Former gang member becomes professional Calgary Santa

Meet a Calgary man who left a life of crime and drugs to become an ordained minister, college instructor and a professional Santa Claus.

Douglas Craig was arrested twice for drug possession before becoming an ordained minister and St. Nick

You might meet Santa Doug over the Holidays in Kensington. Few knows he didn't always lived a kind life. 2:05

With his booming laugh and warm smile, it's hard to envision Douglas Craig in anything other than a red Santa suit.

But 34 years ago, this St. Nick wore a leather biker jacket and was a member of the motorcycle club, King's Crew.

"That kind of lifestyle — it was just a way that is so foreign to what I do now," said Craig. "I had a relatively rough growing-up period involving alcohol abuse and getting in trouble with the law and being involved in gang business and being involved with drugs."

He says he was ticketed and arrested many times and convicted twice for possession of narcotics. After two separate battles with drug addiction, Craig vowed to turn his life around. 

Ordained minister

He became an ordained minister and has been teaching accounting at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) for more than two decades.

Craig has an A+ rating from students on Rate My Professors.

"With the willingness to change my attitude, to change my experience I was able to move beyond the entrapments and the addictions and the crime and violence," said Craig.

Today, Doug Craig is a professional Santa Claus in Calgary but three decades ago he was a member of the biker gang King's Crew. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"I made a commitment during that time that if I could get my life back and make a change I would spend the rest of my life being in service."

For Craig, playing Santa is a big part of that. He enrolled in Santa School and started working professionally a few years ago.

"It gave me a good sense of love and peace and being able to do something nice to help people and to give them a good feeling and to give them that magic of hope."

Craig has become very popular in Calgary, with people young and old lining up to see him on Saturdays in front of the Plaza Theatre in Kensington.

"I remember one night I had this cute little Muslim girl that kicked and screamed and cried when her mother tried to get her off my knee, and then another lady ran up to the front to get on Santa's knee and she was… 93."

With files from the CBC's Kate Adach and Evelyne Asselin


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