An era will be coming to an end this year as the beloved Santa House in downtown Lansing will be coming down to make way for additional parking. The house is operated by the Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce, but sits on village property.
Chamber Director Dr. Renee Hale said that it is her understanding the house was built about 40 years ago and the board of directors of the Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce intends to continue the program. However, what is not known is where Santa will reside come November when he and Mrs. Claus arrive in town for the annual tree lighting that occurs the day after Thanksgiving.
“The board will not let the program skip a beat,” she said. “The board, which is comprised of 14 people, will vote on what the plan will be. We’ll start having meetings soon to look at the options that are available. It will be a board vote. It won’t be a decision made by one person.”
Hale assures residents the Santa visits will continue, just not at the present location. She noted that with several months before the Christmas season, there will be enough time to relocate Santa to a new home.
“It was built on village property and chamber members and organizations partnered together to build it,” she said. “There were a lot of personal investments and a lot of chamber involvement put into it.” Building the original house was a community effort and I’m sure whatever is decided about the future of Santa’s home, there won’t be a shortage of community support.
The demolition is drawing a lot of attention from residents who aren’t happy about displacing the jolly couple. I’ve visited the house every year for the past 20 years and I can see how my kids have grown when I pull out pictures of the many times they’ve sat on Santa’s lap and recited their gift list. Lots of memories have been made inside those four small walls.
In saying goodbye to the familiar structure, a little part of us goes away, too. I’ve been in Lansing long enough to have seen a lot of traditions end — the Lan-Oak Pool, the K of C Family Fest, the Lions Steak Fry, Luther East High School, the Ridge Road Sidewalk Sale Days, the removal of the original Christmas tree. I’ve also seen new things happen and be added, like the Eisenhower Fitness Center, the Summer Cruise Nights on Ridge Road, the Lansing Youth Center, the opening of Beggar’s Pizza and return of the big pipe organ, the Taste of Lansing during the tree lighting and the Lansing Autumn Fest. Many of the other traditions that I’ve loved about Lansing since I moved here, like the Good Neighbor Day parade, the Lansing Old Timers Little League program, the Christmas tree lighting, the Halloween parade and the Park District’s Easter egg hunts remain. Nothing lasts forever and change is inevitable, but it just strikes a bigger nerve when it comes to Santa. He is the coolest guy in town for his month or so visit from the North Pole.
It’s always sad to see a much-loved tradition end, but I’m eager to see what lies ahead for the Clauses. Maybe the big guy in red is making a wish list of his own, with access to a digital wish list from his visitors, a parking spot for Rudolph and a cappuccino machine. In time we’ll learn what new traditions we’ll have to look forward to, but it’s comforting to know the Clauses will be welcomed back with open arms as they have been for decades.