuesday was the deaf Santa's second of three consecutive weekly appearances at Fashion Fair's center court. He will return 8:30 to 10 a.m. Dec. 18.

The signing Santa isn't just for deaf children but also for kids who can be intimidated by a boisterous Santa belting out "Ho, ho, ho" and other Christmas greetings, said Kelly Tallant-Martin, the mall's marketing manager.

"He's a larger-than-life figure who can be overwhelming for some kids," she said.

Three-year-old Peyton Nelson took her turn quietly sitting on Santa's lap, much to the delight of her mother, Heather Nelson of Fresno. A year ago, Peyton was afraid of Santa, her mother said.

"Last year she screamed in her Santa photo," Nelson said. "So this is progress."

Deb Snyder, who is deaf, said the signing Santa made her and her 4-year-old son, Matthew, who is not deaf, comfortable. Snyder said a deaf Santa gives hearing children exposure to a different means of communication.

"I think this is perfect," she said. "It's so great."

Four-year-old Ellie Caldwell of Clovis, who is not deaf, knows some sign language from attending Clovis Christian Preschool, said her father, Mike Caldwell.

Her message to Santa? Ellie signed, "I love you."

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386 or

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